Wigan ready for aerial assault

Bruce confident of dealing with Delap attack

November 6, 2008

Wigan Athletic manager Steve Bruce admits he has never seen anything like Rory Delap's long throw but he is confident his back four will be able to cope with the threat when they face Stoke on Saturday.

The Potters are mid-table after 11 matches in the Premier League largely thanks to their trademark physical approach and Delap's extraordinary long throw.

Arsenal were their latest victims, losing 2-1 last weekend, and Bruce admits his men will be up against it at the JJB Stadium unless they are prepared to stand up and be counted.

''You can always throw a ball more accurately than you can kick it, and he can throw it 50 metres apparently, which is quite incredible,'' Bruce admitted. ''It's a fantastic thing to have and any team - I don't care if you're Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal - will find it difficult to defend against.

''The old Wimbledon team had Vinny Jones, who used to throw the ball in to John Fashanu, and we all remember the famous FA Cup final from the 1970s between Leeds and Chelsea and Ian Hutchinson's long throw-in.

''I've even been in a team myself under Barry Fry at Birmingham when Andy Legg used to throw the ball in to big Kevin Francis, who was about 6ft 9in or something. So it's been going on for years, but I don't think I've seen anybody throw a ball like this boy can throw it.

''He's just unbelievable. David Beckham was the master of free-kicks because he used to consistently put the ball into the area, and Delap can whizz it in with the same pace and the same trajectory, time and time again.''

Tony Pulis' side came under fire this week from Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who felt the combative tactics employed by Stoke overstepped the mark on more than one occasion.

Bruce, however, is a big fan of both Pulis and his team, and warned his players to front up or risk becoming the latest team to come off the field licking their wounds.

''Tony's teams are always big, strong, aggressive, well-drilled, well-organised and hard to beat,'' Bruce continued. ''That's the way he manages, that's what he demands off his team, and we have to accept it.

''Fair play to them - unless you are prepared to head the ball and defend properly, you are going to come unstuck. It's as simple as that.

''We have got some sort of plan, and we'll be looking to put it into effect. The long throw is awkward because you can't play offside and you can't stand people on the line like you can from a corner.

''It's a weapon that is incredible to have in your armoury, but the simple fact is you've got to be prepared to head it. They (the Wigan players) will - and if you don't match that you are going to come unstuck.

''To be fair we have got a big back four. My right-back is 6ft 3ins, my left-back is 6ft 1ins, both my centre-backs are 6ft 2ins or 6ft 3ins and my goalkeeper is 6ft 5ins so we'll have enough, I hope, to deal with it.

''We know what's coming but we have to be prepared to put our heads in there and accept a whack every now and again.''