Slaven Bilić takes his side to the DW Stadium on Wednesday evening looking for their seventh successive victory. Also, for the fourth game in succession, they play after Leeds United and could need a victory to regain top spot depending on United’s result against Hull City on Tuesday.
It has been a remarkable run of form for both Albion and Leeds, with both having recorded six successive wins, which has seen them pull away from the chasing pack with Leeds now eight points clear of third-placed Fulham with Albion two points further in front.
For the Baggies, they are on the longest winning run since Gordon Clark’s Albion recorded seven in a row in 1961 and their ten-match unbeaten run is the longest since the twelve games without defeat that culminated in promotion for Roberto di Matteo’s team in 2010. Away from home, their run of four wins is the longest run of away victories since the five wins that were capped by Igor Bališ’s penalty at Valley Parade in 2002. All five of those victories were to nil, which is a club record for consecutive clean sheets away from home, a record that Albion could equal at Wigan.
A win on Wednesday evening would make this team’s start to the season better than the one achieved by Vic Buckingham’s “Team of the Century” in 1953 (they lost game 21), and be level on points (when converting to 3 points for a win) with the title-winning team of 1919-20 who won 16 and lost 5 of their first 21 games.
Sunday’s win over Swansea City was another excellent performance with a display of clinical finishing and an outstanding display by Matheus Pereira. The Brazilian was involved in all five goals, scoring one, assisting three and he provided the corner that led to the opener.
As always, there was room for improvement with the visitors’ goal particularly disappointing with big question marks over Sam Johnstone’s failure to attack the ball. He has generally performed well this season but he has made one or two mistakes, particularly when defending set pieces. That is now 14 regular season home games without a clean sheet, with the last being in Jimmy Shan’s first game in charge, ironically against Swansea City.
The other negative to come out of the game were injuries to Kieran Gibbs and Kyle Bartley. Gibbs is almost certain to miss the next couple of games with a hamstring injury, while Bartley suffered a deep cut and it is unclear whether he will be able to play at Wigan. Hegazi was not really tested in his time on the pitch, but it was useful for him to get some minutes as he seeks to regain his form and fitness.
The Latics’ defeat at Luton Town on Saturday saw them drop into the bottom three as their winless run was extended to eight games with five defeats in their last six. It is a complete contrast to Albion’s form, and Paul Cook’s team should not present too many problems, at least on paper. However, we all know that anything can happen in the Championship – last season, Darren Moore’s side went to Wigan in October having won four and drawn one of the previous five games and ended up losing 1-0.
Bilić will be forced to shuffle his pack with the injury to Gibbs, and it will be interesting to see if he makes any other changes with a tough trip to St Andrew’s to come on Saturday lunchtime.
Wigan, meanwhile, will be without key defender, Chey Dunkley, who was sent off at Kenilworth Road following two yellow cards and will be suspended for the visit of Albion.
It’s difficult to avoid getting carried away with the Baggies’ current run of form, but you only have to consider those few key moments that have made the difference between one and three points in recent games, not least the penalty decision at Deepdale last week. However, Wigan represent the lowest placed team that Albion have faced since the win at Stoke City that started the current winning run and Barnsley are the only team in the bottom half that Bilić’s team have failed to beat since August.
As the team continues to produce results, hope is slowly becoming expectation, and nothing short of another three points is expected on Wednesday evening.
The Baggies and the Latics don’t have a massive history of playing each other and Wednesday’s meeting will be only the 23rd between the clubs. In November 2012, Steve Clarke took his Albion side to the DW Stadium full of confidence sitting in 5th place in the Premier League ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham and some six points above Liverpool.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan were enjoying their eighth successive season in the Premier League having been promoted to the top flight for the first time in 2005. Although in the bottom half of the table, the Latics were fresh from a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane.
The Baggies’ confidence showed as they took the lead on the half hour when Chris Brunt whipped in a trademark cross from the left wing that was met by the head of James Morrison.
Twelve minutes later, Billy Jones took a throw in on the right hand side level with the edge of the Wigan penalty area. Romelu Lukaku received it and played it through to Jones who had made the run in behind. He took it into the box, nutmegged Ben Watson, and fired it across and Latics defender, Gary Caldwell, could only deflect the ball into his own net.
The hosts responded almost immediately when Aruna Koné fired the ball into the net at the far post from Beausejour’s cross to make it 2-1 to the Baggies at the break.
Steve Clarke’s men held out in the second half to take all three points for the second of four consecutive Premier League victories that would lift them into third place in the table.
Ultimately, Albion faded in the second half of the season and finished eighth. Wigan, meanwhile, won the FA Cup beating Manchester City in the final, but were also relegated from the top flight and have spent the subsequent years bouncing between tiers two and three.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
5 Jan 2019 – FA Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 1 (Sako)
Wigan Athletic 0
Last meeting at Wigan Athletic
20 Oct 2018 – League Championship
Wigan Athletic 1 (Windass)
West Brom 0
Last win at Wigan Athletic
10 Nov 2012 – Premier League
Wigan Athletic 1 (Koné)
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Caldwell (o.g.))
Albion’s Record against Wigan Athletic