The rumours are getting stronger. Oriol Riera back to Spain. Andy Delort to France, not to mention the demise of Emyr Huws and Adam Forshaw. What is happening to the players who looked such good signings not so many months ago?
Latics paid a total of over £10m for the four and none of them made the starting lineup at Leeds. Forshaw and Riera made the bench, but did not come into play. Delort and Huws were nowhere.
Critics of Uwe Rosler will say that he paid over the odds for players who were not good enough. But most fans will say the four received a raw deal under Rosler, then even worse up to this point under Malky Mackay. Many still dream of an upfront pairing of Delort and Riera, whilst recognizing the potential of a midfield with the skills of Forshaw and Huws.
Mackay may be doing the right thing in letting the senior professionals shoulder the burden of getting things back on track. However, until Saturday’s result at Leeds it was just not succeeding. His choice of a midfield trio of senior pros – Cowie, McCann and Watson – can be regarded as relying in experience, building up an understanding between the three which will put Latics in good stead in the coming months. In the meantime Forshaw and Huws remain lower down in the pecking order, with Roger Espinoza ahead of them.
Delort and Riera appear peripheral in Mackay’s planning. Mackay’s front two at Leeds were Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean, players not known for their finishing. However, McClean was to confound his critics with a well take goal eight minutes from the end. Only time will tell if McClean can learn to play a striking role, quite distinct from being on the left wing. Moreover can he produce a reasonable goalscoring ratio?
The departure of Delort or Riera, or even both, in January remains a distinct possibility, given the impending return of Grant Holt. Holt impressed in his early games on loan at Huddersfield, but the gloss has worn thin over recent weeks and a goal tally of 2 in 15 appearances is hardly impressive. Is the 33 year old Holt likely to more effective than the two Latins? Are we heading back in time to an upfront partnership of Holt and Fortune?
Frankly speaking, Mackay’s team selections have been as frustrating as those of his predecessor. At times it seemed like Rosler had taken the names out of a hat. Mackay’s have been conservative and uninspiring.
On his arrival Mackay said that all players would be given a chance to prove their worth.
However, he has already all but confirmed the departure of Thomas Rogne, despite never seeing him perform for the first team. Rogne’s career has been blighted by injury, but he has been available all season without being called up. He looked a useful player last season – superb in the air and calm under pressure.
Denmark captain, William Kvist, is another who appears to be frozen out by Mackay. There is talk of him moving in the January transfer window. The excellent Ali Al-Habsi has appeared in just one League Cup game, having being briefly loaned out to Brighton. The exciting young ’keeper, Lee Nicholls, has had zero opportunities.
Mackay will reduce the size of his squad in January, trying to raise funds through transfers and reduce the wage bill by shipping higher earners out on loan. One of those could be Andy Delort, who has been linked with a loan move to Charlton. Rosler made a serious error in signing the exciting Frenchman, then playing him as a lone centre forward. Delort’s success last year at Tours came through playing as a twin striker. If Delort does go on loan to Charlton it will be interesting to see how they deploy him. However, the loan could be a good option for Latics, giving the 23 year old more game time in the Championship division. He could come back a better player.
Delort has been quite vocal about his frustrations through comments made to the French press. Riera, on the other hand, has remained positive and stated his desire to adjust to the physicality of the Championship division and to be successful at Wigan. However, if media reports are to be believed there are at least three La Liga teams who would be interested in taking him on loan. But then again what potential value would there be for Latics sending him back to Spain, other than by reducing their wage bill? Better to send him on loan to an English club. Even better from so many fans’ point of view to give him a fair chance at Wigan. Riera has already proven that he can score goals in a lone centre forward role at Osasuna. If he can do it in a competition as good as La Liga, surely he can do the same in the Championship?
Both Forshaw and Huws have grown up in English football. Both have the competitive edge to go with their considerable skills. They have been unfortunate to come into a team struggling to find its form. After being the League 1 player of the year, Forshaw has had to adjust to playing in a higher division. But Huws knows what the Championship is like, his excellent performances having helped Birmingham City stay up last year. The two surely have the necessary technical ability and resilience to become the lynchpins of Latics’ midfield.
Dave Whelan boldly backed Rosler by shelling out good money for four players who are certainly good enough to make their mark in the Championship. A midfield with Forshaw and Huws creating chances for forwards Delort and Riera, is a mouth watering prospect.
What the four need is to be given a run of games in the team. If it happens at all, it will come later rather than sooner.
But has Mackay already made his mind up? How many of the four will be at Wigan a year from now?