Malky’s January Fire Sale

firesale2

What is critical……is to eliminate problem personalities – or what he calls the “s—-” – from the dressing room. It’s not just the 11 who play, If you have half a dozen s—- around you’ve no chance. You can’t win. They’ll contaminate the rest of them and bring the whole club down. They’ll be negative everywhere, getting in to good lads and bringing them down to their level. If you walk in and see one or two s—- then you’re watching them, watching who they talk to and what they are doing. They suck as much energy out of you as anything.”

These revealing Harry Redknapp quotes come from an article on the Daily Telegraph site on the key to survival in the Premier League.

Malky Mackay would be wise to listen to Redknapp’s words. He will be aware of what happened to his predecessor at Wigan. He has the January transfer window as a means of moving some of those elements on.

Mackay hardly had a positive arrival at the club and has yet to stamp his mark on the style of play. What we saw on Saturday against Norwich was players going through the motions. A spiritless and gutless performance. It is not the first of that type that we have seen this season, but one expects a new manager to inject new energy and change the style of play. Why has Mackay not had more effect on the performances up to this point? What can we expect any changes over the coming weeks?

Mackay has now been in charge for three matches. His record is D1 L2. The 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough was the best performance of the three, not only in the result but in the way the team played. Mackay had brought in the “old guard”, only two players signed by Uwe Rosler making the starting lineup. Not surprisingly there was more cohesion and the team played with more spirit than of late. He continued to rely on the old guard in the losses to Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich, but the response was poor.

It could be said that Mackay has used his most experienced players in a time of crisis. The conspiracy theorist will say that he has given players who undermined Rosler the chance to show their mettle. Interestingly the lineup against Norwich included nine players who were born or raised in the British Isles. Moreover the two from overseas- Figueroa and Fortune- have been in England for a long time.

The upcoming game at Watford will surely provide an indication of Mackay’s future plans. Given the continuation of poor results he is not in a position where he can continue with the old guard. Confidence is low and even good players are looking poor at the moment. However, Mackay clearly has to shuffle his pack since the players he has used so far have largely let him down.

Mackay recently mentioned ten players being out of contract for Latics at the end of the season, suggesting they will be trying to impress him enough to be offered a new contract. However, the reality is that likes of Ali Al-Habsi, Shaun Maloney and Ivan Ramis are likely to be lured by other clubs who can offer them better deals. Most of those players are in their late twenties or in their thirties and will demand relatively high salaries, which Latics will find hard to afford with a drop of £9m in parachute payments next season.

It is not only the out of contract players who could depart in January. Dave Whelan has always said that any player can go if the price is right, but the realities of an unsuccessful season and an upcoming drop in revenues could well mean that players go at bargain prices.

One of the reasons cited for Rosler’s lack of success this season was that his squad was too large, leading to too much squad rotation and dissatisfied players who were not getting playing time. Mackay has already acknowledged that the squad is large. However, stats from the transfermarkt site suggest that Latics’ squad is around average size for the division. Its average age of 27.6 years is the second highest behind the squad of Millwall at 28.9 years.

However, this is not to suggest the squad is not too large. Too many clubs in the Championship are spending well over what they should be on player salaries, given the revenues they are receiving. Whelan will be keen to cut down the squad to a financially more manageable size, probably around 23-24 players.

We can expect a fire sale in January. If what ‘Arry was referring to has been the case at Latics then it might take until February for the passion to return to Latics’ play.

Let’s hope this is not the case.

Advertisements

Is Latics’ squad lacking in quality?

 

Some say that results in pre-season matches are not important. But then again, a 2-1 loss at Rochdale was hard for Wigan Athletic supporters to swallow, let alone a 4-1 drubbing in Dusseldorf yesterday.

Latics’ worst ever pre-season performance will surely be that of five decades ago, when fourth division Southport smashed non-league Wigan 10-2. My father told me at the time that friendly matches can produce strange results and do not really have much bearing on the season to follow. Strangely enough the same two teams met again four days later at Springfield Park and Latics went on to win 3-0. In the event it turned out to be a mediocre season for Latics, who finished in mid-table in the Cheshire League. That 10-2 scoreline proved to be an indicator of defensive weakness as Latics were to concede 82 goals in 42 league matches.

Following the 2-1 win over Besiktas, thanks largely to Ali Al-Habsi’s brilliance, we seemed to be looking forward to a good season ahead. Granted there were concerns over the departures of two of Latics’ most creative players – Jordi Gomez and Jean Beausejour – but Uwe Rosler had been moving shrewdly in the transfer market and was building up a stronger squad. Most fans have now accepted that Dave Whelan is not going to wave his cheque book around in the way he did to get Latics into the Premier League last time. Austerity has not yet set in, but stringent financial management is the order of the day at the club.

Rosler is used to working under tight budgets, through his experience with his previous clubs. He will bring in a mixture of youth and experience. The experienced Andrew Taylor and Don Cowie have played in the Premier League and been part of a Championship division winning team. James Tavernier and AaronTaylor-Sinclair are clearly the kind of youngsters who have the potential to develop into quality players. The 19 year old loanee, Emyr Huws , is an exciting young player who can play in the creative midfield role that Gomez used to enjoy. A good central striker at an affordable price is something that hardly exists in modern day English football, but Rosler has done well to bring in Oriel Riera from Osasuna. Riera scored 13 goals in La Liga last season for a team that was relegated, making an interesting comparison with Arouna Kone who scored 15 for Levante before arriving at Wigan.

In order to sign another central striker Rosler will need to raise funds by selling off one of his assets. Stories of Latics courting another goalkeeper might seem far-fetched, but both Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson are likely to be transfer targets for other clubs. A possible scenario is for one of them to be sold, with the exciting, but inexperienced, Lee Nicholls once more sent out on loan.

Rosler’s squad is not yet complete. We can expect more incomings and possibly outgoings over the coming weeks. But when the squad is finally completed will there be sufficient quality there to mount a serious challenge for promotion?

After playing for ten clubs in six countries in over a decade, Jean Beausejour has gone home to Chile. He will play in Santiago for Colo-Colo, the country’s historically most successful club. When Roberto Martinez signed him from Birmingham City in January 2012, Latics were struggling. Moreover fans were disappointed with Martinez’ lack of activity in that January transfer window. However, the arrival of a specialist left wing back blew fresh air into Latics’ play, helping them to produce the best quality of football and the best results in their history over the next three months. He was the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle that Martinez was putting together. A team player, he was solid in defence. When Latics had the ball he was always available, hugging the touchline, stretching the opposition defence. He rarely lost the ball and had a few tricks up his sleeve with quick footwork. Beausejour is probably the best crosser of a ball who ever played for Latics, although some more senior supporters might also cite Walter Stanley whose sublime crosses helped Harry Lyon become a household name in Wigan.

Last season was not a good one for the Chilean, except for a memorable goal in the World Cup finals. Beausejour was frequently played at left back, rather than his natural wing back position. Like Gomez, he is another player who never got the recognition that he probably deserved from sections of the DW crowd.

During that late season rally in 2011-2012 and the FA Cup run in 2012-13, Latics beat the top teams in the country on merit, through playing quality football. The stats show that in winning the FA Cup final they committed only 5 fouls, compared with their opponents 11. Is it possible that they will ever be able to raise their football to that level ever again?

Since then lots of quality players have left the club. However, Emmerson Boyce, Shaun Maloney and James McArthur still remain. They are the pillars upon which Rosler will build this season’s team. Boyce is getting no younger, but at centre back he still has years ahead of him. The fitness of the two Scots will be of paramount importance and Rosler is nurturing them very carefully through the pre-season physical conditioning programme. Moreover the skilful Ben Watson and Chris McCann are making good progress in their recuperation from major injuries.

On the tactical front Rosler continues to demand the high tempo, high pressing style that he espouses. They did it for half an hour at Dusseldorf, but once again could not keep it going. It remains to be seen whether Rosler will ever enjoy that level of intensity he seeks from the players at his disposal.

In the meantime Rosler will scour the loan market to complete his squad. Maybe even that additional central striker will be a loan player? A return for Nick Powell continues to be touted by the media.

The name of Grant Holt continues to pop up in the social media and fan forums, the comments usually being derogatory. If no other club is willing to take the player off the club’s hands will Rosler be able to turn him into an asset? Would Holt be able to fit into Rosler’s style of play if he could regain full fitness?

Holt has proved in the past that he can deliver the goods by scoring key goals that win matches, but last season was one he will want to forget. During the reign of Owen Coyle he was used in a similar way that Bolton used Kevin Davies for so many years, a human battering ram posing a physical threat to the defence. That probably did Holt no favours and moreover it led to defenders constantly launching long balls in his direction. Given Rosler’s preferred style of play Holt would not be a regular starter, even if fully fit. However, he could have a role to play as an impact substitute.

Providing his ventures in the transfer market go well over the coming weeks, Rosler will have a squad good enough to challenge for promotion. Enough quality players remain, but the moot point is whether they can they stay fit.

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

Cardiff City 1 Wigan Athletic 2 –Ben puts Latics into the last eight

Watsoncardiff

Wigan Athletic showed great resolve and application in overcoming an insipid Cardiff side to reach the last eight of the FA Cup. It is a remarkable achievement for a team that has played 41 matches this season, more than any other in the four divisions. Once again it was Ben Watson’s goal which was to prove the winner – this time through a rocket shot from thirty yards out.

Rosler had given Leon Barnett a well-deserved rest, having played in all but one game this season. His replacement was Ivan Ramis, who was to show Cardiff that they made a mistake in not signing him during the January transfer window. Roger Espinoza and Jordi Gomez came into midfield, making a foursome with Chris McCann and Ben Watson. Callum McManaman was brought in on the left flank, with Marc-Antoine Fortune up front.

Latics took the lead after 18 minutes when Jordi Gomez showed great resolve in winning the ball from Magnus Wolff Eikram and bustling his way past Kevin Theophile-Catherine on the edge of the penalty box. Gomez cut the ball back from the by-line with great precision to find Chris McCann who crisply hit the ball home.

Cardiff started to claw their way back into the game and Wilfried Zaha started to look dangerous. In the 27th minute Zaha broke into the penalty box and, although Ramis managed to block the ball, Frasier Campbell was to score an opportunist equalizer from the resulting melee.

Minutes later Zaha put in a lovely cross to the far post where Campbell eluded Emmerson Boyce, but put his header wide. Cardiff were soon to rue that lost opportunity in the 40th minute when Gomez tapped a free kick to Watson some 30 yards from goal. Cardiff put up a defensive wall  of only two men and Watson showed his superb technique by hitting a rocket shot into the left hand corner of the net.

Ex-Sevilla defender Juan Cala headed the ball against the post when it looked easier to score shortly after, but Latics went into half time with their lead intact.

Cardiff came out showing more resolve in the second half, but their neater midfield play could not be converted into goals as the Wigan defence held firm.

Josh McEachran replaced Watson in the midfield holding role after 58 minutes. James McClean had replaced McManaman after 67 minutes, but most of the play was in the Wigan half.  Stephen Crainey came on to bolster the defence after 78 minutes as Latics continued to be penned in their area through the Cardiff pressure. However, Ali Al-Habsi was on fine form and made good saves from Zaha, Noone and Cala and Latics held on for a deserved victory.

The Good

Wigan scored two well taken goals and defended with great resolution.  Ramis came in for Barnett and showed an excellent understanding with Boyce in the centre of defence. With both Markus Holgersson and Thomas Rogne on the bench Latics are looking strong in that area.

Al-Habsi goes from strength to strength on his return from injury and is starting to look like the star he was a couple of years ago before the shoulder problem.

The midfielders worked hard, with Gomez playing a more advanced role. McCann showed once again what a good signing he has been, not only through his well taken goal, but also in his defensive cover.

McManaman, and McClean after him, looked lively but were often short of support as was Fortune who looked a particularly lone central striker.

Rosler has instilled a mental toughness into his squad and they are not afraid to grind out results if necessary. The defence has tightened up considerably.

The Bad

After putting so much energy into this match there is a home game with Barnsley coming up on Tuesday. Rosler will once again have to shuffle his pack.

Player Ratings

Ali Al Habsi: 8 – excellent throughout.

James Perch: 6 – put in another solid defensive shift at right back.

Ivan Ramis: 7 – a fine return by the classy Spaniard. Anticipated play expertly and excellent in his distribution.

Emmerson Boyce: 7 – marshalled his defence superbly, solid throughout.

Jean Beausejour: 6 – played a mainly defensive role. Left back is not his natural position, but played with determination.

Ben Watson: 7 – a cracking goal and a good performance until he went off after 58 minutes.

Chris McCann: 7 – a key player in Rosler’s squad. Did well to get into the box to take his goal. Went close to getting another goal in the second half when he got a foot to a long cross, forcing a good save from the keeper.

Roger Espinoza: 6 – worked as hard as always and deserves more opportunities in the starting lineup.

Jordi Gomez: 7 – worked hard and put through some nice passes. Showed determination in getting through physical challenges to set up the first goal. Latics’ main creative outlet.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 5 – not his day.

Callum McManaman: 6 – worked hard, but could not break through.

Substitutes

Josh McEachran: – came on after 58 minutes. Looked comfortable in the midfield holding role.

James McClean: – tried hard. Had one good run when he cut in from the right to hit a rasping drive – but straight at goalkeeper Marshall.

Stephen Crainey: – came on for the final 12 minutes.

Who will play?

267WembleyStadium_pic3

On such an historic occasion for Wigan Athletic it seemed in a strange way inappropriate to focus on lineups, tactics and the XI that turned out to represent the club in its first ever FA Cup final.

But it is the biggest game in the club’s history, so we decided to write this up as an add-on. If you haven’t already, please do give our preview a read. In the meantime, here is the traditional match preview.

While defending champions Manchester City were busy resting their eight of their starting XI during their 1-0 victory over West Brom — a team Wigan had spectacularly, but only just, beaten three days prior – Wigan suffered yet another season-ending injury. Ronnie Stam had only been on the pitch for a matter of seconds, before apparently breaking his leg.

The list of defenders unavailable to Roberto Martinez is now five strong: Ivan Ramis, Antolin Alcaraz, Maynor Figueroa, Jean Beausejour, Ronnie Stam. If Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastajic, Gael Glichy and Alexander Kolarov were injured and missing, it is arguable that Manchester City would be a bit worried too.

But for a club of Wigan’s resources, the situation is disastrous — thus the defensive errors of the last two matches.

The good news is that the attack has been magnificent. Without creating that many chances, Wigan have managed seven top quality strikes in the past three matches, with scorers in each of the defensive, midfield and attacking lines.

The biggest question ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup final must surely be who will play? Should Roberto field his strongest team, whatever that currently is given the injury crisis? Or should he reserve players for the crucial survival fixtures three and seven days later against Arsenal and Aston Villa?

One player whose presence will please most Latics supporters is Ali Al-Habsi. Given Martinez’s pattern of playing the current league reserve goalkeeper in cup fixtures it looks like the big Omani will return. The twist here is that it will be intriguing to see if Al-Habsi — something of a talisman to Wigan supporters — can perform well enough to keep his place for the final two league fixtures. Joel Robles is a really exciting prospect and talented young keeper, despite for his horrendous mistake against Tottenham.

It will be interesting to see if Martinez continues with Ben Watson in that hybrid role of part holding midfield player, part central defender. Martinez has done much for Latics in the realm of tactical innovation, but  the stats show that in the last three matches, using that new system,  they have let in seven goals. However, given the lack of defenders available to him, Martinez might have to use it again.

Wigan fans will pray that Antolin Alcaraz will return from injury in time for Saturday, although it appears unlikely. Gary Caldwell was vulnerable  against Swansea and is likely to struggle against City’s speedy forwards. Roger Espinoza was used on the left of defence against the Welsh team and looked like a fish out of water. If he is to play on the left he will need the support of a strong central defence.

It therefore appears that Martinez has two choices for his defensive lineup – persevere with his recent tactical plan or revert to a system with a back three and wing backs.

One thing he can be sure of is that, if he plays, Gary Caldwell’s commitment will be second to none. Last year’s player of the season has been fighting against a chronic hip injury, with tremendous courage,  having to take injections to even play. It would be a wonderful tribute to the skipper if he makes the starting lineup. Without him Latics would not have been in the Premier League this season.

The back three will most likely be Roman Golobart, Gary Caldwell and Paul Scharner, with Emmerson Boyce and Roger Espinoza at wing back. Alternatively he could play Caldwell at right wing back, putting the more pacy Boyce in the middle. City do not normally play with a left winger, although Caldwell would have to cope with an overlapping full back,  Clichy or Kolarov.

Maybe Martinez will surprise us with another new tactical innovation. But no matter who is playing where, Wigan will need to keep things tight, keeping possession, not giving away suicidal goals.

Just over three weeks ago Wigan Athletic gave an excellent account of themselves at Eastlands, being pipped by a spectacular late goal from Carlos Tevez. If they can play like that tomorrow and get a little bit of luck, then an upset remains on the cards.

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 3 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2 – CHAMPAGNE FOOTBALL IN A PARTY ATMOSPHERE

What a pleasant way to end a season – champagne football played by Latics, with an appreciative home crowd lapping it up. How strange that after 8 minutes with the home crowd celebrating an upcoming 8th year in the Premier League, Matt Jarvis should dampen the party atmosphere by scoring a peach of a goal. Receiving a ball from Steven Ward he cut in from the left and put a peach of a shot beyond Ali Al Habsi’s reach.

Latics came back in the 12th minute with an opportunist goal from Franco Di Santo, kicking the ball between the legs of a Wolves defender into the left hand corner, after James McCarthy had dispossessed Stephen Hunt in midfield. The Jimmy Macs and Shaun Maloney were running the midfield and it came as no surprise when Emmerson Boyce scored two minutes later with a towering header from a Jean Beausejour corner. Latics dominated the remainder of the first half with their excellent movement and silky skills, but could not further add to their tally.

Wolves came out with more resolve in the second half and the Wigan defence had to be on its toes. Al Habsi produced an excellent save from Kevin Doyle, but Gary Caldwell was ruling the roost at the back. Wigan continued to produce waves of classy football, with Shaun Maloney orchestrating the play, giving the Wolves defence a torrid time. The lively Albert Crusat came on for Victor Moses after 58 minutes and Hugo Rodallega for Franco Di Santo after 79 minutes. Within the first minute of coming on it was Rodallega who headed the ball for Boyce to hit a screamer of a half volley into the net. Jordi Gomez came on for Shaun Maloney after 82 minutes.  In the 84th minute Boyce went through the Wolves defence with the chance of a hat trick. However, he unselfishly tried to square the ball to Rodallaga and the chance was lost. Steven Fletcher got a consolation goal for Wolves on 86 minutes, after Adrian Lopez – in for the injured Antolin Alcaraz – got caught in possession on the edge of his penalty area. In another sweeping move Rodallaga was unlucky to see his shot hit the post in the final minute of added time. The final whistle signaled a pitch invasion by delighted fans.

The Good

The scoreline did not truly reflect the gulf between the two teams. This was champagne football from Latics, with Shaun Maloney being at the core of practically all of our best attacking moves. The Latics fans have been fantastic over the past few months, in sharp contrast to the doom and gloom that pervaded the earlier part of the season. The belief shown by the fans has galvanised a team previously lacking self confidence.

 It is not only the prospect of an 8th season in the Premier League that makes me look forward to the resumption in August. More than that it is the prospect of Latics playing this brand of football and not being afraid of the rich and bloated clubs who dominate the league. We have to shed the image of “Little Wigan” and move up a notch in our own estimation. If Bob and Dave both stay for a few years longer we will not be perennially looking to avoid relegation, but towards being in the top half of the table, seeking a Europa league place.

The Bad

After being outstanding in recent games Antolin Alcaraz suffered a thigh injury in training. Estimated time of recovery is 6 weeks so let’s hope all will be well for him at the start of next season. He was missed in defence.

Player Ratings


Ali Al Habsi: 8 – Did all he could to keep Wolves out.  A top class ‘keeper.

Emmerson Boyce: 9 – This defensively minded player has become a real attacking option in the right wing back position. Has scored three cracking goals in recent matches.

Adrian Lopez: 6 – Tried hard to impose himself physically, but looked nervy. His lack of match fitness and practice probably contributed to him losing the ball for Wolves’ second goal.

Gary Caldwell: 9 – Superb at the back once again.

Maynor Figueroa: 8 – Excellent yet again.

Jean Beausejour: 8 – Played more of an attacking role than usual. Put in some lovely crosses that might have led to more goals.

James McCarthy: 8 – Excellent yet again.

James McArthur: 8 – Probably our most under rated player. Excellent performance.

Shaun Maloney: 9 – A brilliant performance from the Little Magician.

Victor Moses: 6 – Ineffective, taken off after 58 minutes. Maybe unsettled by transfer talk?

Franco Di Santo: 8 – Must be one of the best in the Premier League in his skilful hold-up play. Scored an opportunist goal.

Substitutes

Albert Crusat: 8 – Made a major impact as a substitute, coming close to scoring on at least three occasions. Promises well for the future.

Hugo Rodallega – Has been a great servant for Wigan Athletic. What shame he was unlucky in the last minute, hitting the post as his Latics career was coming to a close.

Jordi Gomez – Worked hard and put through some nice passes. This has been his best season at the club and he has managed to silence many of his critics.