Wigan v Newcastle, TOTT Preview
Newcastle kick off 2011 with a trip to their bogey ground, the DW Stadium, seeking to avoid their worst run of consecutive league defeats since September 2008. Can the new manager show his worth?
Realising that he cannot legitimately claim credit for the team`s win against Liverpool, Alvin Pardew will be keen to gain his first real point to justify the long contract he has been given, replacing a manager who had earned the supporters` respect.
Pardew will look back to some landmarks against Wigan, a club that have given him some success. His last Premier League win as a manager was against Wigan whilst at Charlton, 1-0 at home, in March 2007 shortly before relegation, not having had any away successes in the top flight when there.
This Newcastle side start in 12th place, unless Villa achieve an unlikely yet feasible win in the lunchtime kick off at Stamford Bridge. The players have yet to lose a match when starting in the bottom half of the table.
With the players having gained 3 wins on the road already this season, this would have looked to be a game to gain an away result. Pardew lost his West Ham job 5 days after a home defeat against Wigan. However he has already led a team to success at the DW back in March 2006. He has since come away with 9 points out of a possible 66 in the top flight away from home, his teams scoring 10 goals in those 22 games.
Word from the training camp suggests that Harper will return in goal following injury in his last game at Everton, when the Toon took all the points. Enrique should be in line for a return at left back, with Simpson taking his place on the right. In the middle, Coloccini is set to start, probably alongside Steve Taylor now that he has signed his new contract. Sol Campbell should remain on the sidelines as his position in the squad is under consideration.
There seems to be no challenger to Jonas on the left, with Nolan the main scoring threat and Barton the creator. If Pardew persists with a losing 4-5-1, Routledge could start on the right unless Smith is again chosen in the middle, Tiote being the bedrock of midfield.
Striking options are restricted due to the absence of top scorer Carroll with a thigh injury. Supporters will favour a 4-4-2, although the manager might think otherwise. Shol is fit again to lead the line, and has in fact scored twice against Wigan in the past. Ranger is his most likely partner, with Lovenkrands also having a case to start.
The game should be made enjoyable by Wigan manager Martinez, known for his open attacking style which worked better in the Championship with Swansea than at this level. Despite some impressive form, teams that have attacked Wigan have come away with some big scores.
The defensive line starts with Omani Ali Al Habsi, in impressive form this season. Stam, a former Twente team mate of Tiote is set to play on the right side of defence, with Tiote`s Ivorian colleague Gohouri also at the back. Former Magpie Caldwell will be pleased that Carroll is unfit, while Paraguayan international Alcarez is set to complete the back four. New signing from Spain, Adrian Lopez could also feature.
The suspension of former Toon player N`Zogbia is bound to lead to a midfield reshuffle, although former Newcastle target Cleverley look like starting despite being outclassed in his outings for Watford against the Magpies last season. Senegalese Frenchman Diame is the holding specialist, as is Hendry Thomas, Ben Watson being a regular after being loaned out earlier in his career.
The biggest threat comes from top scorer, Rodallega, a Colombian striker providing an understated unpredictability. Forward options appear limited, although Mauro Boselli would surely relish a clash against fellow coutryman, Coloccini.
Referee for the event is the newly honoured Howard Webb MBE, under who Newcastle have a poor record with 1 win out of the last 10 games, and a fair amount of controversy within those including the sending off of Coloccini and Bassong in his last two encounters, as well as a disallowed goal which contributed to the Toon`s loss of Premier League status, over leniency on the Mackems and a controversial Everton penalty. The Magpies have only 1 point out of 12 under Webb in the North West. Wigan`s record under him is fairly evenly balanced.
With only 2 home wins in 10 this season for the hosts, the visitors would normally be expected to have a good chance of at least sharing the spoils. Pardew`s away record in this league, the Wigan jinx and the presence of Webb might lead to the smart money being on a narrow home win. With 78% of Wigan goals in matches between these two coming from current or former Newcastle players, Caldwell might attract punters for a set piece goal.
Added interest in the contest comes from the two owners, Sports Direct`s Ashley and JJB`s Whelan. Their business relationship has been rocky to say the least. The TV cameras should be spending plenty of time on the stands. If Pardew keeps up his abysmal away record, a strong Geordie presence will certainly make itself felt.
Newcastle at Wigan in the Premier League:
4 W0 D0 L4 F1 A5
Wigan (from): Al Habsi, G Caldwell, Gohouri, Stam, Figueroa, Alcaraz, Lopez, Watson, Diame, McArthur, Cleverley, Thomas, Rodallega, Boselli, Gomez, McManaman, S Caldwell, Golobart, Mustoe, Pollitt.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Harper, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S Taylor, Campbell, Kadar, Barton, Tiote, Nolan, Smith, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Xisco.