From scapegoat to hero – A look at Jordi’s five years at Wigan

“My time in Wigan was unforgettable.”

 

 

So said Jordi Gómez after he had cut his five year tie with Wigan Athletic by agreeing to join Sunderland.

The myriad of Latics fans that for months had been campaigning for him to stay through the social media were to be disappointed, although in their heart of hearts they probably knew it was not going to happen. The player who was transformed from scapegoat to hero is packing his bags for the north east. Emotion apart, a return to the Premier League and a lucrative three year contract makes sound sense to a player who is 29 years old.

It is ironic that Gómez should be leaving Wigan with his popularity ratings being at their highest point during his five year stay. His final season proved to be easily his best. The Spaniard had started to win over fans through playing a key role in the FA Cup run of the previous season. Moreover he had shown before what a force he could be playing in the Championship division. However, it took the departure of the hapless Owen Coyle to allow Gómez the chance to show what he was capable of. He was to shine under Uwe Rösler.

After suffering continual verbal abuse from sections of the crowd for so many years, Gómez had won over so many of them through his performances over these past months. Ice cool penalties dispatched in the cup run against Manchester City and Arsenal thrust him once again into the eye of the media. Spectacular goals from long range in open play and from free kicks, matched with a high work rate added to the impression of the Spaniard being a changed man under the management of Uwe Rösler.

In the end his displays managed to convince the majority of Latics fans that he was a player the club should keep if they were to keep pressing for promotion. The inability of the club to keep him leads supporters to worry about who next will jump ship.

But was it more than just financial security that helped the Spaniard decide to leave Wigan after five years?

If it had not been for an end of season rally,  Sunderland would have been joining Latics in the Championship next season. Gus Poyet must have known it would be an uphill task to turn things around when he replaced Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland in October last year. Poyet had come in with a reputation for good football from his time at Brighton and the Mackems are a much more attractive side to watch now. It is a playing style that Gomez should find relatively easy to fit into.

Although the majority of Latics fans will be sad to see Gómez go, there will be others who won’t.

Jordi Gómez was a player who divided Latics fans. He was derided by those who preferred the more traditional English approach of “up and at ‘em” . His admirers would say he was a skilful player who could bring order to a game through his cultured technique, keeping the ball while under pressure, drawing fouls. It was sometimes said that we would never see how good Gomez could be until Latics were playing the level of skilful football that Roberto Martinez sought.

The anti-Gomez lobby was strong during Martinez’ reign at Wigan. Jordi Gómez was identified as a player in whom the manager had faith beyond the norm. When the crowd lost their patience with the tiki-taka style of Martinez’ teams it was so often Gomez who suffered the brunt of their frustration .

I retain a vivid memory of the first match of what proved to be the last season for Martinez at Wigan. Latics had lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea. At the end of the match I was sheltering from the pouring rain outside, when I overheard a conversation where a group of Latics supporters came to the consensus that having Gomez in the team was like playing with ten men. These fans were  infuriated  by the team’s apparent unwillingness to go at Chelsea after falling behind. Jordi had come on in the second half for crowd favourite Shaun Maloney. Once again Jordi Gómez had become the scapegoat of a section of fans, who were above all frustrated by the manager’s tactical approach.

In those days, when Wigan fell behind there would be little increase in tempo, contrary to what one would expect in English football. In this particular game Latics had so often seemed languid after giving away a soft opening goal. In such circumstances the Englishman in me would get frustrated, even if I  knew that Martinez’s teams would not follow the usual English pattern. Watch Barcelona fall behind and you would see no change in their brand of football: they would eventually grind you down and beat you. The Barcelona style was clearly an inspiration for Martinez, but he was savvy enough to know that Latics did not have the wherewithal to go with it fully.

Jordi had come through the youth ranks at La Masia, with the likes of Messi and Pique. The Barca style of play was in his blood and it was probably for that very reason that Martinez first signed him. Martinez espoused possession football and for Gómez had grown up playing that brand of tiki taka.

It was anathema  for Gómez to waste the ball with a speculative pass. He would infuriate fans by passing the ball backwards or sideways, rather than risk losing possession. His detractors would label him as lazy, too slow and unwilling to go into 50/50 challenges.

If one looked at the stats for ground covered during his time on the pitch the ‘lazy’ tag would he hard to justify. When Latics’ defence or midfield was under pressure Gómez was invariably there to receive the ball, so often drawing free kicks which gave his side a breather. But too often Martinez would play Gómez in a role wide on the right where he did not have the pace to get past the full back on the outside. Inevitably he would have to cut the ball back inside, once again testing the patience of the fans. The manager was doing the player no favours using him in that position.

Over four years in the Premier League Gómez had mixed success. In the minds of many Wigan Athletic supporters Jordi Gómez never quite proved that he could handle the transition from the Championship to the Premier League. Too often he would get himself into great scoring positions, but not have the composure to put the ball in the net. However, Martinez continued to have faith in Gómez and the player persevered with the support of his manager, despite hostility from elements of the crowd, but never establishing himself as a regular starter.

In the 2012-13, his last season in the Premier League, Gómez scored three goals in 32 appearances However, those goals were memorable as they came in the same game, a thrilling  3-2 home win over Reading in November.

In that very game Gómez was booed early on following misplaced passes and poor finishing. A few minutes later he slipped an incisive short pass through to Kone who should have scored. But Gómez was back to showing his frustrating side just before half time, maneuvering past defenders with considerable skill in before shooting wide. Who would have thought that he would come to the rescue, winning this game for the Latics with a brilliant hat trick of second half goals? Even the most fair and open-minded of Latics supporters had been getting to the point where they would wince to see his name on the team sheet.

The game would be remembered as the day that Gómez showed the Wigan fans that his manager’s faith in his abilities might be justified after all. In the second half of this match he had looked a class act, threading through good passes and taking his chances with great aplomb. Sadly Gomez was unable to add to his goal tally in the league after that.

That hat trick against Reading really was something special, but Gómez’ outstanding contribution in the 2012-13 season was in the FA Cup. Gomez was pivotal in that 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.

Given his previous success in the Championship with Swansea, Gómez appeared to be a key player for Owen Coyle on his arrival at Wigan. However, the Scot did not get the best out of the player, sometimes following Martinez’s habit of playing him wide on the right.

The low point for the player under Coyle was in the Europa League home game against Zulte Waregem in early December. Coyle had put out a well-balanced starting lineup, omitting his two out-of-form central strikers and playing Nick Powell upfront. Callum McMananan and James McClean were on the wings and this time Gómez was played in his natural advanced midfield role.The four were to link up very well at times in the first half, showing the kind of movement and mutual understanding that had been sadly lacking for big chunks of the previous game against Brighton. Although he made mistakes at times, Gómez was a key link player in the first half.

Gómez had a bad start to the second half, with poor deliveries from set pieces followed by the crowd voicing their frustration with him after being caught unawares as an opponent robbed him of the ball.  He was to be substituted soon after. Taking him off after the crowd got on his case was not going to help the player’s confidence. He needed a better level of support from a manager who had put him in the starting lineup.

However, the arrival of Rösler was to enable Gómez to play the football he was always capable of at Championship level, resulting in him being voted ‘Player of the Year’. But if fans would have voted for the  award in December, Gómez would have been nowhere near the top of the charts.

Ironically Gómez only became a regular starter under Rösler in March. Prior to that he was in and out of the lineup, only once completing a full 90 minutes. However, following serious injuries to Ben Watson and Chris McCann,  Gómez’s  name was to become one of the first to be written on the teamsheet. Spectacular and crucial goals, great assists and a willingness to cover every blade of grass of the pitch were to help Gómez win that ‘Player of the Year’ award. In doing so he leapfrogged over stalwarts like Emmerson Boyce and James McArthur who had played far more games and provided a real backbone for the team. However, given the abuse that Gómez had taken over the years, few would begrudge him the award.

In the minds of many Wigan Athletic supporters Jordi Gómez never quite proved that he could handle the transition from the Championship to the Premier League. He had a rare ability to drift in, seemingly unnoticed by a defence, but too often he would get himself into great scoring positions, but not have the composure to put the ball in the net. There had been so many times over the those years when Gómez had done everything right until his final touch has let him down, whether it will be a header, a shot or a defence-splitting pass. He just did not seem to have had the self-belief to deliver in the Premier League.

The stats show that in four years playing in the Premier League Gómez scored 7 goals in in 46 starts and 25 appearances as a substitute. He made no assists.

As Swansea’s ‘Player of the Year’ in the 2008-09 season he scored 12 goals in 38 starts and 6 substitute appearances, making 5 assists. As Wigan Athletic’s  ‘Player of the Year’ he scored 12 goals and made 10 assists in 37 starts and 13 substitute appearances, in all competitions. The stats reveal the gulf between the player’s performances in the Premier League and the Championship.

However, whatever shortcomings he might have had at Premier League level, there could be no doubting his determination and commitment to the club. Gómez has learned to hassle and harry the opposition, and to cover a large number of yards of the pitch in each game he plays. At Swansea he played in a newly promoted team that was on the up. His role was to orchestrate the midfield and to score goals. When he arrived at Wigan he moved into a struggling team that was too often unable to get the lion’s share of the possession.

Latics fans will surely wish Jordi Gómez well at Sunderland. Despite constant abuse from some sections of the crowd he has maintained a positive and professional attitude. He will be long remembered for his role in helping Wigan Athletic win the FA Cup.

Jordi’s next challenge will be to prove, once and for all, that he is a true Premier League player. Sunderland might not be the best side in the elite division, but with Gus Poyet at the helm the Spaniard  should be able to slot seamlessly into the style of play.

 

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Where will Uwe do his summer shopping?

shopping“We will be investing in our playing and coaching staff, and I think it’s important to keep working on changing the culture at the football club.”

So said Uwe Rosler to the Wigan Evening Post this week.

When Roberto Martinez took over as manager of Wigan Athletic in June 2009, he quickly got to work on changing the culture of the club. He started by bringing in Graeme Jones as his assistant manager, to be followed by coaching and backroom staff from his previous club, Swansea. Within four days of his appointment Martinez signed Jordi Gomez, who had been on loan at Swansea, from Espanyol. He was to bring in Jason Scotland from his old club a month later.

Is Rosler set to follow the same pattern?

When the German was appointed in December, many of us expected him to bring in a swath of coaching and backroom staff from Brentford. Within a month he brought in Chris Haslam from his old club as Head of Performance. Alan Kernahan and Peter Farrell – assistant manager and first team coach – had left Brentford within a week of Rosler’s departure and it seemed a matter of time before they were installed at Wigan. It did not happen.

At the time the rationale among fans on social media was that Haslam had been brought in because of concerns in the fitness levels of Latics’ players. The non-arrival of Rosler’s trusted lieutenants was put down to either budget issues or Dave Whelan’s loyalty towards staff previously appointed.

Who would bet against either Kernahan or Farrell or both arriving over summer, given Rosler’s recent statement? Moreover will Rosler follow Martinez’s lead by signing players from his previous club?

When Martinez was appointed it was clear that he was going to employ the same playing style that had served him well during his time at Swansea. That was going to involve a paradigm shift for players who had played under the pragmatic Steve Bruce. However, Martinez had brought in playing and coaching staff to help catalyse the shift. Gomez had been the ‘player of the season’ for Swansea, making 44 starts and scoring 14 goals. Scotland had started in 48 matches, scoring 24 goals. Both fitted into the playing style that Martinez wanted and appeared to be good signings at the time.

Not long after the end of Martinez’s first season Scotland was gone. The Trinidadian just could not put the ball in the back of the net. Gomez struggled to establish himself and made more appearances off the bench than as a starter. The step up to the Premier League from the Championship appeared to have been too much for them.

However, Martinez continued to have faith in Gomez and the player persevered for three more years with his manager, despite hostility from elements of the crowd, but never establishing himself as a regular starter. But given his previous success in the Championship, Gomez appeared to be a key player for Owen Coyle at the beginning of the season. However, the Scot did not get the best out of Gomez, sometimes following Martinez’s habit of playing him wide on the right. However, the arrival of Rosler was to enable Gomez to play the football he was always capable of at Championship level, resulting in him being voted ‘player of the season’.

Following Rosler’s departure, Mark Warburton has done a great job at Brentford and they will be joining Latics in the Championship next season. Among the outstanding performers in their promotion season have been two 22 year olds – defender Harlee Dean and ex-Everton youth midfielder Adam Forshaw. Centre forward Clayton Donaldson is out of contract and could be subject to interest from Rosler. The 6’1” Bradford born player has scored 46 goals in 135 appearances for the Bees. However, he is 30 years old. Another fine performer for them has been George Saville, a 20 year old on loan from Chelsea, who can play in midfield and left back. The Italian Marcello Trotta, a 21 year old on loan from Fulham, has also been a key player in attack.

It remains to be seen whether Rosler will raid his former club for players. He told Wigan Today “I have a very good squad of players already available to me, but we have to tweak here and there.

Rosler maintains that Latics do not need to sell any players but qualifies the position by stating that “Clearly every player at every football club has his price, but our players are under contract. I don’t think certain clubs would be able to afford them – unless we got the kind of offer we got for James McCarthy, which obviously any club would have to consider.”

Rosler’s statement echoes those made by Martinez during his time at Wigan, a reflection on Whelan’s willingness to let players leave if the price is right.

Despite the public statements it is likely that Rosler will sell some players over summer in order to raise funds to bring in new ones who would fit into his playing style. A left back and a couple of decent strikers will be foremost in Rosler’s shopping list. The latter are most likely to come at a cost, hence the need to raise funds.

As usual at this time of the year all kinds of speculation is floating around the social media. One day we get headlines telling us that Nick Powell is going to Leicester or Swansea, then later we hear that he will stay at Wigan. It’s crazy time.

Rosler has suggested he might have two signings lined up by the end of the week. Maybe those signings will give us inkling as to what is to follow?

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Have the loan players let Latics down?

 

 

Last night’s bore draw against Queens Park Rangers leaves Latics with a mountain to climb in the return game on Monday. After 61 matches this season can Uwe Rosler motivate his players to find sufficient energy and motivation to give it a real go at Loftus Road?

Significantly there were no loan players in the starting eleven to face QPR. Nick Powell and Josh McEachran were not even named in the squad. Jack Collison and Nicky Maynard were on the bench and the latter was called into play with less than 20 minutes to go.

The situation last night was calling for someone to come off the bench and do something special, as the game drifted towards a goalless draw. Maybe Powell could have chipped in with one his spectacular goals and McEachran’s passing might have unlocked QPR’s dogged defence? It was not to be.

When Uwe Rosler took over in December he inherited a squad with an average age of around 28. There were ten players who had been signed over summer by Owen Coyle, together with those brought in during the Martinez era. Two of Coyle’s initial signings had been loan players, Nick Powell and Ryan Shotton. Both made favourable impressions during Coyle’s tenure. The Scot also brought in Marc Albrighton and Will Keane on short term loans. The former looked useful, but the latter could not establish him. Ironically Keane is now on loan at QPR.

Once the January transfer window opened, Rosler too, was busy in the loan market.

His first acquisition was young defender Tyias Browning from Everton on a one month loan. Browning had a good debut after coming on after half time in a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth. However, he gave away a penalty in the 3-0 defeat at Doncaster and never appeared again.

Nicky Maynard, aged 26, was signed on-loan from Cardiff in mid-January. The striker had been dogged by injury and was in need of playing time. He made his debut in the 3-0 home win against Doncaster. Since then Maynard has started in 13 games, coming on as substitute 5 times. He has scored 4 goals and made one assist. Maynard has struggled with the physical demands of the lone centre forward role and is probably better suited to a twin striker system.

The 21 year old Josh McEachran was then signed from Chelsea, on loan until the end of the season. He made a fine start coming on in the 57th minute against Charlton. His exquisite pass in the 88th minute led to Marc-Antoine Fortune getting an equalizer, which was later converted into a victory through a Jordi Gomez free kick. McEachran had successful prior experience in the Championship division, having played 38 games on loan at Middlesbrough last season. At the time he looked a very good loan signing. Since then he has made 8 starts for Latics, with four appearances off the bench. In 6 of his 8 starts he was substituted on or before the 68th minute.

The 24 year old Martyn Waghorn made an immediate impact on joining on loan from Leicester City. He made his debut in the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield on February 8th. Waghorn was soon to become a key player in Rosler’s set up with his versatility and his ability to take set pieces. Waghorn has made 15 starts, with just one appearance off the bench in last night’s match. He has scored 5 goals and has 5 assists. He has now been given a long term contract.

Ryan Tunnicliffe, aged 22, was signed on loan from Fulham at the end of February. He had a successful loan spell at Ipswich in the first half of the season. He made his debut as a substitute in the 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest on March 1st. He made his last appearance against Bolton at the end of March. Tunnicliffe struggled to adapt to Rosler’s system. He started in three games and came off the bench in two.

The 26 year old Jack Collison was signed in mid-March on loan from West Ham. His debut was off the bench after 61 minutes in the 2-1 home win over Watford. Collison came with a lot of Premier League experience with the Londoners. After initially looking like he could slot into Rosler’s style of play, his performances have been disappointing. He has made 5 starts, with 6 appearances off the bench.

In the 61 matches that Wigan Athletic have played this season they have used 35 players, out of which 10 were signed on loan. Only Powell has been on a season long loan, the remainder being half season or less.

The most successful of the loan players have been Powell, Shotton and Waghorn. But it would be fair to say that Albrighton impressed in his brief stay.

Uwe Rosler had a successful track record in using loan players at Brentford. In fact they had four players in the squad that recently won promotion to the Championship, who the German signed on loan. Forward Marcello Trotta, on loan from Fulham, made 37 league appearances for them this season. George Saville, midfielder from Chelsea, made 40 appearances. Blackburn’s Alan Judge made 22.

When Rosler first started bringing in loan players at Wigan it added an extra dimension to the squad, let alone lowering its average age. However, as the season progressed and games came in thick and fast, so many of the loan players disappointed. That led to Rosler having to be over-reliant on his key players, who have struggled to maintain their high performance standards after being overloaded with playing time.

That was evident yesterday as a starting lineup without loan players looked jaded and unable to raise their tempo.

There has been criticism of Latics’ current crop of loan players from fans who say they do not have their hearts in the club and think they are above it. They cite the perceived lack of effort from talented individuals like Powell and McEachran who will go back to their elite clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea. However, Collison is unlikely to survive the end of contract cull at West Ham and Maynard faces another season in the Championship with relegated Cardiff.

Why those loan players have not played up to potential is hard to determine. Maybe some of the criticism is valid, but injuries and physical fitness might also be factors. The bottom line is that, Waghorn excepted, they have not performed up to expectations.

Ideally Powell and McEachran in particular will come back on Monday and show us all what they are capable of. They are both talented individuals who could make a difference in the pressure cauldron of Loftus Road on Monday.

The likelihood is that they have played their last games for Wigan.

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The Dream refuses to die – but who will play?

Martinez

When Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup it really was a dream come true. Who could ever have imagined that they would be within close distance of making it come true again just eleven months later?

Just like last year Latics had a difficult time disposing of a team a division below them in the early rounds. Last season it was Bournemouth, this time around it was MK Dons. Martinez’s team had an amazing 3-0 win at Everton in the sixth round, while Rosler’s side also shocked the pundits with a 2-1 win at Manchester City.

However, Martinez’s team were to meet Millwall in the semi-final. Arsenal present a different proposition.

Whatever happens at Wembley tomorrow this team has done the club proud. They have got to the semi-final on merit following three successive victories over Premier League teams.

Latics had gone into the match at the Etihad following a series of good results, having won 4-1 at promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest in the previous game. Nevertheless they were facing a City team that had won 12 of its 13 home games in the Premier League and had already thrashed Latics 5-0 in the League cup.

As with the FA Cup Final last year against the same club, Latics’ manager got his tactics spot-on. Rosler’s team plays a more pragmatic style of football than that of Martinez. From the start they went at City, their high pressing game stemming the flow of the Citizens’ play. When Latics’ went 2-0 up not long after half time they dug in to conserve the result. City were to get a controversial goal that should have been disallowed for offside, but they were to pummel Wigan’s defence. With grim determination and a tiny bit of luck on their side Latics held on to get their victory.

At the Etihad, Rosler played a conservative 3-5-2 system, with Marc-Antoine Fortune and Callum McManaman upfront. However, the midfielders – Jordi Gomez in particular – pushed forward in the first half. He had surprised us by playing Chris McCann in the left of the backline trio. Leon Barnett was to take over that role after half time, due to the unfortunate injury to the Irishman.

Rosler will almost certainly adopt a similar approach tomorrow. Arsenal tend to pack their midfield with a lot of players and Wigan will need strength in numbers there to compete. James McArthur and Jordi Gomez will play in central midfield with James Perch and Jean Beausejour playing wide. However, it is that third central midfield position that will be up for grabs.

Jack Collison has the most experience, but played a full game in midweek plus most of the second half last Saturday. Would his knee stand up to him taking a starting role tomorrow? Josh McEachran played there at the Etihad, but has not figured much recently and was taken off at half time on Tuesday. However, this is an entirely different kind of match to the league encounter against Millwall and might well suit the young Chelsea loanee.

The lineup could well be that which began the second half at the Etihad, with the exception of Jean Beausejour for Stephen Crainey at left wing back : Carson ; Boyce, Ramis, Barnett; Perch, McArthur, Gomez, McEachran, Beausejour; McManaman, Fortune.

The 29 year old Michael Oliver has been named as referee for the encounter. Coincidentally he officiated last year’s semi-final against Millwall. One of the features of Rosler’s regime has been in the discipline shown by his players, with no red cards received. They will need to show that same kind of resolve tomorrow against a skilful Arsenal team whose supporters will be in the large majority at the Stadium, ready to pressurize the young referee.

The fourth placed team in the Premier League is playing against the fifth placed team from the division below, which has already played 55 matches this season. So once again the odds are heavily stacked against the Latics. However, only a fool would count them out.

The dream is still alive.

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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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