Liverpool at Wigan
3pm (10am EST) Saturday, September 29
The Lowdown: After two draws in the league, Liverpool travel to Wigan in search of goals and three points. And in light of Fernando Torres’ Carling Cup performance, much of the pre-match spotlight has been thrown back on Rafa’s rotation.
“Will El Nino start or will the Hat Trick Hero find himself on the bench, a victim of rotation?”
With Gerrard apparently having had that ‘not so fresh’ feeling and Agger and Alonso crocked with cracked feet, the schedule has been kind enough to give Liverpool a softer opponent with which to refind their winning ways.
Wigan currently sit twelth in the table, fresh off a 2-1 loss at the hands of Reading. Before that, a draw with Fulham and a loss at Newcastle had tempered the relative positive (well, not horrible) start the Latics had made to the season.
Two former Reds now make their home at Wigan — Emile Heskey and Chris Kirkland. But the former won’t be playing Saturday as he’s sidelined with… you guessed it — a fractured metatarsal! The big man actually had a pin inserted two weeks ago, and now there are rumors floating around that he could be on the move come January. But, manager Chris Hutchings has dismissed the speculation he knows his club can’t afford to lose any talent, even non-scoring strikers. (I kid, I kid)
For those of you who enjoy (or play, but don’t enjoy… like me lately) the Fantasy Premier League, you might recognize that Wigan midfielders Jason Koumas and Antoine Sibierski have thrown up some decent points this season (Sibierski earlier, Koumas more recently). Lucky for the Reds, their influence in the real world isn’t nearly as impressive or tangible.
Sibierski does have three league goals, but they were all scored in August and he hasn’t found the net since. And, one can’t forget that mighty Titus Bramble starts for this Wigan defense, which has conceeded seven goals, but only one in three matches at the JJB Stadium (to Fulham).
As for the Reds, there are no fresh injury reports. (Kewell, Agger and Alonso are still out) But, I’m not sure that really matters. Being fit now doesn’t seem to matter as much as how fit you might be later in the season if you don’t play now. *rolls eyes* Got it?
In other words, we’ll see who gets rotated.
I know, I know… Liverpool should be able to win games against the likes of Wigan with most of the players in the squad, not just the Stevie G’s and El Nino’s. But, it’s the word ‘should’ that’s a problem.
‘Should’ is a tricky word. Liverpool ‘should’ have beaten Portsmouth. They ‘should’ have beaten Birmingham. But they didn’t. So, I don’t want to hear about who Liverpool ‘should’ beat with or without certain players while they’re being rested.
Understand, I have no problem with rotation. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever discussed it at length here because I always had Rafa’s back. But no more. Simply put, I find the degree to which it’s been employed maddening. People make the argument that Rafa wants to keep our most talented players fresh for certain games (like against the Big Four and for other crucial PL and CL games). The problem with this approach is that the results of these ‘big games’ for which the talent has been saved doesn’t matter one bit when the squad repeatedly drops points to crappier teams.
(Hence, the Free The Liverpool #9! ‘campaign’. And, if you don’t see the humor in it, I can’t, and won’t, help you. Save your criticism for somebody lacking the same number of chromosomes as you.)
But enough about rotation and the word ‘should’. Moving back to Wigan, let’s hear from the rotater, I mean gaffer himself on the upcoming match:
For us it is important to win every game. In the cup competitions you want to win so you can progress and in the league it is important because you want to stay near the top of the table.
We know after last season Wigan will want try to improve and they also know it is important to win.
They have good players and if you analyse their squad they have other players who can cause problems. It is going to be tough, just like every Premier League game is tough.
I am not thinking too much about the previous draws, only about winning every game to get three points.
Sami Hyypia has been doing some thinking about what it takes to win the league and might be onto something:
It is very important we get back to winning ways in the league after a couple of draws. We haven’t been beaten in the league yet but if you have too many draws it’s not so good. It’s important not to lose too much ground on Arsenal. And, Manchester United have been playing well recently too.
Five Questions TBA:
Will he start? (Don’t be coy, you know exactly who I’m talking about)
Can Chris Kirkland hurt himself by breathing too fast or stepping on a blade of grass incorrectly?
Can a defense that features Titus Bramble actually keep Liverpool out of the back of the net?
Can Fabio Aurielo take another step to resecuring the left back position as his own? (under the assumption he was pretty damn close last season, pre-injury)
Anybody want to make some “Free The Liverpool #9!” t-shirts? (sorry, I have no money or know-how, but you can use my design)