Rosler building on Coyle’s legacy

Is it a false dawn? Or are the dark days well and truly behind us now?

Has Uwe Rosler really cleared the rubble left behind by his predecessor? Will the German become a long-standing Premier League manager with Wigan Athletic?

A mood of optimism is sweeping through the Wigan Athletic fold as Rosler has become the man to lead the club back into the Promised Land. The frustrations of the Owen Coyle era are being left behind and now, once more, we have a man with a plan.

One wonders if Owen Coyle ever received any thanks for the work he did at Wigan. In fact he might well go down as the least popular manager Latics have ever had. Being an ex-Bolton boss was clearly never in his favour. Neither was suffering relegation with the Horwich club.

However, the league season started for him in near perfect fashion with a 4-0 win at Barnsley. With Coyle at the helm people were getting excited about a swift return to the Premier League.

The Scot had a nigh impossible task to fulfil. He had to rebuild a squad devastated by the consequences of relegation. He was expected not only to get Latics back into the Premier League in one season, but also to put up a good show in the Europa League.  Moreover Latics were now the FA Cup winners – surely good enough to put the sword the kinds of teams they would meet in the Championship.

In the early days of Coyle’s reign, results were mixed. Latics were struggling to win their league games, although they made a decent start to their European campaign.  Many fans were critical of the manager’s lack of tactical nous and his long-ball approach. Others, seeing him as an improvement on Roberto Martinez, were more supportive. They wanted a more direct approach and not the tiki-taka of the previous four years. Coyle had brought in a lot of new players and there were rumours of rifts between them and those from the Martinez era.

One can only speculate as to where Latics would be now if Bernard Malanda had not scored a spectacular late winner for Zulte Waregem at the DW in late November. It was possibly the defining moment for Latics’ season, the loss of morale contributing to a subsequent home defeat by Derby and Coyle’s departure.

Rosler has since stepped in and lifted the team up to the play-off zone. His dealings in the January loan and transfer window seemed underwhelming to many fans at the time, but are looking good now.  Significantly Rosler brought in younger players, to a squad which had an average age of just below 28.  He now has a blend of players signed by Martinez, signed by Coyle and signed by himself.  Players who did not perform at potential under Coyle are now starting to shine under Rosler.

Unlike Coyle, Rosler does not have to get Latics into the Premier League this season to keep his job. Despite an excellent run of results it is highly unlikely that Latics can reach an automatic promotion spot. The best they can hope for is to win the play-offs, not an easy matter in the pressure cauldron that prevails at the end of the regular season.  Moreover the play-offs are often won by the team that peaks at the right time. Are Latics peaking too early or can they maintain this level of performance?

Should Rosler succeed in winning promotion does he have players of genuine Premier League class in his squad? How many have actually played there before?

Emmerson Boyce started in 216 matches in the Premier League, over seven seasons at Wigan and one at Crystal Palace. The next most experienced Premier League starters are Scott Carson (185) and Ali Al-Habsi (111). Gary Caldwell has clocked in 100; Ben Watson has 89 and Jordi Gomez 61. They are followed by Jean Beausejour (48), James McArthur (45), James McClean (44), Shaun Maloney (42), James Perch (41), Marc Antoine Fortune (35), Stephen Crainey (31), Leon Barnett (29), Ivan Ramis (16), Callum McManaman (8), Chris McCann (7), Roger Espinoza (6) and Martyn Waghorn (2).

Three of the four most experienced Premier League campaigners – Boyce, Al-Habsi and Caldwell – are well into their thirties. Carson is 28 years old. It is ironic that the three that follow in terms of experience – Watson, Gomez and Beausejour – are out of contract at the end of the season.

The last time Latics got promoted Paul Jewell had to bring in the likes of Henri Camara, Arjan De Zeeuw, Stephane Henchoz, Damien Francis and Mike Pollitt at the start of the season, with  more to follow later. However, Rosler has a bigger squad than Jewell had and might not need to bring in so many new players.

Were Rosler to achieve promotion this year he would have two experienced Premier League goalkeepers in Al-Habsi and Carson.  The possibility of Boyce playing on for at least one more season cannot be ruled out, although Caldwell’s injury problems might prevent his return. However, Rosler could call on the experience of the likes of Perch, Barnett and Ramis in defence.  Were the three out of contract players to re-sign he would have an experienced midfield available.

Rosler’s mode of operation is clearly different to that of his predecessors. Bringing in young players on loan gives him the opportunity to closely assess possible permanent signings in the future. Over the years Latics have sometimes speculated big money by their standards on players who have not proved successful.  Rosler’s approach is more patient, preferring to work with players to maximize their potential.  He is unlikely to splash out big money.

Rosler is topping the opinion polls with Wigan fans in contrast to his predecessor, Coyle. Whether he can continue to maintain the current level of momentum remains to be seen. If he cannot his ratings will fall.

Whatever else may be said about Coyle there can be little doubt that he did a good job in recruiting so many quality players in such a short amount of time.  So much criticism has been made of his signing of the misfiring Grant Holt but players such as Carson, Perch, Barnett, McCann and McClean could well be at the club for years to come.

Rosler has built upon the foundations left by Martinez and Coyle, but has added a further tier through his own signings. He now has a well balanced and capable squad capable of beating any team in the Championship division.  The bookmakers are now starting to lower their odds against Wigan Athletic getting back to the Premier League this season.

It does not look like a false dawn.

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Jordi to start at Huddersfield?

Thanks to the Sun for the photo

Thanks to the Sun for the photo

Jordi Gomez is a footballer whose playing style can drive people to the extremes of both ecstasy and despair. Never before has a Wigan Athletic player polarized public opinion in the way he does.

Following his sumptuous free kick against Charlton his name has been bandied about the social media and fan forums. That last gasp goal really was something special, as were his celebrations following it. For once the neutrals who have reserved their judgement on the 28 year old Catalan are starting to openly praise him as Latics’ most skilful player.

What a turnaround for the man whose exit from the pitch was so loudly cheered in the home match against Rubin Kazan. Suddenly fans are realizing that Gomez’s contract expires at the end of the season. There are rumours of him going to the Major League soccer in the United States. Is it a case of realizing a player’s worth when it is too late?

Many of us thought that this might be Gomez’s best season at Wigan. He excelled in Swansea’s team when he played in the Championship before in 2008-09, getting 12 goals and 5 assists in 38 starts. The Championship just seems the best place for him to perform.

The speed and anticipation of Premier League midfields and defences made it difficult for him to stamp his mark on matches. He made a total of 61 starts in the Premier League with 35 appearances off the bench, scoring 10 goals. However, he made only 3 assists. Contrast that to the player’s performances in cup ties last year (FA and League cups) where in 9 starts and one appearance as a substitute he scored 5 goals and made 4 assists. The assist he made for Callum McManaman in the FA Cup Semi Final is the one that Latics fans will remember for years to come.

The arrival of Owen Coyle and his ‘’direct” approach to football was not to bring the best out of Gomez. Neither does he command a regular place in the team under Uwe Rosler. Up to this point he has started in 10 Championship matches, with 7 appearances off the bench, scoring four goals and making one assist.

Following that match winning goal last weekend there are many fans who feel Gomez should start in today’s game at Huddersfield. Although there are those who would argue that the player is more effective as an impact substitute, a “supersub”.

In order to play Gomez today Rosler would have to consider breaking up his preferred midfield trio of James McArthur, Chris McCann and Ben Watson. His other option would be to play with one wide player and play Gomez in a more advanced role.

In an interview this week Rosler said that he was actually planning to start Gomez in the Charlton game, but changed his mind at the last minute, expecting the game to be scrappy.

It will be interesting to see if Gomez starts today. If he does he can expect a much warmer welcome from the traveling Latics fans than he could have expected a couple of months ago.

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Rosler’s loan signings can make the difference

transfer window

An unknown third choice goalkeeper from Spain, an end of contract midfielder from Kansas City and a 32 year old unwanted by Hamburg. Such were the loan signings made by Wigan Athletic a year ago.

The feeling at the time among Latics supporters was of being “underwhelmed”. Was this the best that Roberto Martinez could do? Why wasn’t Dave Whelan opening his wallet and bringing in players that could really make a difference?

In the event Joel Robles, Roger Espinoza and Paul Scharner did make a difference. It was not enough to save Latics from relegation, but all three were to go on and play in the lineup that won the FA Cup for the club.

That same underwhelming feeling has surfaced again.

Who on earth was Tyias Browning? Why would Latics want to sign a crock from Cardiff, who had not started in a league game this season? Why go for a player from Chelsea who had already been on loan at three other clubs? But most confounding of all – why would Latics take a player who had never made it in a team from their own Championship division?

Nicky Maynard was sought by Roberto Martinez while at Bristol City. In the event he went to West Ham who sold him on to Cardiff City for a fee around £2.75m in August 2012. Unfortunately he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in only his third game at the Welsh club, which was to keep him out of action until May 2013.

The 27 year old central striker is a Cheshire lad who came up through the Crewe Alexandra academy. His most successful year as a goal scorer was in 2009-10 when he scored 20 goals in 40 starts for Bristol City in the Championship division.  Maynard has struggled since the injury, his appearances for Cardiff this year being two starts in the League Cup and eight times off the bench in the Premier League.

Maynard is clearly a player of some pedigree and a proven goal scorer at Championship level. If he can regain an optimum level of fitness he will be a threat to Championship defences. Maynard is likely to alternate with Marc-Antoine Fortune for the centre forward spot, although there will be times when Rosler will play them together.

Latics fans saw what Josh McEachran can do yesterday when his superbly judged pass put Fortune through for an 89th minute goal yesterday. He made his Chelsea debut as a 17 year old. Still only 20 he has played for Swansea, Middlesbrough and Watford on loan. McEachran can play as a holding midfielder but his best position is in the hole between the midfield and the central striker.

McEachran is not fully fit at this stage, but he has so much quality that he can add the cutting edge that has been lacking in Latics’ play in recent weeks.

Rosler’s signing of Martyn Waghorn has been questioned by many Latics supporters who were hoping the club would sign a player with a proven history as a goal scorer.  They are unimpressed that Leicester City are willing to let him go out on loan although they are challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Moreover Waghorn will be a free agent in summer when his contract runs out.

However, Waghorn is still only 24 years old and can play in any of the three front positions. He played for England at both under 19 and under 21 levels.  Leicester paid a fee of around £3m when he arrived from Sunderland in a permanent deal in August 2010. He had been voted young player of the year at Leicester the previous season when he had been on loan with them. See his goals during that season here.

Waghorn has had his ups and downs and played for five clubs before coming to Wigan. However, he had a successful spell on loan at Millwall this season, making 12 appearances and scoring 3 goals. Millwall boss Steve Lomas wanted to sign Waghorn permanently, but it was not to work out.

Waghorn will be keen to impress at Wigan and show that his success at Millwall is not a flash in the pan. He has a good left foot and is no mean penalty taker.

The 19 year old Tyias Browning was signed on a one month loan from Everton on January 10th. A day later he made a strong impression after coming on as a second half substitute in the 3-0 win against Bournemouth. A week later he was to concede a penalty in the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Doncaster. Browning is clearly one for the future, but the value of having a young player join the club for such a short loan period is open to question.

Following the last-gasp victory over Charlton yesterday Latics remain within reach of a play-off place.  Only one player – Nouha Dicko – left permanently during the transfer window. Grant Holt has gone on loan to Aston Villa, but Ivan Ramis will be staying at least until the end of the season following his failure to pass medicals at Cardiff and Crystal Palace. It could be a blessing in disguise for Latics.

A fit Ramis would make a big difference to the promotion push. Not one of that skilful trio – Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – left during the transfer window, although their contracts terminate in summer.

All in all, Latics have a better squad now than they had before the January window began. Moreover if loan players like Maynard, McEachran and Waghorn were to reach their optimum levels they could swing the balance and get Wigan into that play-off place.

Like Martinez last year, Rosler seems to have made ‘underwhelming’ loan signings in the transfer window.

But then again maybe they are better than they seem at first glance.

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Lessons to be learned from Middlesbrough

Steve Gibson

Steve Gibson

Wigan Athletic’s failure to win at Middlesbrough on Tuesday leaves them seven points short of the play-off zone, level on points with the north east club, but having played two games less.

“Before the game I would have taken a point” said Uwe Rosler, nevertheless disappointed with his team’s performance and their inability to play the high-tempo, high-pressing football he seeks.

But should Latics be expected to win at places like Middlesbrough? Do Wigan Athletic have any comparative advantage over a club like Boro?

Boro had been in the Premier League for 11 seasons before they were relegated in 2009. Their highest position was 7th in 2004-05 and the following season they reached the UEFA Cup Final. Founded in 1876 they have only spent two seasons outside the top two tiers of English football.

Being in the Championship has been a sobering experience for those in Rosler’s squad who have come down from the Premier League. Middlesbrough’s players must have felt the same when they came down, finishing in 11th place that year. Since then they have finished 12th, 7th and 16th.

There are a lot of big clubs in the division who are desperate to get into the Premier League. Some have been so desperate that they have thrown financial stability to the wind. However, Latics have an owner who insists on sound financial management, despite the criticisms aimed at him by some fans.

Is Dave Whelan right to run the club in such a manner?  Or should Latics go the way of so many other clubs who have dropped down from the Premier League and use their parachute payments to keep and attract the kinds of players who can get them back there?

Middlesbrough announced a pre-tax loss of £13.5m for the 12 months up to June 2012. Like Latics they have a millionaire owner – Steve Gibson – who has written off so many of their losses over recent years. In fact during that same period there were five other clubs who posted bigger losses than them. The leader was Leicester with an after-tax loss of £29.7m.

For some time now Gibson has been writing off close to £1m a month to keep Boro up where they are. With the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules due to come into effect this clearly cannot continue. The loss announced last March was based on revenue of £18.1m, with only £4.8m coming from gate receipts.

There has been so much conjecture over the years over Wigan Athletic’s attendances. Up to this point their average league attendance has been 15,284 – down from the figure of 19,375 last year. This year they will play 23 home games, compared with 19 in the Premier League. If attendances stay at the current level the aggregate over the season will fall short of that last season. Overall match receipts for league games this season are not likely to exceed £4m.

In the last two seasons Wigan Athletic have made net profits, £4.2m announced in 2011-12 and £822,000 in 2012-13, when increased wages kept profits down. However, last year match receipts covered only around 10% total revenue of £56.4m. It is the commercial sector, dominated by the television revenues, that helped the club compete in the Premier League.

In the 2011-12 season only five clubs in the Championship made a net profit. Net losses amounted to a total of £158m, an average of £6.6m per club. Cardiff City made a loss of £30m last season in moving up from the Championship division.

Lessons learned at Middlesbrough show that a club has only been able to live beyond its means if it has had a rich benefactor. However, FFP is going to limit the ability of a club to survive in that way. Boro are an old club, with a strong fan base, but their short-term future is starting to look bleak.  It is their fifth consecutive season in the Championship, each year having made considerable losses, with promotion a dim possibility.

The dilemma for Wigan Athletic is whether to pump funds into a big bid for promotion or whether to go for financial consolidation. Maybe the compromise will be somewhere between the two extremes. The dip in commercial revenues compared with the Premier League is huge.

With a large squad and a number of players on high salaries by Championship standards Latics will have to use a significant chunk of their parachute payments to make ends meet this year. If they do not get promotion this season we might well see more of the higher wage earners move on in summer. The squad size will reduce now that they no longer have Europa League commitments.

If they stay in the Championship Wigan will have a comparative advantage over most of their rivals for a couple more years. However, each year more teams will be coming down from the Premier League with parachute payments in their pockets and the extra funding for Latics will have a finite lifetime. One only needs to look at what has happened to clubs like Middlesbrough to see what can happen.

Promotion to the Premier League is a priority for Wigan. The commercial revenues there would make it easier for them to survive financially. Rosler is going to have to look for bargains if they stay in the Championship. Given the aforementioned factors Dave Whelan will not be able to dip into his pockets in the same way he did in the past.

The balance sheet at the end of the year will make interesting reading.

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No fire sale please Dave


In May 2013 it looked like a fire sale was on its way at Wigan Athletic. Having lost its place in the Premier League the club looked ready to sell most of its prized assets.  There was a need to cut the wage bill to meet the harsh financial reality of relegation and to create a cash buffer. But fans were hoping that funds coming in from transfers would be used towards buying new players.

Around £20m was to be raised through the transfers of James McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Mauro Boselli. Moreover none of the players who were out of contract were to stay, relieving pressure on the wage bill. However, critics will question the club of not jangling a big enough carrot in front of the noses of players in the final years of their contracts. The combined market value of Antolin Alcaraz, Maynor Figueroa and Franco Di Santo might well have reached  £15m if they could have been retained.

So the club’s two biggest assets in terms of transfer value – McCarthy and Kone – were the ones who went, in addition to Boselli who had never broken through at Wigan.  The good news was that the remaining twelve senior players from the Martinez were staying, giving Latics a backbone of quality players in a lower league.  It was a great relief for fans to see players like Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney staying at the club.

Unfortunately things did not go too well for those players under Owen Coyle, with few of them playing to their true potential and others, like Roger Espinoza and Fraser Fyvie, largely left out of the loop.

The arrival of Uwe Rosler has coincided to a return to form of so many of the Martinez men. James McArthur in particular has looked rejuvenated and there are signs that the inconsistent Callum McManaman is approaching his optimum.  Were McManaman able to prove that he could perform at his best for a full 90 minutes, week-in-week-out, he could command a transfer value in excess of £15m. However, he has a long way to go before getting to that point.

The  big fire sale did not happen  in summer, but there is considerable speculation to suggest that it might happen in this January transfer window.

Far too often the media is wide of the mark with its transfer news, but it can nevertheless cause disruption within football clubs. The names of most of Wigan Athletic’s currently most prized assets have entered the transfer gossip columns over the past week, but as always it seems hard to separate fact from fiction.

Were Ivan Ramis to have been fit in summer he might well have been courted by Premier League clubs.  It is no surprise to hear rumours  that both Crystal Palace and Cardiff City are keen to sign him in this transfer window.

Ramis played one match too many in a short space of time following his recovery from cruciate knee surgery, picking up a groin injury, which has kept him out of action recently. He would be a good acquisition for either club. However, he still has another 18 months left on his contract and Latics do not need to let him go at this stage, unless they get offered a price they cannot refuse, which is unlikely. Moreover Ramis would be unwise to move to either of the two clubs, given the distinct possibility that both will be in the Championship division next season.

Jean Beausejour is the most likely to leave and the media report that Steve Bruce wants him at Hull for only £750,000. The Chilean is a proven Premier League player and it would be a good deal for the Yorkshire club. As far as Latics are concerned his contract is up in summer and they will get nothing if they don’t sell him this month. However, it will be a case of the club losing one of its most skillful players.

Jordi Gomez’s future remains uncertain. There may be some last minute offers for him before the transfer window closes, but there remains the possibility of him running down his contract and returning to Spain.

It is ironic after all the criticism the player has received over the years from fans that many of them have started to recognize what a talented player he is. Too often Gomez has been played out of position, rather than in his best spot in the hole between the central striker and the midfield. However, although Rosler has been complimentary  about Gomez to the press, one wonders the German is looking for a player capable of launching attacks more rapidly. The loan signing of Josh McEachran suggests just that.

Ben Watson might well sign a new contract at Wigan, although an offer from another club could still come through.

Rosler has already sold Nouha Dicko to Wolves and there could be more. The most likely is Jean Beausejour. However, hearing that Rosler is seeking a defender on loan makes one wonder if Ramis will be leaving. Should Latics secure promotion this season then they would need players of the Spaniard’s quality in the Premier League. To let him go for a couple of million at this stage could be a mistake. It would cost a lot more to buy a player of such quality were promotion to happen.

Let’s hope Dave Whelan will support his new manager by keeping departures at a minimum during this transfer window.  There are genuine concerns among supporters about the best quality players leaving the club.

Despite the reverse suffered by a tired Latics at Doncaster last week, there is at least an even chance that they can make the playoffs. Although promotion next season is a more realistic target, this current team should not be written off.

If Rosler can make the sum of the parts to at least equal the whole then promotion this season remains within grasp. That is providing he does not lose a number of key players through a fire sale in this transfer window.

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Rosler’s January Sales


“The budget is spent in terms of the amount of players we have in. It’s a big squad but that was needed because of the European games. What (the January transfer window) allows me is it might free up some money on the wage budget to bring in loan players until the end of the season or on a short-term to help us and that is what I’ll try to do.”

So said Uwe Rosler according to media reports yesterday. But what can be read into his comments?

Some money has now been freed from the wage budget with the transfer of Nouha Dicko to Wolves, for a fee reputed to be around £300,000. On the other hand Dicko was not one of the big wage earners and Latics already added a new member to their staff last week by recruiting Chris Haslam, Brentford’s performance coach.

Letting a striker go when the team has been so goal-shy would seem like a backward step, but Dicko was never able to secure a first team place despite his successes on loan at Blackpool and Rotherham.

In fact Haslam’s recruitment could be the key to a successful second half of the season for the club. The players continue to adapt to the high pressing game that Rosler demands, although they often run out of steam. If Haslam can improve player fitness levels it is going to make the team more consistently competitive.

Rosler’s right hand men at Brentford – assistant manager Alan Kernaghan and coach Peter Farrell – left the London club soon after he did. But they have not followed him to Wigan, with Graham Barrow continuing and John Doolan being brought up from youth team duties to help out. It has become the norm for a new manager to bring his tried and trusted lieutenants with him, but in this case Rosler certainly seems to have made a good start without them.

The budget might be the constraining factor, but it could also be down to an awareness within the club that more wholesale changes to the coaching and backroom staff could be damaging. It is only six months ago that Owen Coyle brought in a swathe of new staff to replace those that Roberto Martinez took with him to Everton.

Rosler’s dilemma is in how he is going to be able to further reduce the wage bill, without weakening Latics’ chances of getting back to the Premier League. The established players who are still with the club from the Martinez era are going to be among the highest wage earners, although Coyle probably had to offer salaries above Championship division norms to many of the players he recruited.

Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson are out of contract at the end of the season. All three are experienced former Premier League players who will attract interest in this transfer window. At least one is likely to go unless offers come in for others in the squad with a similar profile.

Ivan Ramis is a prized asset, but has only recently come back from long-term injury and a club is unlikely to want to take a gamble at this stage. A few months ago one would have expected the big clubs to be chasing Callum McManaman in January, but his form has been disappointing so far. Keeping Ramis and McManaman and at least two of Beausejour, Gomez or Watson will provide a backbone of players who can not only help Latics get promotion, but go on to play in the Premier League next season.

Rumours have been circulating that Rosler will cut his losses with Grant Holt, reputedly the highest wage earner of the players recruited by Coyle. The main talk is of sending him off on loan, which would help the lower the wage bill for now but it should not be forgotten that Holt is on a three year contract. It remains to be seen whether another club would come in and even take him on a free transfer, given his wage expectations. Will he suffer the same fate as Mauro Boselli to be sent off on various loans until his contract winds down in 2016?

Coyle’s hopeful signing of the two 32 year old strikers – Holt and Fortune – has proved a damp squib up to this point. He has the option to try to offload them and reduce the wage bill, but he might be shooting himself in the foot in doing so and leaving the squad without any specialized and experienced strikers.

With the short term loan signing of Tyias Browning and the not-too-distant return of Gary Caldwell the defence remains well staffed. So too does the midfield, although it looks like Fraser Fyvie will once more be sent on loan. Moreover rumours abound that Roger Espinoza will be leaving in this transfer window. He was marginalised by Coyle and Rosler has not seemed particularly keen on him despite the Honduran putting up good performances when given the opportunity. One wonders if off the field issues are coming into play.

Latics have a peculiar situation with goalkeepers, for some reason having four. Rosler is already talking about sending Lee Nicholls out on loan again and Mike Pollitt’s contract is up in summer. Even so he has two ex-Premier League keepers  in Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson. Should Latics get promotion they might both continue. Should they not then it is likely one will depart in summer.

The January transfer window period always seems to be a stressful time at the DW Stadium. In the past Latics have lost key players during this period. But it can work both ways. Last year Martinez brought in Roger Espinoza from Kansas City and both Paul Scharner and Joel Robles on loan from Hamburg and Atletico Madrid respectively. All three were to play in the lineup that won the FA Cup final.

Let’s hope that not too many of Wigan’s better players are whisked away over the coming weeks and that Rosler can make good loan signings.

He will be hoping that Cardiff forward Nicky Maynard will be his second loan recruit within the next few days.

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Latics aim for Premier League return


There is no doubt that Uwe Rosler has the Premier League in his sights. Neither he nor Dave Whelan want to stay in the second tier. The question is how to get back there.

For all the flak that Owen Coyle took when he left Wigan he left Latics a formidable squad. His personal charisma and the offer of good salaries by Championship standards enticed more than a dozen players to Wigan.

Coyle’s critics will say that his big failing in the transfer market was bringing in two 32 year old strikers who were past their sell-by date. However, good strikers are in short supply and their transfer fees up in the clouds. Coyle did what he could and he could not have guessed how ineffective Grant Holt, in particular, would be.

There is a strong lobby that wants Whelan dig into his pocket and use the money from the summer sales to sign a top class striker. Somewhere between £13-£15 m is the figure being touted as the funds available.

Signing for Latics as a striker has been a kiss of death in recent years. So many have been signed, but never been able to deliver enough goals. Typically they have been left to fend for themselves as lone centre forwards, up against two central defenders.

Arouna Kone was an exception and did that well last year, scoring goals in the process. One wonders how he would have fared in this season’s team, if he had not been enticed to Everton.

Mauro Boselli was a big money signing by Latics’ standards, but the lone role did not suit him and he was like a fish out of water. Boselli had a torrid time at Wigan – unfairly ridiculed by one fan site – but he has revived his career through a move to Mexico. Since joining Leon he scored 18 goals in 22 appearances in the regular season and helped them beat Club America  5-1 to win the Apertura Championship playoffs with goals like this.

Like Boselli, Grant Holt has come in for a lot of criticism at Wigan. Critics would say that a good central striker makes things happen. Realists would say it depends on the service. During Boselli’s early days at Wigan he had Charles N’Zogbia to his right and Hugo Rodallega to his left, both of whom were expected to strike on goal themselves. Holt has not been given any favours either as the service from the wide players this season has been poor.

Whelan is unlikely to allow Rosler to splash big money on a striker this month. It is a gamble the club cannot afford to take at this stage. Rosler will look at players with goal scoring records in the lower division and those available on loan.

The proceeds from the summer sales will largely go towards providing the new facility at Charnock Richard. Whelan is clearly looking at Latics being back in the Premier League and having an academy that can produce home-grown players. His appointment of Gregor Rioch to spearhead that programme is a real step forward for the club.

Whelan is looking at the long term future of Wigan Athletic, as a Premier League Club. He will be aware of the risks of Latics’ finest young players being poached by the elite clubs, through the EPPP, if they are not in the top tier.

Latics can not only get back into the Premier League, but will be able to see a future there if the academy system takes off. Whelan has already shown himself to be far-sighted in his planning for the club. He will face pressure in terms of investing for the present and for the future. But he will not waiver.

Uwe Rosler has already made a great impression. His challenge is to get the right balance in the team. He does not need to spend a huge amount of money to do that. The squad that Coyle left behind is good enough to challenge for promotion, given a couple of key additions.

Latics are entering a new era. Financial Fair Play will restrict Whelan’s capacity to pump in funds. The club has to stand on its own two feet. Whelan is right to require the club to be run in a business-like manner, making ends meet.

There continues to be long-term planning and the task of getting Latics back into the Premier League is in the hands of one of the brightest and best young managers.

Wigan Athletic continue to look forward to to continue to punch above their weight.

The future continues to look bright.

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The departure of the cup winning icons

watsonSteve Bruce signed Ben Watson for Wigan Athletic in January 2009. Watson scored what was considered a crucial goal in a 2-1 win away at Sunderland a couple of months later. But neither Bruce nor Watson could have guessed that the same player would score the most important goal in Latics’ history some four years later.

Ben Watson became a household name through his fantastic header from Shaun Maloney’s corner. He caught the attention of not only the media, but also of other football clubs. Watson’s contract ends in summer and there is a strong possibility that Latics will cash in on any reasonable offer that comes in.

It has never been easy for the likeable Watson at Wigan. In his early years with the club he was sent off on loan to both West Bromwich and Queens Park Rangers. His best season was in 2011-12 when he made 23 starts with 6 appearances from the bench. In the latter part of that season he was superb in the deep-lying playmaker role as Latics shocked the Premier League elite with amazing results.

Jordi Gomez’s contract is also up at the end of the season.

Gomez was pivotal in the cup run, scoring three goals and making four assists. His assist for Callum McManaman’s goal in the semi-final against Millwall will stick in the minds of Wigan supporters for years to come. In the FA Cup Final Gomez had played remarkably well in a midfield holding role, but as fate would decree, he was the one to go off after 81 minutes to allow Watson to come on.

Like Watson, Gomez has never had an easy time at Wigan.

Roberto Martinez brought him to Wigan in the summer of 2009, following excellent performances for Swansea. Gomez tends to polarize opinion at Wigan. His fans regard him as a skilful player who can dictate play and make a difference. His detractors would say he does not like” to get stuck in” and passes the ball sideways or backwards too often

Were either Gomez or Watson to leave Latics this month they would leave behind great memories of their role in the club winning the FA Cup. But why would Latics allow them to leave?

Financial considerations must clearly come into play. Latics have had a huge drop in their revenue through relegation from the Premier League.

A look at what happened to Bolton Wanderers a year before is chilling.

Last season Bolton spent their first year back in the Championship after 11 years in the ‘greed league’. They have recently released the financial figures for the year ending June 2013. It reveals a loss of £50.7m.

They had a turnover of £28.5m, compared with £58.5m the year before. Although they had cut staff salaries down around 33% from the previous year is still came to £37.4m, way beyond turnover. Gate receipts amounted to only £3.8m. It is the broadcast revenue that hit Bolton hardest, at £19m compared with £42m the year before.

Even with a parachute payment of around £16m, Bolton still made a huge loss.

Bolton continue to survive thanks to owner, Eddie Davies, to whom they are indebted by over £150m. However, financial fair play regulations will tighten the knot on Davies’ contribution in the future.

In Latics’ latter years in the Premier League Dave Whelan put them on a sound financial footing. Roberto Martinez worked wonders on a limited budget and won the FA Cup in the process.

It is now a period of adjustment. Wigan Athletic have to deal with the decreased revenues in the Championship and make best use of their parachute payments while they last.

Big money signings in the January transfer windows are unlikely. Latics need to continue to downsize their staffing costs towards Championship norms.

One thing is for sure. The financial gap between the Premier League and the Championship will continue to grow.

Wigan Athletic need to regain their place in the elite league or risk sinking down into the lower echelons when the parachute payments run out. Let’s look at playing the likes of Liverpool or Arsenal, rather than Rochdale or Macclesfield.

In order to maintain financial stability it will not only be the likes of Ben Watson and Jordi Gomez in the shop window for the January sales.

But both players will have a place in the hearts of Wigan Athletic supporters if they do depart this month.

Without them Latics would not have won the FA Cup.

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Evolution over revolution as Wigan welcomes Uwe Rosler


Despite an awful run of form resulting in the club’s lowest league position in the better part of a decade, the formal unveiling of new boss Uwe Rosler at the DW Stadium earlier today appears to have injected a welcome breath of positivity at Wigan Athletic.

Flanked by chief executive Jonathan Jackson and club chairman Dave Whelan, the German hit all the right notes during an insightful half hour press conference. His approach serious and considered, Rosler did much to suggest he will embrace the groundwork set in place at the club by Roberto Martinez, while tweaking the finer details in playing style to suit his own brand of football.

He referenced a high-tempo passing and pressing game employing a 4-3-3 formation, similar in some ways to the Spaniard’s preferred system, but different in others — hinting that there would be an emphasis on pace and energy, and a commitment to pushing bodies forward in attack. Although we will have to wait and see exactly how these changes manifest themselves, the comparison between the Martinez and Rosler blueprints does not sound far off the transition Swansea underwent from Brendan Rodgers tikki-takka to Michael Laudrup’s skill-based but more direct approach.

Whelan once again commented on the hiring process, reiterating the goal of a Premier League return as soon as possible, and backing his new man to be a huge success at Wigan. When asked about specifically about Callum McManaman and James McLean, Rosler described them each as exciting, fast and direct players that would fit his system, while reserving a diplomatic word about room for improvement in McLean’s final pass. He also opined that the change in management and style, plus the fixture congestion with the club taking part in the Europa League group stages, posed huge challenges to the club earlier this season.

There was a quiet resolve and confidence about Rosler’s delivery that is already generating optimism amongst supporters on social media outlets. The hope is that he will be able to swiftly convey it to his new players and that such desire will manifest itself on the pitch in coming weeks. His description of the opportunity as a “dream” to join “such a big club” will likely please many but also felt genuine, while his long-term views and discussion of player development suggest he is in it for the long haul.

More immediately, he made it clear that next weekend’s Championship fixture against Bolton will be the priority, but that the midweek trip to Maribor was a winnable contest. It should also provide him a good chance to get to know some of the personalities in the squad as the Latics embark on their final Europa League group stage adventure as a squad.

Interestingly, the new manager spoke about having developed a relationship with Martinez since Rob Kiernan joined Brentford on loan in 2012, but confirmed that he had not consulted the Spaniard before taking the position over the weekend. In a curious twist of fate, Martinez himself was today in Wigan being honoured at Wigan’s “walk of stars” for his achievement in winning the FA Cup last season. Chairman Whelan, also being honoured at the event, was several minutes late to the press conference as a result.

All of which may have been pure coincidence, but you do get the sense that this was an appointment made with Martinez in mind. Whelan was displeased by Coyle’s rejection of the style his predecessor had spent three years implementing from the youth teams all the way up through the first team. With this appointment, the chairman has made clear his hope for a period of evolution rather than revolution at Wigan Athletic.

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Five things the new man must get right


It has been a whirlwind couple of days since the news broke that Dave Whelan had sacked Owen Coyle (sort of), and the rumour mill has been churning out names ever since.

Football certainly has both a sense of timing and humour, after the eventful week that led to Coyle losing his job also saw Rene Meluensteen accept the Fulham position and Steve McClaren supply the damage that ultimately sealed the former Bolton and Burnley manager’s fate.

There have been murmurs that Whelan regrets the short-term mentality of his latest appointment, after witnessing how little time it took Coyle to dismantle the three years of club ethos-building groundwork of his predecessor. One newspaper stretched this rumour to suggest he is specifically looking for his “next Roberto Martinez” — a young and ambitious manager with a long-term view and a twinkle in his eye. What seems more likely is the appointment of someone who, regardless of age, is thinking not just of how to get Wigan out of the Championship, but stay out of the Championship. The popular favourite at the moment is Mike Phelan — more on that here.

In the meantime, our top five recommendations for the new man:

1) No need for a revolution

Coyle could be forgiven for feeling that he was inheriting a disjointed squad after the relegation-fueled exodus at the end of last season. He acted swiftly and admirably to bring in a number of new faces, most of whom on paper, were excellent Championship signings. But it was a huge mistake to try and re-invent the club’s ethos and actively reject the work Martinez had done before him. Even if he felt the tikki-takka stuff wasn’t for him, there was simply not enough time to completely transform the way the team played, gel new signings, and obtain results. In Jordi Gomez, Ben Watson, James McArthur, Emmerson Boyce, Roger Espinoza, Callum McManaman, Jean Beausejour, and Sean Maloney before his injury, he had a set of players who performed key roles in an FA Cup winning squad. He also had Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis and Ali Al-Habsi to return from injury, and settled young talents Frazer Fyvie and Nouha Dicko ready to push for first team football. In the end, he rotated the squad so much that the established players at the club who knew each other and had chemistry on the pitch, were rarely in the lineup together.

If there is a concrete lesson for the new man in charge, it is to embrace the strengths the club already possesses and tweak rather than rebuild. Swansea is fantastic example when it comes to such smooth transitions, from Martinez to Paulo Sousa, to Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup.

2) Get the fans back onside

Injuries or not, one got the sense that fan favourites such as Ali Al-Habsi and Sean Maloney were on their way out of the club. Add to this the limited playing time afforded to Roger Espinoza, despite repeated clamouring from the crowd to see him, and it was clear he was losing the supporters.

It would be a very good move to publicly talk up the returns of Al-Habsi and Maloney, give Espinoza a chance, and focus on getting the best out of the club’s established players such as Emmerson Boyce, James McArthur, Ben Watson, Jean Beausejour and the returning Ivan Ramis, who himself was gaining something of a cult following before that terrible knee injury at Fulham last January.

It would also be wise to praise the work of his predecessors. Coyle deserves immense credit for his work assembling a strong squad of players in a short period of time. Even more important, however, is public acknowledgement of what Martinez did, not only delivered the club’s greatest achievement, but investing hugely in the club’s long-term future. It is difficult to replace an icon, but acknowledging his work puts everyone on the same side.

3) Get the best out of Grant Holt

He was the marquee summer signing — the proven goalscorer at this, and just about every other level in English football — but it all seems to have gone wrong. An instinctive finish against Barnsley on day one promised great things, and he’s shown flashes of talent (his setup play for Marc-Antoine Fortune’s winner at Yeovil stands out), but it’s largely been frustrating for the big centre-forward, and in recent weeks, Wigan Athletic supporters. His confidence is clearly low, and he doesn’t appear fully fit after being rushed back from a knee injury several games back, but the biggest problem was tactical.

A striker who scores the vast majority of his goals from crosses was all too frequently playing with the wrong supporting cast. Beausejour — the finest crosser of the ball at the club — was rarely in the lineup at the same time. His starts seemed to coincide with matches in which Latics failed to control possession of the ball, limiting him to counter attacks for which his talents were ill-suited.

With the less-than-prolific Fortune and young, unproven Will Keane the other options in the striking department, it is clear that the new manager needs to get the best out of Holt if Wigan are to stand a chance of being promoted this season. That means providing service.

4) Fill the gaps

The other option, of course, is to spend time and money on another proven striker.

And a left-back, assuming Juan Carlos Garcia needs more time to adapt and Stephen Crainey doesn’t dramatically improve under new leadership.

If Graham Barrow’s 3-5-2 formation in yesterday’s loss against Leeds was anything to go by, neither is deemed one of the club’s best XI. If the new manager goes the same route, a backup for Boyce on the right flank will be a priority.

5) Improve away form

Another loss, this time to Leeds, means Latics have now lost five out of eight away games — the same number as Yeovil and more than Sheffield Wednesday, both in relegation places. Only Barnsley, bottom of the league, have lost more.

Think we missed one? Please leave us a comment below.

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