“Following the incredible achievements of last season, I felt it was the right thing to do that he should be given more time. However, the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, and the run of results in recent months, really has been alarming. Something is clearly not working. For whatever reason, the team is not gelling, despite substantial financial backing in the summer and the dressing room being blessed with a huge amount of quality. Therefore, I have now come to the reluctant conclusion that for the long term good of the club, we need a change.”
Dave Whelan’s words signaled the end of another era at Wigan Athletic. Uwe Rosler departing after only eleven months at the helm. The club is going to have its third manager in a period of a year.
Given only three victories in seventeen league games it seemed like a matter of time before Rosler would be shown the door. It was a sad end to an era in which Rosler had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. He took over a team in 14th place and got them into the playoffs, only to be narrowly beaten by QPR. Moreover the stunning win at the Etihad against the to-be Premier League champions in the FA Cup sixth round will stick in the memory for years to come. So will the semifinal, taking Arsenal to a penalty shootout.
Sadly things went pear-shaped for Rosler in the second half of his reign. The rot had set in near the end of last season. The confidence that had been generated through a long string of good results started to wane. The new season saw the team coming back from pre-season training in Germany in poor physical shape, with second half collapses being the order of the day. Moreover Rosler had made nine new signings since the summer, all in need of a settling in period. But their arrival had swelled the first team squad to over thirty, the end result being Rosler having to deal with disgruntled players not getting a regular game. Sadly we never saw Rosler’s dream of high pressure, high tempo football come to fruition. The players just did not seem capable of delivering it.
One hopes that Rosler will be remembered with some degree of affection among Latics fans. Serious injuries to midfield lynchpins Chris McCann and Ben Watson were a cruel blow when his team was doing so well. Moreover Nick Powell’s form had dipped at the wrong time, with the playoffs within reach. The team’s form wavered as the end of season approached, the loan players brought in during January being largely disappointing. However, despite the playoff disappointment fans remained supportive of Rosler and looked forward to the coming season when he could bring in his own signings and play the high tempo football he sought.
However, Rosler was to face a difficult task in the transfer market. In Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez he lost two skillful, quality players who would be difficult to replace. But the biggest blow was the departure of James McArthur on the transfer deadline day. Latics have only won one game since he left. Rosler had to fill the void left by the three who had oodles of Premier League experience.
There has been a lot of criticism of Rosler’s new signings. It would probably be fair to say that none of them have yet reached their best form. However, Rosler should be commended for his acquisition of young players with exciting technical skills, who will surely make their mark with more experience. Whelan backed the manager by forking out significant transfer fees for Adam Forshaw and Emyr Huws, who could prove to be the lynchpins of the midfield in the future. James Tavernier was acquired from Newcastle for a modest fee and the quality his crossing and set piece deliveries make him a threat to opposition defences. Left back Aaron Taylor-Sinclair has yet to appear in a league game. Bringing in the experience of Don Cowie, William Kvist and Andrew Taylor on free transfers made sound sense and all three will have a part to play as the season progresses. Sadly the two new central strikers, Andy Delort and Oriel Riera, in whom Whelan made a significant investment, just have not clicked up to this point.
Whelan did what was necessary by removing Rosler as manager. He now seeks to appoint a manager who can get the best out of the players, in a manner that eluded Rosler over these months. Moreover the squad is unnecessarily large and the new man will surely release a number of players in the January transfer window.
Rumours continue to fly around that some of the senior players within the squad were undermining Rosler. Similar stories were in the wind when Owen Coyle was dismissed last December. Like any football club, Latics prefer to clean their dirty washing in private, so one can but surmise that this has been happening. But it will be interesting to see who does leave in January.
The squad contains players signed by Roberto Martinez, Coyle and Rosler and all three managers had different preferences in terms of style of play. Sadly the flowing football of the FA Cup winning side is becoming an increasingly distant memory, but fans will hope that the new manager will be able to produce that, in addition to getting results. Perhaps it is too much to ask for a new manager coming in with morale at low ebb.
Once again Latics are back in the managerial merry-go-round. A new manager coming in from outside is likely to want to bring in his own right hand men and there could well be a cull of coaching and backroom staff. Or would Whelan insist that current staffing be maintained as he did when Rosler was appointed?
A valid alternative for Whelan would be to appoint from within. The name of Eric Black immediately comes to mind. The costs of hiring and firing will surely play a part in Whelan’s decision, with the financial fair play framework hovering above him.
Once again Dave Whelan has to make a key decision. Like anyone else in the football business he is by no means infallible. His big mistake in recent years was in not replacing Martinez with someone with a similar footballing philosophy. It is in the first year in the Championship that teams who have been relegated from the Premier League have the best chance of returning. Whelan blew it by appointing a manager whose teams more often than not reverted to route one, poles apart from the Martinez era. However, he deserves credit for appointing Rosler who really did lift the club, although in the end he could not maintain it.
Let’s hope Dave gets it right this time.