The man with the goals: Dimitar Berbatov - Clive Mason
There is group of fixtures now for Latics which on paper are winnable. This is the first, an away day trip to Fulham. Last time round we were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat, this time we must hope for better. A win here could see Fulham drawn into the relegation battle, and Wigan pull away slightly.
It has been a bad start to January so far for Latics. Losing 4-0 on New Year’s Day to Manchester United, before a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth in the FA Cup, a few years ago such result would have been expected, now we expected and need more.
Sitting 18th and with your top goal-scorer departing for a month should we be worried? Arouna Kone will travel with the Ivory Coast to the African Cup of Nations. The player has been fantastic since signing in the summer, but who can step up to replace him, this we will find out this weekend.
For me two options are clear. We stay with the same pattern and play either Mauro Boselli or Angelo Henriquez alongside Franco Di Santo. The other is we play Jordi Gomez alongside Shaun Maloney in an attacking midfield role and let the two of them play off Di Santo. For me the second sounds more likely, especially when you factor in Gomez being our second top goal-scorer.
If that was to happen then Jordi for me should play the higher role, meaning Shaun still has to track back and get involved, as we know Gomez will not do this. That then gives us someone up front who has a very good natural ability to distribute the ball, that ability has never been questioned. It is just can he done it for the entire game, and can he get some more goals?
Either way this will be a tough game. We never seem to have very good luck away against Fulham or even when we play them at home for that matter. Yet Fulham are on a bit of a low at the moment, they are sitting in the low mid-table area and if they were to lose to us this weekend could get pulled into the battle for survival. 24 points is not a very strong foothold to have in this current season.
They have however got two men who can and have produced brilliance when it is needed. The combination up front of Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov is something many clubs would love to have, including ourselves although Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo come very close to rivalling the two.
Berbatov’s signing in the summer came out of nowhere. But with the chance for regular football, back in the capital, I think his mind was made up when Fulham approached him. So far he has bagged seven goals this season, not a bad return from the Bulgarian. This is compared to Ruiz who has slowly developed into a good behind the main man striker. Signed last January for a significant fee, the Costa Rican can produce moments of brilliance on demand. So far that has produced six assists.
At the other end of the pitch Fulham haven’t done to brilliantly. One thing Fulham always use to be was hard to score against, but they found it hard to score. That was under Roy Hodgson who chose winning a game 1-0 over 3-2. Now it is the reverse Martin Jol has an attacking team which players lovely football, but it comes at a price of conceding 37 goals, a tally we are only two worse off than.
This game has all the makings of an open attacking match, with both teams looking to score, but neither knowing how to stop the goals going in at the other end of the pitch. Which is not very in keeping with Wigan-Fulham games of the past, they are usually one goal affairs which are drab and empty of life. If you know why it always happens let us know.
I still see it being a one goal game, which way? I would like to think the Wigan way, we need points and the lads know it. Now is the time to start our escape and our climb up the table.