It’s worrying times for Newcastle United when they go into a home fixture against Wigan Athletic as underdogs. Despite not losing to the Latic’s in 7 seasons at home (4 wins and 3 draws) Newcastle’s current form means home fans will be incredibly nervous about a fixture that last season would have been season a slam-dunk 3 points. Wigan have blown hot and cold so far this season, racking up wins against Reading, Tottenham and West Ham, along with going toe-to-toe with Man City midweek. The perennial relegation-battlers have improved upon their points tally last year thanks to their adoption of a unique 3-4-3 formation which teams can find hard to handle.
Last season Newcastle were caught off-guard by Wigan and the Latics put a very sudden stop to Newcastle’s Champions League charge with a crushing 4-0 win at the DW. Martinez’s 3-4-3 was devastatingly effective; leaving Tiote chasing shadows and Newcastle’s full-backs overwhelmed. 6 months on both teams are precariously placed above the drop zone with just 14 points and a result either way, despite not signaling a jump up the table (they’d both be nestled behind Norwich in 13th) would help ease relegation worries and give the team a positive outlook with a fixture-heavy New Year period rapidly approaching.
Last season’s exploits have been all but forgotten by the Geordie faithful and Newcastle’s form is worryingly poor. Yet to win on the road this season and without a win in 5 games the club are looking increasingly desperate for 3 points that’ll distance them from the relegation battle already raging below them.
The club haven’t been helped by an injury crisis that has left them bereft of all creativity in midfield and paved the way for ‘hoofball’ that’s been wildly unsuccessful in the last 4 games. Both Cabaye and Ben Arfa, usually Newcastle’s link between defence and midfield are out injured (Cabaye until February), youngsters Haris Vuckic and Dan Gosling are also both on the sideline. From defence Newcastle are missing both Steven and Ryan Taylor with utility-man James Perch serving a 1 match ban for collecting 5 yellow cards.
Also doubtful for the visit from Wigan are Shola Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan, meaning that Papiss Cisse is likely to partner Demba Ba upfront once more, despite the pair failing to strike up any sort of on field rapport.
Despite the Premier League’s current affinity for 4-2-3-1, Pardew seems adament to stick with the old-fashioned 4-4-2 despite results going against him. Against Stoke new signing Vurnon Anita was crow-barred into right wing (ahead of Sylvian Marveaux and Sammy Ameobi). He may hamstrung by injuries but fans will be clamouring for a more adventurous 4-3-3,
The Latics aren’t without injury worries themselves. All 3 of their main centre backs were absent against Manchester City and it could continue that way at St James’s Park. Alcaraz is still out and huge doubt looms over Caldwell and Ramis. Figueroa, Piscu and Boyce look likely to continue there, having done a solid job midweek until late on, when Man City aped Wigan’s formation and over-ran them.
Jordi Gomez’s recent hat-trick is likely to mean he keeps his place in the starting 11, especially with Shaun Maloney also doubtful. Roberto Martinez will be hoping Franco DiSanto can maintan his recent form, which has been impressive although not prolific.Bargain signing Aroune Kone will complete the attacking triumvirate. The Ivory Coast man has been steady if unspectacular so far for Wigan but nevertheless is the club’s current top scorer with 4 to his name.
Key to any side who line up with a back 3 are the wing backs; for Wigan they’re Ronnie Stam and Jean Beausegour. How Newcastle handle them will be key to either side getting a result, whoever plays wide for the Magpies will have to track back excessively or risk both Simpson and Santon being overrun, something which led to last years shocking defeat.
- Wigan have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 4 matches in the Premier League whereas for Newcastle it’s their last 3 .
- Newcastle have lost their last 4 matches in the Premier League and are without a win in all competitions since October 28th.
- The previous 6 meetings between the sides has seen 2 wins for Wigan, 2 wins for Newcastle and 2 draws.
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