This weekend sees Liverpool take on Wigan Athletic at Anfield. Since being promoted to the Premier League in 2004, Wigan have not had the best of luck against the Reds. All but one of the matches have resulted in 3 points for Liverpool. The solitary draw between the two sides occurred on the second day of the New Year last season. Drawing 1-1 after a late goal from Titus Bramble, the Reds began to feel the impact of an increasing number of draws snatched from the jaws of victory.
As things stand now, after two weeks with no domestic football, fans around the Premier League will be raring to go for the first round of matches following the international break. In order to get the views of some Wigan Athletic fans, I headed over to the forums of the Wigan fan site, Wiganer.net. The replies I got were those of a sensible group of fans with realistic hopes for their team.
When it comes to the way that the season has started for Wigan and their potential for the rest of the season, most fans seemed cautiously optimistic. Nellyo said, “(We’ve started the season) promisingly, but we’ve not been picking up the points we deserve, failing to take all three points in games that we’ve either dominated or been the better team…” This sentiment is one that many LFC supporters will be uncomfortably familiar with. Liverpool have had similar problems in the last few years, particularly with draws such as the one against Wigan last season.
When it comes to the possibilities for the rest of the season, most were in general agreement with avantsweater, who said “10th with maybe a Carling Cup”. Its good to see opposition fans believing they can win some silverware while maintaining a realism about exactly what silverware they are best poised to take.
The fans also seemed to be in one accord about the dangermen in the Wigan team that the Reds should be watching out for. Amir Zaki was one of the most common replies, for obvious reasons. “Zaki alongside Heskey will give your centre halves a physical game and may cause some trouble.” If Skrtel were fit, their physicality might be less of an issue, but Agger may struggle a bit to match the strength of those two. Beyond Zaki and Heskey, there were suggestions that a certain wideman rumoured to be a January target for Liverpool would also be looking to impress. “Valencia for pace down the wing. Liverpool always seem to have dodgy fullbacks. If rumours of a deal are true, he’ll also want to impress.”, said avantsweater. If Wigan fans are picking the Reds’ problems in wide areas, Steve Bruce will probably have it in the back of his mind as well.
When asked to put the shoe on the other foot, most Wigan fans feared Torres. However, some of the fans sought to offer suggestions outside of the obvious. “Benayoun always seems to give us the most problems! Good thing he isn’t a starter! We seem to be susceptible to route one long balls as well, so maybe Xabi Alonso with his long range passing could be an issue.” As Torres is now an injury doubt after having been stretchered off in the 17th minute of Spain’s midweek game with Belgium, Liverpool fans will be hoping this fan is right. The Reds will need to continue their good form and rise above such injury problems if they have any hope of still being in the race for the title come April next year.
Finally there was the question of the result for this weekend’s game. Only one fan predicted a Wigan win, with most predicting a close run affair that the Reds would just edge. “The way we’ve been playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gerrard popped up with a last minute winner.” Who would my friend, who would?
Overall it seems that Wigan fans are a well-adjusted bunch. They are comfortable with their status in the Premier League and have realistic ambitions for their club. Steve Bruce looks to have scouted and spent well to improve his team without breaking the bank. It’s fair to say Wigan are probably in the Premier League to stay at this point, the only question being how high they can eventually rise.