Fresh from their hard-earned FA Cup victory at Cardiff, Wigan Athletic are due to entertain Barnsley tomorrow in their 43rd game of the season. What’s more is that three difficult away games follow for Rosler’s men who seek promotion to the Premier League and further progress in the Cup.
At first glance Barnsley at home does not appear to be the most difficult task ahead. Owen Coyle enjoyed his most successful result at Wigan after giving the Tykes a 4-0 hammering on the first day of the season. Barnsley remain anchored in the bottom three with only one away win all season. A win for Latics would appear a formality.
However, Uwe Rosler’s side have not performed well against teams closer to the lower end of table. The elation of away wins at promotion-chasing Derby and Reading has been tempered by defeats at Doncaster and Huddersfield. Moreover it will be Wigan’s fifth match in eighteen days in the month of February. The victory at Cardiff means that the difficult home match against league leaders Leicester City will have to be rearranged, creating even more fixture congestion.
But thanks to some astute dealings in the loan and transfer market Rosler has a strong and well balanced squad at his disposal. The German has already shown that he can successfully operate a rotation policy, achieving results. The quality in depth within the squad is such that Rosler could choose an entirely different starting eleven tomorrow and still have a good chance of beating Barnsley.
Rosler wisely rested the dependable Leon Barnett on Saturday. The ex-Norwich man has played 40 matches so far this season, much more than any other player. However, the lack of cover for the central defensive positions has now been alleviated by the signing of Markus Holgerrson and the return from injury of Ivan Ramis and Thomas Rogne. Given that strength in numbers Rosler might be tempted to play a backline of three, especially against teams whose main mode of play is putting high balls into the box. Moreover it would free up Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour to play in their best positions as wing backs.
Following a successful return at Cardiff, Ramis will be rested tomorrow. Rosler has already said that the Spaniard is not yet up to playing more than one game a week. Barnett will almost certainly return, but Boyce is likely to be rested, meaning a possible debut for Holgerrson, although Rogne is also a possibility. Rosler has also talked about giving Lee Nicholls a chance and this might be the one for the young goalkeeper.
Ben Watson went off injured at Cardiff, but James McArthur will be ready to return. Josh McEachran will be pushing for a start in midfield, as will Roger Espinoza.
Both Martyn Waghorn and Nicky Maynard are due to return after being cup-tied and fans will be hoping that Nick Powell is fit after missing the last five matches. Although still only 19 years old, Powell has started in 25 matches this season and come off the bench in five, scoring 10 goals. Rosler is aware of the physical demands on the young man and will try to get the best use out of the highly talented player, without overstretching him.
With tricky away matches at Brighton and Nottingham Forest looming, Latics will be keen to claim the three points available from the Barnsley game. Rosler is looking at an average of two points per game until the end of the regular season to get in to a playoff berth. Failure to beat Barnsley would make that difficult over the three league games which precede the FA Cup 6th round match at Manchester City.
The pressure is on and the coming weeks will be a test of resolve for Rosler, but he has the squad to cope with what is coming up, providing injuries keep to a minimum. Beating Barnsley tomorrow will be a step in the right direction.