Profiles from the archives – Part 2: James McArthur and Ben Watson

In April we stated our intention of republishing articles from our archives from time to time. It takes a long time for a fan site to get established and Amigos has been no exception. We are now in our third year. Our readership grew slowly in the first year, steadily in the second, but much faster in this third year. Given that we now have a wider readership we decided to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen.

The republishing of the  “Fan View”articles – perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs – went particularly well, according to the viewing stats.

We now plan to look back to some of the player profiles that we have have written and published over the past couple of years. Once again we ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Click here for our previous player profile on  Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

Let’s take a look at our articles on James McArthur and Ben Watson.

 

Auld Mac getting better and better – a look at James McArthur – published April 3, 2014

The Jimmy Macs - McArthur left with McCarthy.  Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

The Jimmy Macs – McArthur left with McCarthy.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

They were the two Jimmy Macs – James McArthur and James McCarthy – in the engine room of Roberto Martinez’s midfield. It could be difficult guessing Bob’s starting lineups, but the Jimmy Macs always seemed to be there. Together with Shaun Maloney they could compete on an even keel with the likes of  Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. They were the ones who underpinned Wigan Athletic’s famous victories against giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Both had started at Hamilton Academicals in the second tier of Scottish football. Both Glaswegians and both part of the Accies side that won the Scottish First Division in 2007-08. The younger Jimmy Mac – McCarthy – was first to join Latics in summer of 2009, to be followed by ‘Auld Mac’ a year later. James McCarthy made 120 appearances for Latics before he moved to Everton early this season. James McArthur has made 116 up to this point.

Given his wealth of Premier League experience McArthur was expected to be a major force in the Championship division. His early performances under new manager Owen Coyle were disappointing, his partner McCarthy’s departure not helping. Some even suggested McArthur would never be the same without the younger Mac. But then again not many players reached optimum levels under Coyle’s slack regime. However, Coyle clearly recognized McArthur’s talent and leadership qualities, giving him brief captaincy duties for the first time in the absence of Emmerson Boyce.

The arrival of new manager Uwe Rosler signaled a change in tactical approach. Coyle’s long ball tactics had not suited the skilful McArthur and he soon made an impact upon his new manager. He formed a formidable midfield trio with Chris McCann and Ben Watson that was to prove crucial in Latics’ revival. Sadly both McCann and Watson were to pick up long term injuries and since then McArthur has had a variety of players accompanying him in midfield. Nevertheless he has kept up his excellent form.

However, Auld Mac has become more and more influential in that midfield engine room. He has become the fulcrum around whom things happen, a complete midfield player. Despite already having played 45 games this season he was full of energy and drive in an outstanding display in the draw with champions-elect Leicester City on Wednesday.

McArthur was once described as a tough tackler with creative spark. But he has become much more than that. He has become the midfield general who sets the example to his teammates in terms of his commitment and dedication to the Wigan Athletic cause. He will always be remembered as being part of the team that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup last May. He had a wonderful game as a makeshift wing back.

If there is one area in which McArthur needs to improve it is in scoring more goals. However, when he does get them they tend to be good ones. That rocket shot at Huddersfield last season and the amazing chip over the Northern Ireland goalkeeper are as good as you will see.

Auld Mac is not so old. In fact he is only 26 and still has not reached his peak. He has taken his game to a higher level and many would view the underrated Scot as Latics’ player of the season at this point. It is ironic that when he is showing  possibly the best form of his career he is not making the first choice line-up for his country. Granted he has dropped down a division, but are the current starters for the Scotland team really better than him?

James McArthur is a quality footballer with a great attitude. He can help take Wigan Athletic into the play-offs and beyond.

At 26 he has still not reached his peak. Latics supporters will hope he will stay at the club for years to come.

 

Watson’s  best is yet to come –published February 12, 2014

Ben-WatsonHe wrote his name into history with a brilliant last-minute header that won the FA Cup. If you were in a room full of football fans from all over the world and asked them to name a Wigan Athletic player, you can guess whose name would be most likely to come up.  That would be Ben Watson.

At his best he can look as classy as any midfield player in England. He is a strong tackler capable of making key interceptions. He has genuine football vision and can make forty yard passes with Beckham-like precision. He can certainly score goals and is not afraid to take penalties. One recalls the away game at Stoke last season when Tony Pulis was far from happy to see the Londoner brought off the bench to take a penalty, which he duly dispatched.

Watson’s peak time at Wigan was during the late rally in the 2010-11 season, when Latics produced a series of results that shocked the English football world and silenced even the most vile of their critics in the gutter press. Roberto Martinez had moved to a system with three central defenders, with Watson playing just in front of them, making up the extra man in the centre of defence when needed and playing a deep-lying midfield creator role.

You could say Martinez made the most inspired substitution of his career when he brought on Watson for a tiring Jordi Gomez after 81 minutes in the FA Cup Final. The end result was that a player who had never consistently commanded a first team place at the club became its most famous-ever player.

Ben Watson has his critics among Latics fans. They would say he is prone to lapses of concentration in defence, too one-paced in his play and inconsistent in his taking of set pieces. Far too often his shots on goal from free kicks have endangered supporters sitting in the back rows of the stands behind the goal.

However, the 28 year old has already started in 24 league games this season beating his previous best of 23 league starts in 2010-11.

Steve Bruce signed Watson from Crystal Palace in January 2009 for a fee of around £2m. He was to make 6 league starts with 2 goals under Bruce’s management.

Watson could not  establish himself under new manager Martinez in 2009-10, being sent off on loan to Queens Park Rangers for the first half of the season.  Coming back he could still not get into the Wigan team and was loaned to West Bromwich Albion in February 2010, but was recalled early in April. By the end of the season he was to make 5 appearances, getting a goal in the 3-2 home win against Arsenal on April 19.

The 2010-11 season was a mixed one for Watson, not being a regular starter until after Christmas, when he was to become a key player in that deep-lying midfield role.

After signing a new three year contract in August 2011, Watson could not settle into a rhythm in the 2011-12 season and started in only 14 Premier League matches.

Last season saw the Londoner make only 7 league starts, mainly down to the broken leg he received at  Liverpool in the November. Watson was not to reappear until May when he played in the 3-2 away win at West Bromwich. He was soon to go on to score that all-important goal at Wembley.

Watson got off to a good start in Owen Coyle’s first league match in charge. His superb shot from 30 yards opened the scoring at Barnsley on the opening day of the season, leading to a 4-0 rout. He also scored a superb goal in the Europa League match at home to Maribor, running through from his own half to connect with Jean Beausejour’s cross. Coyle played him in that deep-lying midfield creator role but also further forward in midfield. In Shaun Maloney’s absence he became the main taker of set pieces.

Watson survived the ‘Coyle Revolution’ better than some of his teammates who had also been with the club in the Martinez era. Coyle certainly rated him and his set-piece deliveries were crucial to an attacking approach where Latics were looking for headers from their big men.

Many of us wondered how the new manager Uwe Rosler was going to use Watson in a high tempo game plan. But from the start the German was positive about Watson and he has publicly stated his hope that the player will sign a new contract.

Watson scored another good goal against Crystal Palace recently. Once again he ran in from a deep position to score an opportunist strike from James McClean’s low cross. Together with James McArthur and Chris McCann he makes up a formidable midfield trio, which has a high work rate and no mean level of skill. Roger Espinoza, Jordi Gomez and Josh McEachran will continue to challenge that trio for a place.

At 28 a midfield player is often around his peak. However, with Watson one has the feeling he can get better still.  Rosler clearly has plans for the player and believes he can fit into his high-tempo style. Moreover if Watson can cut out the errors he can be prone to make through lack of concentration he will be a much better player. Rosler is keen to increase fitness levels of the squad and this will help Watson both physically and mentally.

Ben Watson has certainly had his ups and downs at Wigan, but has shown both patience and determination to get where he is now. He has the ability to be a top class footballer.

However, given the financial constraints that Latics are now facing it is unlikely that they will be able to offer Watson the kind of contract he seeks.

In the meantime Watson will continue to be a pivotal player in Wigan Athletic’s climb up the table.

 

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