I guess the revolution starts here. Back at home for the first time in nearly a month, a decent run of games ahead and, of course, a new man at the helm. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that it’s going to take more than a week to turn around turn around Latics’ season but the first steps can often be the most important, fitness doesn’t come quickly but fight and finesse are a different matter.
We might have had warnings about negative tactics and bad football from our Brummy buddies but none of us know how Steve Bruce’s side will line up on Saturday or how they will play. Thankfully the same goes for Sven who has admitted to being clueless (only about this mind, I wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on the hapless ex-England coach).
Hopefully Steve Bruce does know these things, because, on the face of it, City will be a different prospect to the team that we’ve played on their last few visits. Eriksson’s summer buys look to be quick learners as well as good footballers and the speed at which the likes of Petrov and Elano have settled into the Premiership life has belied the theory that you can’t expect too much too soon where foreigners are concerned.
Elano could have been playing at the JJB much sooner. He was one of two players that Paul Jewell made a trip to watch last season, choosing to bring in Julius Aghahowa instead. Whether Aghahowa will get another chance to rote himself tomorrow is one thing, but thankfully City’s main man will be out with a hamstring problem picked up in training.
There are further pluses on the injury front for Latics. Mario Melchiot has recovered from the knock that kept him out of the Arsenal game and Heskey’s recovery is shaking up pace. Both are probably doubtful for a start but could feature at some point. Chris Hutchings was sorely affected by injuries throughout his seven game nightmare and having an almost fully fit squad to choose from will be a big boost for his successor.
It’s a fresh start for all concerned, but it’s worth a quick glance over your shoulder when considering how Latics might fare in the next few games. The majority of the games we have lost came against the (allegedly) top five teams in the country, half of them have been away from home (the only ‘winnable’ home game being against an in-form Pompey) and they’ve been broken up by two international breaks. Even if we’d managed some sort of form in that period it would have been difficult to get any momentum behind it.
In contrast we’ve got a clear run of six games ahead of us. Four of them are at home and, with all due respect, none of the teams present the same kind of problems that, for example, the visits of Liverpool and Chelsea did. It’s not necessarily an easy job for Steve Bruce, but it could have been harder and if he gets the improvement that he wants from the players we could be tucking into our turkey wondering what all the fuss was about.
Back to the game in hand and whilst a win may be asking too much after recent performances it’s essential to put down firm foundations for the run of games ahead. Bruce will be looking for a solid display, that lasts a full 90 minutes but, with only two goals in the last eight games, Latics should also be looking to prove that they can create the chances they need to turn that around.
Only the dizziest optimist would predict that there was the slightest chance of another four goal haul for the lads in this game and there is every chance that the new manager will forgo any thoughts of attacking verve until he’s sorted out the defensive frailties and don’t be surprised if Latics start off with the same formation we saw at the Emirates in an attempt to do that. Goals may win games, but, for now at least, the priority for Bruce will be not to lose them.
Against my better judgement I’m going to make a prediction for this game. I can see Latics going behind early before breaking the habit of what seems a lifetime and coming from behind to snatch a draw in a low scoring game. So if I were you I’d lump your money on a seven goal thriller.
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