If you’re any type of proper punter, then you’re going to be looking at the prospect of Wigan Athletic’s trip to St James Park to face Newcastle United and be licking your lips at the prices chalked up against both sides.
Well I certainly am, anyway, as the match between the Magpies and the Latics brings together two of the things that I now strongly believe – Newcastle aren’t good enough to back and Wigan are always worth having your money on whenever they start drifting towards a pretty big price.
And here we are, with Alan Pardew’s side quoted at evens and the Lancashire outfit priced at 14/5, and that, as we know, is always the sort of price that immediately perks your interest when you’re looking at Wigan.
I haven’t always felt that way about Newcastle and it has taken me a while and lots of evidence to the contrary, but a few weeks ago I finally ditched my pre-season view of Newcastle.
I was a big believer that Pardew had built a squad full of top players and would be able to recreate last season’s march towards the Champions League places, but everything has fallen to bits on Tyneside and you just can’t be backing them at all at the moment.
I accept that there are a few mitigating circumstances that have brought about a decline. Injuries to key men such as Fabricio Coloccini, Hatem Ben Arfa, Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye have proved fatal and underlined that without their top players on the pitch, the reserve players are either not good enough or not really there – the squad has been exposed as far too small to attack the Europa League as well as all of their domestic commitments.
But even when their top players have been in the team, they have underwhelmed badly. Most notably, Papiss Cisse is nowhere near the striker that terrorised defenders from January onwards and he is symbolic of a malaise that has engulfed the team.
Newcastle are without a win in seven games in all competitions and are now level on points with their visitors, just a couple ahead of the relegation places. But while Newcastle have been poor all season, Wigan have just been, well, like Wigan.
There have been some bad days – home defeats to West Brom and Fulham were disappointing – but there have been some good ones, too, and having won away from home at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur already this season, Roberto Martinez’s side are capable of getting a result against the Toon and I would definitely rather be on the 3/4 that Wigan avoid defeat than the evens that Newcastle pick up their points.
The 2-1 defeat at Stoke City last week showed how brittle Newcastle’s confidence is at the moment: winning with ten minutes left, they somehow contrived to lose and with their defence in tatters – they have kept just one clean sheet all season in the league – you fancy Wigan to get on the scoresheet at the very least.
After all, Wigan have found the net in 16 of their last 20 Premier League away games and three of the occasions they failed to find the net were against Liverpool last time out and twice against Manchester United, where they would never score if they played there every week.
Pardew’s side have only scored more than once in four of their 14 league matches and I think Wigan can nick a goal, while I wouldn’t fancy Newcastle to score twice, as the Latics have let in just ten away goals in six games – seven of which came at Old Trafford and Anfield – and they can keep this one tight as well.
The draw is a decent price at 9/4 and the 14/5 is big as well, but the 3/4 on Wigan with a goal start is good enough for me.