Is Maloney central in Rosler’s plans?

Shaun Maloney

Will Shaun Maloney have a major role to play this season?

They say that every new manager likes to bring in his own men. Owen Coyle brought in ten new players at the start of last season. He had little choice than to do otherwise, with twelve members of the senior squad players having left following relegation, together with the  need for a large squad due to the extra matches involved in Europa League participation.

Only two of Coyle’s recruits – Scott Carson and James Perch – started in the Huddersfield game on Tuesday. Five of that starting lineup were new, signed by Uwe Rosler over the past couple of months. Two of the starters – Rob Kiernan and Ivan Ramis – were signed by Roberto Martinez. The other two were Callum McManaman  and Emmerson Boyce. McManaman joined the club as a 16 year old in 2007. The evergreen Boyce was signed by Paul Jewell in 2006.

Given that he already had a large squad, inherited from Coyle, how was Rosler going to make space to bring in his own players?

Rosler started by trying to sell Ivan Ramis in January, but both Cardiff City and Crystal Palace backed out of possible deals on medical grounds. However, by selling Nouha Dicko to Wolves and loaning Grant Holt to Newcastle, he was able to bring in a handful of loan players over the next few months. Of those only Martyn Waghorn remains, having signed a permanent contract in April.

Over the summer Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez left at the ends of their contracts. Stephen Crainey was released, together with Jordan Mustoe and Danny Redmond. Juan Carlos Garcia was farmed out to Tenerife on loan. James McArthur was sold to Crystal Palace.

In the space of ten months and despite the obstacles to doing so, Rosler has managed to bring in ten of his own men. However, he now needs to reduce his now-inflated squad by sending players out on loan. They appear to include not only Grant Holt, but also Roger Espinoza, Fraser Fyvie and Marc-Antoine Fortune. The Championship loan market is open to mid-November. The latter three players are in the final year of their contracts at the club, so a loan move would signal that they are no longer in the manager’s future plans.

Wigan Athletic lost three key players over the summer. In Beausejour, Gomez and McArthur Latics had players with considerable technical ability who could play the passing game. There has been a considerable amount of debate among fans in recent weeks about the type of football Latics have been playing this season, which has seemed to alternate between the possession football typical of the Martinez era and the long ball of the Coyle reign. Do Latics still have players to play that passing game effectively?

It has been a difficult start to the season for Rosler, not only with having so many new players to settle in, but also due to fitness issues. Too many players have been physically ill-prepared to compete on an even keel with opposing teams. New players invariably need time to gel with their teammates, but the lack of a clearly defined style of play has made it even more difficult for them. The style of play espoused by the manager –  high pressing, high tempo, with rapid movement – is light years away from what we have seen up to this point. Goals have been given away by sloppy defending and goal opportunities have so often been wasted. But more than anything else it is the lack of creativity that has stood out.

Rosler clearly has faith in his recent signing, Adam Forshaw, in being able to provide a creative spark in midfield. Forshaw did it to great effect at Brentford and Rosler will be banking on him doing the same at Wigan. In recent matches Emyr Huws has provided much of that spark, but he is only 19 years old and needs time. However, if you were to ask a room full of Latics fans who is the best bet for a creative midfield role, the name of Shaun Maloney would surely be their typical response. However, is Maloney in Rosler’s plans? If so, is there room for both he and Forshaw? In what position would Maloney be employed?

Without doubt the best football Wigan Athletic have ever played was in the final part of the 2012-13 season and in the FA Cup triumph in 2013-14. The common theme was that it was based on a 3-4-3 system. There were two central, holding midfield players, who linked up with the wing backs on each side to make a strong middle line. The front three consisted of a centre forward (Di Santo/Kone), a mobile wide player/striker (Moses/McManaman) and typically Shaun Maloney. When Latics were under pressure the wing backs would retreat to make a back five, but they would supply the front three when they moved forward. Sometimes Maloney would be played wide on the left, but he was most effective when playing an advanced midfield role in the “hole” behind the centre forward. If anybody made the side tick it was he.

Martinez had switched from a flat back four system in that 2012-13 season, after his defence had been leaking goals. 3-4-3 became his preferred shape. Maloney had a key role as the playmaker. In the memorable 2-1 victory at Arsenal, Jordi Gomez played in Maloney’s place and had a fine game. However, having the two on the field at the same time rarely worked. Will also be the case with Maloney and Forshaw this season?

Rosler also plays a system with a back line of three defenders. He labels it 3-5-2. His midfield consists of the wing backs plus three more central midfielders. Some fans say that the system is too defensive, with a back line of five shielded by three central midfielders, leaving only two players up front. However, at Huddersfield Huws played a more advanced midfield role than the other two central midfielders, Cowie and Kvist. At times it looked more like 3-4-3 than 3-5-2.

Rosler’s 3-5-2 system is inherently defensive only if the wing backs and the three central midfielders do not get forward to support the attack. To be fair on the manager he is to be seen frequently urging his team forward from his touchline position. However, far too often this season the lone centre forward has been starved of good service and left without support from the midfield. Adverse results have surely played a part in the players’ minds, being reluctant to commit themselves forward for fear of an opposition counterattack. The fitness issue is also surely a factor. Confidence has a huge part to play. So often the courses of matches are changed when the opposition scores a goal out of the blue or poor refereeing decisions play their part.

Shaun Maloney did not play in the pre-season games but has amassed a total of 115 minutes in the league in four appearances off the bench. He started in the League Cup game at Burton Albion, lasting 60 minutes. He has not been at his best, but his superbly timed slide rule pass for Waghorn’s goal against Birmingham highlighted the talent he possesses.

Maloney proved himself as a top quality Premier League player. But questions remain, if at 31 years of age and after a major hip operation, he will ever get back to where he was. At his best and playing in his favourite position in the centre of midfield, he would be an outstanding performer in the Championship.

Is there room for both Maloney and Forshaw in the same team? If so will Maloney be consigned to wide position?

Let’s see what happens over these coming weeks.

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Huddersfield Town 0 Wigan Athletic 0 – Latics get their first away point in scrappy game

A return to form for captain, Emmerson Boyce. Photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner.

A return to form for captain, Emmerson Boyce.
Photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner.

Latics claimed their first away point of the season, but were unable to convert their superior possession into goals. Many Latics fans will consider this an opportunity lost, that Huddersfield were there for the taking, with three points going begging. However, some will point to last season when a Huddersfield side no better than the current one, beat Rosler’s Latics by a single goal. A point away from home to any team in the Championship is not such a bad result.

Uwe Rosler shocked us all with his team selection, starting with the same eleven as at Blackburn.

Huddersfield were lively in the first ten minutes, Andrew Taylor blocking Danny Ward’s cross shot on the goal line and Scott Carson making a good save from the same player. But Latics then started to control possession, albeit without much penetration. Don Cowie and William Kvist were controlling the centre of midfield and the defence was looking sharp. Andy Delort had a rasping shot from distance saved well by Smithies. Then Callum McManaman collected a fine through ball from Cowie and rounded Smithies but a couple of defenders got back to block his shot. On the half hour mark McManaman went down for what looked like a penalty, but was instead rewarded with a yellow card from the referee for simulation.

Emyr Huws was looking lively in the more advanced midfield role and threatened the home team’s goal twice in the first couple of minutes of the second half. However, as one might have predicted Latics dropped back and Huddersfield started to show more attacking threat, mainly through half time substitute Sean Scannell. However, the back three of Emmerson Boyce, Ivan Ramis and Rob Kiernan were on their toes and managed to keep the home team at bay.

After 63 minutes Rosler took off Latics’ main goal threat McManaman and put on James McClean who had not played competitive football since May. Delort had a powerful drive go wide, but other than that Latics rarely looked dangerous. Their possession football just did not have any cutting edge and too often ended up in coming back for the defence to put a long ball forward.

James Tavernier came on for Taylor after 72 minutes, with James Perch moving to the left. Tavernier added some energy to the right of the attack and put over some quality crosses. Oriel Riera came on for Delort after 76 minutes and a few minutes later he came close with a volley from a Tavernier cross.

Huddersfield looked threatening in the closing minutes and Jonathan Stead almost squeezed a late winner past Carson. In the end a draw was probably a fair result in a scrappy game. Huddersfield had achieved their first clean sheet in 20 games.

The Good

The stats show that Latics largely controlled the game. They had 61% of the possession, with 15 shots (4 on target), compared with Huddersfield’s 9 shots (3 on target). The back three of Boyce, Ramis and Kiernan were excellent throughout. They were provided solid protection by Cowie and Kvist. Despite the knock he received against Blackburn, Huws was lively throughout. A pity his set pieces continue to be disappointing.

Although there was a lull in early stages of the second half Latics’ legs were much more willing this time around. They were able to keep going for the 90 minutes, if not playing a full pressing game of high intensity. It was a step forward.

Andy Delort worked hard up front and had four shots on goal, one forcing a fine save from Smithies. Delort has the style of a typical old fashioned bustling centre forward, with a powerful club of a right foot. Once he gets his first goal he will surely get plenty more. Riera came on for the last 15 minutes and went close with a volley. He is a more subtle kind of player and is continuing to adjust to the hurly burly of the Championship.

McManaman looked dangerous until he was taken off early in the second half. Huddersfield clearly considered him a threat and he was heavily marked.

The introduction of Tavernier for the last 20 minutes gave Latics more cutting edge on the right hand side. He is able to consistently deliver high quality crosses, something that his team mates are rarely able to do. In terms of his crosses and set piece deliveries Tavernier is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. However, if Tavernier is to claim a regular place in the team he will have to work on the defensive side of his game. In an old 4-4-2 system he could have been effective in a right midfield position.

Apart from the McManaman incident, Latics had two other penalty claims, which were for hand ball, either of which could have been given. Such matters change the course of a match and Latics can consider themselves unlucky in that respect.

The Bad

Once again the lone centre forward was looking very isolated. The midfield players were just not giving enough support. James McArthur is being desperately missed in the build up from the back. Neither Cowie nor Kvist can be faulted for their effort and their defensive cover, but far too often they were passing the ball sideways or backwards. There is room for one such player, but having the two there led to Latics being too predictable.

Adam Forshaw could provide the key, but his ten minutes against Blackburn was his first competitive football since May. There was a development squad game against Preston on Monday, but the Liverpudlian did not appear, presumably because Rosler wanted him in the squad at Huddersfield. With no more development squad matches coming up for a couple of weeks, will Rosler risk him as a starter in the next league match against Ipswich?

At times Latics seem confused about their style of play. The possession football in this match was reminiscent of the Martinez days, but many bouts of possession ended in a final pass going back to the defence for a hoof forward.

One of the main criticisms of Owen Coyle’s reign was that there was no set style of play, too often resulting in giving the ball away through aimless long passes. It was particularly noticeable after the consistency – and maybe rigidity – of Martinez’s teams. Rosler’s current team seems to alternate between the two approaches. We are yet to see the high pressing, high tempo approach with rapid counterattacks that the German espouses.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – confident in his handling. Distribution remains an issue. The high diagonal balls to the wings don’t seem to work.

James Perch: 6.5 – solid defensively.

Emmerson Boyce: 8 – back to his best. Made some key interventions.

Ivan Ramis: 8 – a class act.

Rob Kiernan: 8 – a much better performance than against Blackburn. More aggressive, with good use of the ball.

Andrew Taylor: 6.5 – worked hard up and down his flank. Substituted after 72 minutes.

William Kvist: 7 – provided good defensive cover and rarely wasted the ball.

Don Cowie: 6 – cannot be faulted for effort and shielded his defence. The final pass was too often disappointing.

Emyr Huws: 7 – growing into a fine player. Full of industry, with a great left foot. Needs to work on his set pieces.

Callum McManaman: 7 – heavily marked, but remained a threat. Substituted after 63 minutes.

Andy Delort: 7 – combative and brave. Managed to get in some powerful shots although heavily marked. Substituted after 76 minutes.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – energetic as always, but looked rusty.

James Tavernier: – added energy and threat to the opposition’s defence.

Oriel Riera: – being left out of the starting lineup in the last two games is not going to help his confidence. The best is yet to come.

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Latics ready for a good second half at Huddersfield?

“I was disappointed that we dropped our intensity at the start of the second half and it started very much from the front…….Also the willingness to get on the ball dropped. We can’t hold the level for 90 minutes in certain positions – and that we have to address ….A football game isn’t 45 or 60 minutes, it’s 90-95, and we have to make sure we can play like we want for 95 minutes.”

Uwe Rosler was speaking with his usual openness about the flaws that were once again evident in his side’s performance, this time at Blackburn.

The first six league games have yielded just seven points for Latics, one less than Owen Coyle’s team had at this stage. Like Coyle’s team the current side has stayed unbeaten in its first three home games. But Coyle’s team started with an away win at Barnsley, before losing the next two on the road at Bournemouth and Leicester. This team has lost all three away games.

If the six league games played so far had finished at half time, Latics would be unbeaten with a record of W3 D3, having scored six goals and conceded one. However, they have lost all three matches so far in which the scores were level at half time. They have conceded seven goals in the second halves of their games, scoring only two. Latics certainly have been a first half team this season.

A win at Huddersfield would put Latics back into mid-table, within striking distance of the top six. Huddersfield have started the season poorly, with just one win so far. They have drawn one and lost two of their three home games. So is the scene set for Wigan to get their first away points of the season tomorrow?

Reading between the lines in what Rosler was saying the loss of intensity at Blackburn was started by the front players not closing down opposition defenders, then players not moving around to make themselves available to receive passes. The result was the Blackburn midfield receiving better service from defence and the Latics backline falling deeper. The cynics would say Scott Carson enjoys making those long kicks from his penalty box for the opposition defence to gobble up. Ali Al Habsi gets criticised for his poor kicking, but he is at least always looking for a teammate to throw the ball to. However, in Carson’s defence, if players are not moving to receive the ball his options are limited.

Were Latics to be able to play at full throttle for the 90 minutes-plus at Huddersfield a win would be on the cards. However, the manager seems caught between two stools. He wants to bring in his new players as soon as possible so that they can gel with their teammates, but all three have been short of match practice. On Saturday only William Kvist was remotely match fit and he only lasted 63 minutes. Andy Delort, who had not played a competitive game for weeks, was given the full 90 minutes. He was expected to press the opposition central defenders when they had the ball, together with doing all the onerous duties of a lone centre forward. Adam Forshaw was wisely only played for the final 10 minutes, given his lack of match fitness.

A player of the calibre of James McArthur is bound to be missed. It was evident at Blackburn. Moreover a central midfield of Don Cowie and William Kvist is not going to provide the kind of invention that Latics had when Auld Mac was there. Both are the kind of players who rarely get the plaudits, covering a lot of ground, making interceptions, winning tackles, making simple passes. Such types of player are essential in any effective and well balanced team.

In the long run we can expect the midfield to consist of either Cowie or Kvist in front of the centre of defence, with Forshaw on the right and Emyr Huws on the left. Chris McCann will eventually come back to challenge Huws for that left midfield position spot where he played so well last year. Ben Watson’s best position is probably in the centre of the midfield three, but he can also do a good job on the right. In the meantime Tim Chow, Roger Espinoza and Fraser Fyvie remain possibilities, but will never prove themselves without being given the chance. Neither will James Tavernier who can play at right back or midfield.

The backline of three central defenders was inevitably going to be tested against Gestede and Rhodes, but they looked ragged and uncoordinated at times in the second half. Perhaps Emmerson Boyce was suffering from his long trip to the Caribbean to play for Barbados, but he has not yet shown last season’s form. Ivan Ramis made some last gasp interceptions and put through some nice passes, but even he was looking short of composure by the end. Rob Kiernan will have to fight for his place, with Leon Barnett breathing down his neck, not to mention Thomas Rogne and Gary Caldwell.

We can expect Oriel Riera to return to the lineup tomorrow. It would not be a surprise to see a reversal to 4-3-3 with Martyn Waghorn returning on the right, with Callum McManaman on the left. James McClean will be keen to get a game, but Rosler really needs to be careful since the Irishman is another who is clearly not match fit. Better to give him a good run out with the development squad first.

Shaun Maloney is another of those players who is still not fully match fit, but Rosler will be tempted to put him in from the start. If Cowie and Kvist can provide the protection in front of the back four the Scot could play an advanced midfield role. Emyr Huws went off injured on Saturday so his participation must be in doubt.

Rosler might well rest Boyce and go for a central defensive pairing of Ramis and Barnett, although Kiernan cannot be discounted despite a disappointing game at Blackburn.

Rosler has lots of permutations and combinations possible for his team selection. However, he will need to provide some continuity and wholesale changes might well make things worse. Moreover he cannot afford to make the gamble of playing too many players whose fitness is questionable.

As always it will be fascinating to see the lineup he puts out. The bottom line is to put out a balanced team that can play with intensity for the 90 minutes plus. A tall order? Let’s hope not.

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Blackburn 3 Wigan Athletic 1 – Opportunist goals stun unfit Latics

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Ivan Ramis was surprisingly given a penalty kick to take.

Playing a strong Blackburn side at Ewood Park was always going to be a tough match. It needed Latics not only to play with intensity, but to do so for 90 minutes. In the event they did so for 51 minutes, gaining the lead. But within a space of five minutes Blackburn got two opportunist goals that knocked the stuffing out of Wigan. A further well taken goal in the 81st minute for the home team did not come as a surprise.

Guessing Rosler’s starting lineup is never easy to do. He was to make two changes from the team that beat Birmingham. The inclusion of William Kvist, who had made two appearances for Denmark in the past 10 days, was quite logical. Adam Forshaw has not played for weeks, but took a place on the bench. Kvist moved into the midfield space vacated by James McArthur. Kvist and Don Cowie took the holding midfield roles, with Emyr Huws pushed further forward. The surprise was the inclusion of Andy Delort, with Oriel Riera left out on the bench.

In the first half, Latics’ high pressing was unsettling the home team and Wigan were looking comfortable. In the 39th minute Callum McManaman won a penalty at the expense of Alex Baptiste. But without regular penalty takers Gomez, Maloney or Watson in the team, who was going to take it? Surely it would be Delort, who had scored penalties for Tours? It turned out to be Ivan Ramis, who kicked it over the bar.

Despite the penalty miss Latics continued to cause problems for the Blackburn defence. James Perch skillfully set up Delort, who blasted wide. McManaman had a good effort saved. Then in the final minute of the first half McManaman put in a beautifully weighted cross but Emmerson Boyce somehow headed over the bar.

Latics started the second half positively. In the 51st minute Huws showed his silky skills, making a great run into the box before the ball fell for Perch to hit the net with a daisy cutter from outside the area. It was his first league goal for Latics.

But a couple of minutes later Ben Marshall latched on to a loose ball outside the box and hit a shot that bounced ahead of Carson’s dive. Two minutes later Jordan Rhodes headed a long free kick into the net via the ground, as he evaded Wigan’s three central defenders.

The two goals in such a short space of time clearly stunned Latics who were to lose their thread. The substitution of Kvist for Shaun Maloney after 63 minutes appeared an attacking move, but the midfield was to lose the dominance it had enjoyed earlier in the game. The high pressing that had been effective in the first half had disappeared and Latics could not raise their intensity. A telling sign was the return to the long hooves by goalkeeper Scott Carson, which achieved little.

Huws went off injured after 80 minutes to be substituted by Adam Forshaw, with Martyn Waghorn coming on for McManaman. Marshall scored his second goal a minute later, with another beautifully taken effort. In the last minute Andrew Taylor found himself inside the six yard box, but he skewed the ball wide.

The stats show that Blackburn had 15 shots and Latics 13. However, the home team had 8 of those on target and Latics only 2. Blackburn had 51% of the possession.

The result was decided on finishing. Ramis, Delort and Boyce all had clear cut chances to score in the first half, Taylor in the second. Perch scored an opportunist goal for Latics, but Blackburn opportunely scored three.

The Good

The intensity was there for 51 minutes and Latics looked good value for their lead. Delort somehow got through 90 minutes despite his lack of match practice. Kvist came in and looked comfortable on his debut. The Dane is clearly not a replacement for McArthur, his role being primarily defensive. However, he and Don Cowie managed to get a foothold in the centre of midfield during the first part of the match.

McManaman looked dangerous, winning a penalty in the process. A pity he did not receive more of the ball.

It was a game of what might have been. Had Latics taken their chances in the first half the result could have been sealed. They were good enough to beat Blackburn, but once they fell behind their confidence dipped.

The Bad

Not for the first time this season Latics looked lethargic in the second half. Fitness remains an issue within the squad as a whole, especially with the new signings coming in. Moreover there had been a development squad fixture in midweek that would have given Delort, Forshaw and Kvist some playing time, but they were not involved.

Delort is to be commended for completing the 90 minutes, but could hardly be expected to perform at his best after not playing for so many weeks. Putting him in there straight away and leaving Riera on the bench was puzzling.

Kvist had played international football recently, but went off after 63 minutes. Fraser Fyvie had more time on the pitch in pre-season than anybody else and has done well with the development squad, but continues to be left out in the cold. Once again there was no sign of Roger Espinoza.

Forshaw was given his debut in the closing minutes, but it is going to take some time before he gets match fit.

Playing the first half with intensity and not being able to maintain it in the second has been a common occurrence this season. Having played a consistent lineup over the past few games, it looked like some cohesion was developing. However, putting two new signings into the starting lineup was not going to help.

Missing the penalty probably did not help Ivan Ramis’ game, but Rosler’s explanation that the Spaniard impresses with the spot-kick in training hardly holds water. Both Delort and Riera took penalties for their clubs last season and are the obvious candidates.

With Blackburn having two big central strikers who are strong in the air they was always going to be a threat from crosses. However, Wigan’s two best headers of the ball from defence – Leon Barnett and Thomas Rogne – did not make the starting lineup. Moreover the back three of Boyce, Ramis and Kiernan seemed to lack cohesion. Boyce is well below his form of last season and Ramis did not look his usual composed self at times. Kiernan is a fine young prospect, but is still learning the game at this level. Barnett was an outstanding player for Latics last season until he suffered a hamstring injury at Ipswich. Since then he has not commanded a regular place. Rogne seems to have disappeared off the radar.

Player Ratings:

Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves. A class goalkeeper, but too prone to making long hopeful punts upfield.

James Perch: 7 – looked lively, particularly in the first half. Scored an opportunist goal and made a good pass that Delort might have converted in the first half.

Emmerson Boyce: 5.5 – just not at his best.

Ivan Ramis: 6 – made a number of good interceptions and quality passes, but not at his best.

Rob Kiernan: 5.5 – not at his best.

Andrew Taylor: 5.5 – did not attack as much as usual due to the threat on the Blackburn right side. Scored a cracker against Birmingham but missed a much easier one in this match.

William Kvist: 6 – a decent debut from the Danish tackler. Substituted after 63 minutes.

Don Cowie: 6 – worked hard throughout the 90 minutes. Much of Cowie’s work is unheralded. He covers a lot of ground and is a real team player. Better in a defensive midfield role than going forward.

Emyr Huws: 6.5 – the most creative outlet, but like most young players he lacks consistency. Needs time. Went off injured after 80 minutes.

Callum McManaman: 8 – easily Latics’ best player. He would be even more dangerous if he could get more of the ball.

Andy Delort: 5.5 – gave his all, but it was not his day. Lacks match fitness.

Substitutes:

Shaun Maloney: – came on for Kvist after 63 minutes and played in the centre of midfield. What will his role be in Rosler’s system?

Martyn Waghorn: – unable to create an impression in the last 10 minutes other than receiving a yellow card.

Adam Forshaw: – made his debut in the last 10 minutes in right midfield. How long will it take him to get match fit?

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Off to Blackburn in a mood of buoyant optimism

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It seems a long time has passed since the last away game. In fact it was a month ago when Latics went to Charlton in an air of uncertainty following a League Cup exit to Burton Albion. Uwe Rosler’s honeymoon period as manager reached its end when Charlton snatched the points with a freaky last minute goal.

In contrast Latics go to Blackburn tomorrow in a mood of buoyant optimism. Ewood Park has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Latics and there might well be another adverse result, but fans are now more confident about what lies beyond. As a result of recent transfer activity Rosler has built a formidable squad, with quality players competing for places in every position.

One of the questions fans are now asking is whether Rosler will revert to his squad rotation mode after keeping a consistent starting lineup in the last three matches. Moreover will he stick with that same 3-5-2 formation that has produced improved results? Will he bring in his new signings: Andy Delort, Andy Forshaw and William Kvist?

Squad rotation is a prickly issue with many supporters. Those opposed to it will cite the example of Burnley who won promotion after sticking to a consistent starting eleven throughout the course of the season. In fact, Burnley used 23 different players in league games last season. However, three players – Tom Heaton, David Jones and Jason Shackell – started in all 46. Moreover another seven started in 37 games or more.

In contrast Wigan used 34 players in the league last year. However, in all competitions they played 11 matches more than Burnley over the course of the season. Leon Barnett and Emmerson Boyce both started in 39 games, James Perch in 38 and James McArthur in 37.

Rosler will cite the example of Alex Ferguson, who never picked the same team twice. He remains a fan of squad rotation, dating back to his formative years as a player under Otto Rehhagel at Kaiserslautern. Rehhagel is one most successful coaches in German football history, but perhaps better known as the coach of the dour Greek side that won the European Championship in 2004. However, Rehhagel won the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern in 1998 with a newly promoted team that attacked with verve and seemed to have hidden depths of energy. Rehhagel operated a rotation system, with the result that all players in the squad felt involved and had a part to play. The result was a strong team spirit.

Given his previous history and the fact that he now has a very strong and well balanced squad, Rosler is likely to continue his rotations. However, most fans will hope that he will not be making wholesale changes in consecutive matches. There is the alternative of giving a player a run of games, then resting him.

For tomorrow’s match Rosler will most likely field a similar lineup to the team that beat Birmingham some two weeks ago. If he continues to opt for 3-5-2 he will probably choose between Ivan Ramis and Leon Barnett to play alongside Emmerson Boyce and Rob Kiernan in the back line of three. The heading ability of Barnett could be a useful tool against Blackburn who play with two big men upfront.

Kiernan continues to have the backing of the manager, having kept his place despite more experienced central defenders challenging him for a place. The ex-Watford player is particularly strong in coming forward to intercept balls before they reach the strikers. Moreover his passing from defence is getting better and better. Last time Latics played at Ewood at the end of last season they were undone by the central strikers, the 6’ 4” Frenchman Rudy Gestede and the 6’1” Scot Jordan Rhodes, whom they are likely to face again tomorrow.

Of the new players neither Delort nor Forshaw is likely to be match fit, although one or both could appear on the bench. However, William Kvist has played two games in the past week for Denmark. He played a full 90 minutes in the friendly against Turkey, followed by 74 minutes in the European Championship win against Armenia.

Despite the loss of James McArthur, Rosler has options in midfield. He might be tempted to put a solid wall in front of his defence by including Kvist alongside Cowie in holding midfield, pushing Emyr Huws further forward.

James McClean has recovered from injury, although he is not yet fully match fit. He could well come off the bench for Callum McManaman at some stage of the proceedings.

Blackburn have beaten Latics in 6 of the last 7 matches at Ewood Park, in all competitions. They are currently level with Wigan having 7 points from 5 games.

Given past history and the strength of Blackburn’s squad, tomorrow is likely to prove a difficult test. Latics can expect a strong physical challenge from the home side with balls raining in to their penalty box.

Physical fitness has been problematic for Rosler’s squad so far this season. Tomorrow represents an acid test.

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