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Transitional summers are never easy to cope with as a manager. Six weeks before the 2016/17 season, Jon Whitney faced a complete rebuild of a Walsall team that missed out on promotion by one point before falling in the playoffs to the form team of 2016 thus far in Barnsley. Few saw a similar style rebuild being necessary this summer. Yet as we approach the second weekend of the season, that is exactly what has been required.
Meanwhile for Oldham, another season beckons in League One, and Oldham fans will hope for better after spending the majority of last season battling relegation. The retention of John Sheridan should give them hope – 75% of their team’s wins came after Sheridan’s appointment in January 2017. The re-signing of Craig Davies, plus the addition of exciting young winger Gyamfi Kyeremeh, brings some much needed attacking prowess.
Both teams will view this as an important game, both having lost their opening two games. This will be Walsall’s first home game of the season, and Oldham’s first away. Looking at last season’s stats, Oldham won just four away games last season, and scored 12 goals in 23 games. Walsall meanwhile won almost half of their home games (11 of 23), but they have won only 1 of their last 12 competitive matches. Both teams have shown flexibility with their formation, using either a back four or back three defence.
In terms of key players, for Walsall it is hard to look beyond the Turkish Messi, Erhun Oztumer. 15 goals from midfield earned him a place in the League One Team of the Year, and he has already got off the mark against Sheff Utd in the League Cup. This is also a big season for Flo Cuvelier, who has always had the quality to perform in League One, but injuries have restricted his progress. Oldham will look to the talismanic figure of Peter Clarke to inspire them to victory; the centre back was Oldham’s second highest scorer last season. The aforementioned Davies will bring experience to the front line, and is expected to lead the line on Saturday.