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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Coyle’s January Shopping List


Time is marching on and the January transfer window is creeping up on us.

Owen Coyle has worked wonders so far in the transfer market, his dealings having placed Latics balance sheet firmly in the black.

Coyle will go into the January market with ample funds available for transfers, but will be constrained by the club’s salary policy. That would rule out signings like Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes. Once again Coyle will be looking out for bargain buys whose salary demands are realistic.

With the win at Yeovil, Latics have moved up to 10th place in the Championship, only two points short of the playoff zone with a game in hand. If they can continue in this vein they will be in a good position to mount a realistic promotion challenge. Moreover Coyle has the chance to bring in new blood to cover the squad’s weaker areas through the transfer window.

By January the futures of short-term loanees Marc Albrighton and Ryan Shotton will have been determined.

If Albrighton does not stay at Wigan then Coyle will need to look elsewhere for a wide player who can make a difference.  Ivan Ramis is approaching full fitness after a ten month absence through injury. If Shotton is recalled by Stoke, Coyle has a more than adequate replacement for him at centre back.

So what are the areas that need strengthening?

Latics have scored a paltry 17 goals in the 14 league matches they have played. Coyle’s two mainline central strikers are both 32 years old and past their best.

Both Marc-Antoine Fortune and Grant Holt have had injury problems. They have mustered only three league goals between them. This is not to suggest the two players cannot play a major role in a promotion push, but Coyle needs another option given their record up to this point.

At least one more central striker is a necessity for that promotion push.

Two new full backs would also make a difference.

The left back position has been problematic. Stephen Crainey has had a hard time adjusting following his move from Blackpool. He is also 32 years old and might not have the pace he used to have.

Jean Beausejour has stepped in at left back several times, but it is not his natural position and he is better employed further forward.  James Perch has provided defensive stability over recent matches in that position, but his attacking skills on his ‘wrong side’ are limited.

Specialist left back Juan Carlos Garcia remains untried. The Honduran has been given just one start – away at Manchester City in the League Cup, where he was played out of position in left midfield. Coyle seems reluctant to put him in at this stage.

The evergreen Emmerson Boyce is 34 years old now, but remains a fine right back. He might have lost a little bit of pace over the years, but what he might lack he makes up for it in experience. Boyce’s passing skills are sorely missed when he is not in the team. Ryan Shotton is a promising young central defender but his miserable 57% pass completion rate in the Rubin game in Russia shows how Latics need a specialist right back when Boyce is not available.

Wigan Athletic have the third best defensive record in the Championship, with only 12 goals conceded.  It provides a solid base on which to build a promotion challenge. It is scoring goals that is the problem.

Coyle’s main aim in the transfer window will therefore be to bring in at least one quality striker. A quality attacking left back would also help in the creation of goals. Moreover there is a need for a specialist right back in case of an injury to Boyce.

Perhaps Coyle will also look for a playmaker in the long-term absence of Shaun Maloney, although he already has Nick Powell and Jordi Gomez .

Providing Latics can maintain their defensive strength and  cover the weak areas of the squad through the transfer window they will surely be challenging for a Premier League place over the coming months.

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Albrighton ready for crunch match with QPR


Marc Albrighton could be thrust into the crunch match with Queens Park Rangers at the DW Stadium tonight.

The 23 year old has been  signed from Aston Villa on what must be one of the shortest of loan periods –  reported to be just 28 days. However, the winger  has had injury problems and has fallen out of favour with Paul Lambert. If he can prove his fitness and fulfill his potential he might well become a player that Latics want to keep.  The possibility remains open for a permanent deal when the transfer window opens up again in January.

The QPR match is the acid test for Owen Coyle’s Wigan Athletic revolution. Failure to win will be viewed as a failure by most fans who feel that Latics need to build more momentum for a promotion challenge. They face an expensively assembled QPR team that is currently on track in 3rd place, with only one defeat so far.

At this point Latics stand in 14th place with a record of won 4, drawn 3 and lost 4 matches. The games they have lost have all been away from home to teams above them in the table – Leicester (in 2nd place), Blackpool (4th), Watford (7th) and Bournemouth (11th).

Up to this point Latics are unbeaten at home, a considerable improvement given the terrible record they have had at the DW Stadium, albeit against much stronger opposition over recent years. However, Coyle will be keen to make the DW a fortress for visiting teams to scale as the promotion battle unfolds.

Given the indifferent form of Latics’ wide players it could be that Albrighton will find himself in the starting lineup. Coyle has already shown he is not afraid to throw in new players at the first instance, after doing the same with Leon Barnett and Nick Powell earlier in the season.

It will be interesting to see how Coyle deals with the squad rotation for this game. On Sunday, Ben Watson looked tired, but was withdrawn only after 72 minutes. The man best known for his famous header has been a key component of Coyle’s lineups in recent weeks.

Roger Espinoza came on and looked useful at Charlton and it could be that he will see more playing time tonight, but one doubts  that he will make the starting lineup ahead of Watson. Moreover Jordi Gomez is higher up in the pecking order and is due for a return.

Leon Barnett is the outfield player who has played most matches this season, only missing the game at Zulte Waregem. If Coyle is willing to risk resting Barnett he will have the option of bringing in Ryan Shotton to partner Thomas Rogne in the centre of defence, although the big Stoke man might come in at full back for Emmerson Boyce. Another option would be to move James Perch across and bring in Stephen Crainey at left back.

The risk with too much rotation in defence is that in a radically new formation the players are not going to have that mutual understanding built up through regularly playing together.

Up front Coyle has to decide whether he wants to play with twin strikers – any two of Marc-Antoine Fortune, Grant Holt and Nick Powell – or play with two wingers.  Latics actually  played with two strikers and two wingers – an old fashioned 4-2-4 system –  for a period in the defeat at Blackpool.  Coyle is unlikely to risk it against a midfield as strong as that of QPR . His other option would be to play Powell in what is his best role, in attacking midfield behind the central striker.

Latics will want to narrow the 12 point gap between themselves and QPR.  Although they look good on paper the visitors are by no means invincible.

If  for once Latics take their chances and the ball does not keep crashing against the woodwork  there is no reason why they should not come away with three points tonight.

Whether they can do that will depend largely on Coyle’s tactics and how he rotates his squad.

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