Bruce makes case for defence

Wigan manager Steve Bruce has identified defensive improvement as the key to his new club's hopes of Premier League survival.

updated: December 15, 2007 17:47 IST
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WIGAN, England:

Wigan manager Steve Bruce has identified defensive improvement as the key to his new club's hopes of Premier League survival.

The Latics, who are second bottom of the table, have conceded 30 goals in their 16 matches this season and they will have their work cut out in attempting to contain Blackburn's strike force of Benni McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz at the JJB Stadium on Saturday.

The game will be Bruce's third in charge since taking over last month and he admits there is a desperate need to be tighter at the back as he looks to resolve a miserable run that has seen Wigan collect two points from a possible 36 in their last 12 matches.

Bruce thinks it is vital that the Latics rediscover the style of play that made them such a success in their first season in the Premiership in 2005/06.

He said: "What we've got to arrest, is that we've conceded 30 goals which is an average of (nearly) two a game. That's too many and that's why we're in the position we're in.

"So you look at all sorts of aspects, at how we can make this better and change things to shore us up a little bit and really go back to basics and eradicate these stupid mistakes that we're making.

"You can't make them in a pub team, let alone in the best division in the world and you'll get punished. That's got to be addressed, the concentration has got to be better and we've got to go to the basics of what Wigan were all about when they were successful.

"That was being difficult to play against and being difficult to beat. Everyone admired that from afar. You never wanted to play Wigan because of the attitude, commitment and honesty of the group of players when they had the huge success they did.

"They weren't fantastic football players but they had a big heart, a big appetite and a big desire to do well and it took the club forward. We must take that on board and try to emulate that if we can."

Bruce will have Julius Aghahowa back after a toe problem and the Nigerian striker could start on the bench against a Rovers side that is also having a tough time.

After their best start to a Premiership campaign since they won the title in 1995, Rovers have won just once in six games and have failed to score in four of those matches.

Hughes will be without the Dutch defender Andre Ooijer until January due to a calf injury and the Rovers manager admits the absence of the veteran over such a busy period is a major blow.

He said: "You like to have everybody fit and well. Certainly in the Christmas period when the games come thick and fast and the recovery time isn't great, you need fit and able guys out there.

"We'll miss Andre because I think he's been excellent and one of our better performers this season."

Hughes has taken a simple approach to training this week as he looks to get Blackburn, who lost 1-0 to West Ham on Sunday, back on track.

He added: "We've got lots of games coming up and the league starts to take shape around this time of the year, so Sunday was a set-back but we need to pick ourselves up and go again, which we are capable of doing.

"It's important that we bounce back from Sunday's disappointment. We were able to do that against Newcastle after the disappointment of the Villa defeat, so it's important we do that again against Wigan."