Getting the best out of the wing backs

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A bad start to the season is not uncommon for Wigan Athletic.

The beginning of the 2011-12 season was no exception. A  3-1 home loss to Wolves in early November was their eighth consecutive defeat and Roberto Martinez clearly had to look at changing something. The changes he made took some time to take effect, but in the end they were to underpin a remarkable turnaround in the team’s fortunes.

In the next match against Blackburn Rovers he brought in a back line of three central defenders, with Ronnie Stam and David Jones employed as wing backs. Stam had struggled as a conventional right back, but looked much more comfortable as a wing back where he had much more freedom to attack. Defending was not his forte. Jones was a central midfielder pushed into a new role, in which he never looked truly comfortable. Results improved a little, but by Christmas Latics were still locked in the bottom three.

By the time the January transfer window opened the fans were clamouring for new signings to reinvigorate a team that was heading for relegation. Martinez was to sign just one player, paying Birmingham City £2.5m for left winger, Jean Beausejour. It did not seem enough at the time.

However, Martinez knew that Beausejour had played as a wing back for Chile. He immediately replaced Jones in that position and made it his own. Stam’s defensive limitations, even as a right wing back, were to persuade Martinez to bring back Emmerson Boyce. If nothing else, Boyce could provide more stability to a defence that was hemorrhaging goals.

By mid-March and the introduction of Shaun Maloney the team was starting to play much better. The 3-4-3 system was working really well, not least because of the contributions of Boyce and Beausejour at wing back. When Latics were under pressure they would drop back to provide a back line of five, but still be available to link up with the central defenders to build up moves from the back. Their patient and skilful build up play was to prove a key feature in the amazing results the team was to achieve in avoiding relegation.

Boyce and Beausejour tucked in closely with the back three. If one advanced the other would stay put. Boyce was to show a range of skills that surprised so many of us – defensively solid and with a silky touch in attack. Beausejour rarely wasted a ball and his crossing could be reminiscent of David Beckham.

Sadly the era of Boyce and Beausejour is over, but the appointment of Gary Caldwell as manager has brought a return to a system involving wing backs.

On the tour of Scotland we saw the wing backs pushed well forward, much further than was typically the case under Martinez. The Scot has stated his preference for attacking football and deploying the wing backs in relatively advanced positions could be viewed as a consequence of that. But Martinez was facing high quality opposition and was rarely able to let his wing backs off a tight leash. Caldwell faces a different pressure – providing attacking football that delivers the goals that were so sadly lacking last season.

However, there were times in both matches where the wing backs were not dropping back sufficiently to receive the ball from the back three. The result was central defenders either looking for holding midfielders to receive the ball or playing it across their own back line, too often resulting into a back pass to the goalkeeper to punt forward. Moreover the central defenders were sometimes exposed to counterattacks as attacks had broken down with the wing backs stranded.

Yesterday Caldwell started with the youngsters Jonjoe Kenny and Reece James at wing back. Both have the ball skills, pace and energy to be effective wing backs, even if had not been their natural roles with Everton and Manchester United respectively. In the second half Kenny was replaced by the more conservative, but perhaps defensively stronger, Kevin McNaughton.

Thirteen out of the fourteen players who were involved in the action yesterday were new to the club. A certain degree of lack of cohesion was inevitable and so it proved with Coventry’s goals. Moreover Tony Mowbray had employed a Rosler-style high pressing game in the early stages that prevented the slow build up from the back.

Perhaps expectations of a good result at Coventry were unrealistically high. However, the sight of central defenders constantly passing the ball across the back line and to the goalkeeper suggests that they do not have sufficient passing options. In the days of Malky Mackay or Owen Coyle they would have often employed the hoof, so often resulting in the position gaining possession.

It is to Caldwell’s credit that he eschews that option. Despite the comments made on Latics Player/WISH FM, teams have achieved promotion out of League 1 playing the ball out of defence. Caldwell will resist the hoof and insist that good football is played. This is not to say that his defenders will not look to put forward a well measured long pass if a forward has moved into an appropriate receiving position.

Mowbray’s pressing tactics will surely be used by other teams to disrupt Latics’ game of building up from the back. It is to be hoped that Caldwell can develop a Plan B to deal with it.

History tells us that it takes time for players to adjust to playing in system that involves three central defenders and wing backs. Roberto Martinez learned that, but he persevered and it came good in the end. However, Martinez was not dealing with a practically brand new squad of players. His players knew each other’s games, even if the system they were playing under was tweaked.

It is going to take time for Caldwell’s new charges to effectively put his footballing ideas into practice. In the meantime it is to be hoped that he can look at providing more of a link between his central defenders and his wing backs. Perhaps a look at old videos from the “golden era” will show the wing backs what can be done against a calibre of opposition with which League 1 pales in comparison.

Yesterday’s team is the youngest Latics have fielded for some years, with six of the starting lineup being below 25 years of age. Young players make mistakes under the pressure of high expectations, as was learned last year under Uwe Rosler. It is to be hoped that the current crop are given time to settle, despite the expectations of the chairman and a significant number of fans.

With the fans clamouring for attacking football Caldwell is pushing his wing backs forward. The question to be posed is whether they are taking sufficient part in the build-up of moves from the back that will translate to goals up front.

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Goalscoring drought to end against Derby?

George Graham once said: “The goalkeeper is the jewel in the crown and getting at him should be almost impossible. It’s the biggest sin in football to make him do any work.”

His comment reflects the old adage that if the opposition doesn’t score then you don’t lose. But what Graham did not mention is the corollary “If you don’t score you can’t win.”

Wigan Athletic have failed to score in four of their last five home games. All four ended up in defeats. In fact their home record this season of W2 D8 L10 is arguably the worst in the club’s history. They have not won a single home game since Malky Mackay’s arrival in November.

Despite the lack of goals in those home games, Mackay has stuck to the same formula. A 4-4-2 system that is attacking in intent, but ineffective in its execution. Too often the central strikers have not looked remotely like scoring a goal and the wide men have not only been poor in their delivery but also negligent in their defensive duties. The best wide man, James McClean, who both attacks and defends with gusto, has been largely played out of position as a central striker. One can only hope that Mackay will let the Irishman play what will most probably his final six games at Wigan in his natural position.

The 4-4-2 formation has just not worked in home games, but Mackay has stuck with it. On his arrival he had played with a lone centre forward system, which many fans thought was attributing to a low scoring record. Perhaps Mackay’s main concession to the fans was to introduce the 4-4-2 for which many canvassed through the message boards and social media.

However, with just two men in central midfield Latics have too often been outnumbered by the opposition. Moreover the repeated failure of wide men to provide adequate defensive cover has left the defence too often open to counterattacks. Two of the wide men Mackay has used are still novices in first team football, young players learning their trade. Joining a team in a relegation struggle is far from ideal for either them or the club.

Derby County come to the DW Stadium hungry for points following a disappointing run of results. Having been challenging for an automatic promotion spot they now find themselves struggling to maintain a place in the playoff zone, currently occupying sixth position on goal difference ahead of Ipswich and Wolves.

The run has coincided with the absence of leading scorer Chris Martin, although he made a comeback as a substitute in their 2-2 draw against 10 man Watford on Good Friday. It looks like he will make the starting lineup tomorrow.

Derby coach Paul Simpson has let it be known that he expects it to be a scrappy game tomorrow. Given the recent state of the DW pitch and that there was a rugby game on it on Friday he is likely to be right. Derby are a footballing side who resist the long ball that can be the wont of too many Championship teams.They will find the pitch frustrating. But so too will Wigan.

The bad state of the pitch can hardly have helped Wigan Athletic over recent weeks. The old phrase “It’s the same for both teams” rings true in many ways, but to play on a surface like that regularly surely wears you down. So often this season we have seen experienced and capable players fail to control a ball or make an accurate pass. Much of that in the past was down to a lack of confidence in a team with low morale. Now the pitch also plays a part.

Is Mackay capable of making a paradigm shift in terms of his tactics and personnel at this late stage of the season?

The midfield needs to be stiffened up with an extra player if Derby are going to be denied possession. William Kvist surely deserves a place in the starting lineup. Chris McCann is almost a forgotten man but was a lychpin of Rosler’s success last season. Providing he is over his injury niggles he could have an important role to play. A trio of Kvist, McCann and Kim Bo Kyung could provide the balance needed to counteract a strong Derby midfield. Emmerson Boyce has given his all in recent games, but needs a rest. James Perch would drop back to replace him.

McClean should be played in his natural position on the wing and Martyn Waghorn might finally get the nod from Mackay to team up with the controversial MAF.

Whether the unbending Mackay is up to such changes is open to debate. The worst case scenario is that he continues with the same formula that has not worked at the DW for months.

A win tomorrow would put Latics back into contention. A draw or defeat would be a sign that relegation is around the corner.

Low confidence Latics throw it away – Sheffield Wednesday 2 Wigan Athletic 1

 

Malky Mackay has a tough job ahead of him, judging by this performance. In the end a battling Wednesday side might have just about deserved their win, having constantly nibbled away at Wigan’s defence throughout the ninety plus minutes.

But in reality Latics threw the game away. Poor defending presented the home team with two goals and once again they spurned opportunities at the other end.

Mackay made two changes from the team that played against Middlesbrough. The ill Sean Maloney not even on the bench, but Roger Espinoza found himself there. Ben Watson made the starting lineup for the first time in nine months and James McClean was brought in on the left wing.

One wondered if a midfield with Watson and Chris McCann – both in their early days after returning from long-term injuries – was going to cope against a combative Wednesday midfield. In the event they played the holding midfield roles with Adam Forshaw in the more advanced role.

Latics started with energy and enthusiasm, but it was clearly going to be a physical contest against a robust Wednesday side. In the second minute Adam Forshaw went down in the box after an untidy tackle by Glenn Loovens, but the referee did not see it as a penalty.

For once Callum McManaman was seeing his fair share of the ball and he was not afraid to take on defenders. After a good run he had an effort saved by Kieron Westwood. Then Jose Semedo’s powerful shot hit the post, with Scott Carson doing well to block Chris McGuire’s effort from the rebound.

Wigan were to take the lead in the 26th minute when a right wing corner from James McClean was powerfully headed in by Chris McCann, who had been their outstanding performer so far. One wondered if they could hold it, but as has been too often the case they could not do so. In the 28th minute none of the three defenders marking the 6 ft 6 in Atdhe Nuhiu could dispossess him and the unmarked Steve May who scored an easy goal from the Kosovan/Austrian forward’s intelligent pass.

Ex-Everton and Real Madrid winger Royston Drenthe was causing some problems on Latics’ right and he got clean through behind Emmerson Boyce but Carson did well to block his shot. Latics retaliated and McManaman, Fortune and Forshaw all had decent efforts on goal. There had been worrying signs for Latics in the performance of the centre of defence, which looked particularly vulnerable. Ivan Ramis was way off his usual level and Leon Barnett was looking shaky under pressure. The towering Nuhiu and the more mobile May were causing them problems.

Mackay was to take Ramis off at half time, with James Perch moving to right back and Boyce to the centre of defence. Latics could have taken the lead after 53 minutes when Marc-Antoine Fortune headed back a corner for James McClean whose header was blocked on the line. Wigan had been dominating possession, but Wednesday scored in the 70th minute when May out jumped Barnett. His flicked header hit both posts before Andrew Taylor hacked it away. However, the assistant referee indicated that the ball had crossed the line.

Latics fought back. Adam Forshaw was somehow unable to reach a McManaman cross that had ‘’goal” written all over it. Then McManaman‘s drive from inside the box went narrowly wide. However, there had opened up a big gap between defence and midfield and Wednesday’s long balls were catching Latics out. May was clear once again, but Perch managed to make a partial block and Carson saved his effort. Latics pressed right to the end but could not convert their possession into goals.

The Good

The effort was there, but to no avail in the end.

Mackay took a gamble playing both McCann and Watson in midfield. He is clearly looking long term. Watson looked comfortable on the ball, but the frenetic pace of the game did not make it easy for him. However, he will be delighted at playing the full game. McCann was excellent in the first half, but faded in the second.

Mackay had chosen two pacey wingers in his lineup and they looked dangerous on the counterattack in the first half. Callum McManaman was given the licence to take on the multiple defenders who marked him in numbers. He did well to force the goalkeeper into a couple of saves.

The Bad

Wigan’s centre of defence was vulnerable throughout. Ivan Ramis had his worst ever game in a Latics shirt and was substituted at half time. It was sad to see such a classy player so out of touch. Leon Barnett is an experienced and capable central defender, but has had some hard times in recent matches. It is a sign of Wigan’s lack of confidence that such experienced and capable players as Barnett and Ramis could be so out of touch. However, the lack of protection from the midfield surely played a part in it.

There have been concerns over Carson’s distribution since he arrived last year, but in this game it reached almost rock bottom. Carson is a fine shot stopper and did well to keep Latics in the game with important saves. But with three successive managers he has persisted in hoofing the ball for the opposition centre of defence to gobble up. Not only did he do that again yesterday, but also put several clearance kicks into touch.

Once again Fortune toiled alone upfront, chasing long balls. Despite his high workrate he rarely threatens the opposition’s goal and one wonders why Mackay is persisting with him. Delort and Riera sat on the bench throughout. It looked like Mackay had given his two wingers instructions to get the ball across more often. This they did, but there was often nobody near the ball when it came.

Many fans continue to lobby for two men up front, with Delort and Riera being touted as a possible duo. However, Mackay too is an adherent to the one central striker system. At Cardiff he had Helguson, then Campbell in that role. Helguson scored just 8 goals in 38 appearances in 2012-13, when they won the Championship division.

Flowing attacking football is unlikely to be a feature of Mackay’s reign at Wigan. But a solid defence is to be expected. That was not the case yesterday.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 6 – made some good stops, but dire in distribution.

Emmerson Boyce: 5.5 – struggling to get back his form of last season.

Ivan Ramis: 4.5 – sad to see such a quality player perform so poorly. Was he 100% fit?

Leon Barnett: 5 – shaky, nervy.

Andrew Taylor: 6 – good in the first half, but Wednesday closed down his attacking moves in the second.

Ben Watson: 5 – did well to complete the 90 plus minutes after such a long layoff.

Chris McCann: 7 – resilient and creative.

Adam Forshaw: 5 – struggled.

Callum McManaman: 6 – looked dangerous, but well watched by the Wednesday defence.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 6 – full of effort, but no real goal threat.

James McClean: 5.5 – full of his usual effervescence and energy, but his finishing remains poor.

Substitutes

James Perch: – came on after 45 minutes. Solid and hard working.

Roger Espinoza: – brought on too late.

 

 

 

Rosler gets it wrong as Latics bullied out of the game– Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich 2

Rosler lost the tactical battle to McCarthy.

Rosler lost the tactical battle to McCarthy.

Latics played quite well in the opening minutes, then again in the last 15 minutes. For the rest of the time they were bullied out of the game by a typical Mick McCarthy team. McCarthy had clearly done his homework and got his tactics right. Uwe Rosler’s tactic of high pressing was thrown back in his face.

Rosler had us all guessing as to his formation when the starting lineup was announced. Adam Forshaw and Shaun Maloney came in for Emyr Huws and Andrew Taylor. That meant that Latics did not have a single left footed player in their team. It proved to be a 4-3-3 formation, with Emmerson Boyce at right back, with James Perch moving to the left. Ivan Ramis and Rob Kiernan were at centre back, with William Kvist, Don Cowie and Forshaw making up the midfield three. Callum McManaman lined up on the right wing, Shaun Maloney on the left, with Andy Delort at centre forward.

Latics were lively in the beginning, with McManaman looking dangerous. However, the visitors realized his danger and gave him heavy treatment. Ipswich were thrusting players forward, their high pressing forcing Latics into making errors and the home team defence looked vulnerable.

Ipswich scored on 20 minutes as a result of that pressing, with Latics losing possession for central midfielder Luke Hyam to convert an Tyrone Mings’ low cross from the left. A couple of minutes later centre back Christophe Berra clattered McManaman, somehow escaping with just a yellow card. It was not surprising when the young winger had to go off injured in the 36th minute, with James McClean coming on. Soon after the referee incurred the crowd’s wrath yet again when Maloney was brought down by Mings when he had a clear run on goal. Mings too avoided red, being given a yellow card.

Ipswich’s physical approach, aided and abetted by an over-tolerant referee, completely threw Latics off their game. When the home team went in for half time one wondered what Rosler could do to turn things around. Having already used a substitute in the first half his options were limited. In the event he sent the same lineup out in the second half, which continued in similar fashion, with Latics being constantly bullied off the ball. It came as no surprise when Ipswich scored their second after Conor Sammon’s shot ricocheted back to him for a tap in. Latics’ defence was all at sea.

Rosler brought on Oriel Riera for Maloney after 64 minutes, then Martyn Waghorn replaced Delort after 72 minutes. Gradually Latics got their way back into the game, at last taking the fight to the visitors. Forshaw had moved from the right to the centre of midfield, where he looked more effective. Cowie had moved to the right where he was looking lively, putting over some teasing crosses. As always McClean epitomized pure effort and hard running. He got his reward after 82 minutes when finding himself free in the area, his shot from 12 yards being diverted home by Waghorn’s knee. Wigan’s charge continued and Riera hit a powerful shot against the post in the closing minutes.

In the end it was not to be and Ipswich hung on for a win.

The Good

After being inept for most of the game Latics fought back in the final quarter. For once their legs had not gone and they took the game to Ipswich. If they can play with that kind of spirit they can get a result in the next match at Bournemouth.

The Bad

Rosler’s lineup was unbalanced from the start. Perch and Maloney, both right footers, could not make progress against the right hand side of the visitors’ defence. Every time they got the ball they too often passed it inside or back. Delort was out of his depth at centre forward, so Wigan depended on McManaman on the right. Rosler has already stated that McManaman needs protection from referees, but this official certainly did not provide it. Ipswich must have been relieved when he went off injured after 36 minutes.

The midfield had another new face in Forshaw and it showed. There seemed to be no cohesion between them and defence. Rather than play Maloney as the third midfield player, Rosler put him on the left wing where he was peripheral. For much of the first half Forshaw did not look on the same wavelength as his teammates, but the young player looked useful later in the game when he switched into the centre.

Delort had a game to forget, being totally shackled by the ruthless Berra and Chambers. Like Riera he is adjusting to life in the Championship. Rather than bring Delort in gradually, Rosler had brought him in against Blackburn, dropping Riera who had by no means been playing badly. After three successive starts for the Frenchman it could be that the tables will turn for the next match at Bournemouth and Riera will get the nod. He was unlucky with that late effort.

McCarthy’s tactic of pushing players forward upset Wigan’s defence who at times looked besieged. It was sad to see Boyce looking a pale shadow of what he was at right back. Rosler will have one of the toughest decisions to make in his time at Wigan, if he decides to leave the captain out of the starting eleven at Bournemouth. Kiernan too had a rocky time and one wonders how long he can continue to keep a player of Leon Barnett’s ability and experience out of the team.

Perch is clearly a player that Rosler rates highly, but playing him at left back stifles attacking moves that side. The natural left back, Taylor, was left on the bench. If Maloney is to be played wide on the left, Latics need a left footed full back behind him. This was not an ideal game for the Scot’s first league start of the season, being played wide on the left against a very physical defence. Maloney’s best position is in the centre of midfield, where Forshaw was to play later in the game.

Latics are going to meet more teams who will press like Ipswich and who are not averse to being over physical. Rosler needs to find an answer to such tactics. Playing with two central strikers is anathema for him, but it is worth considering.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – unlucky for the second goal. Made some good saves.

Emmerson Boyce: 5 – soldiered on, but well away from his best. Does not look fit. Or are the years finally catching up with him?

Ivan Ramis: 6 – not at his best.

Rob Kiernan: 4.5 – a game to forget.

James Perch: 5 – cannot be faulted for effort, but offered limited attacking options.

Don Cowie: 6 – worked hard as always. Looked at his best in the final quarter of the match.

William Kvist: 6.5 – worked hard and kept his composure.

Adam Forshaw: 6 – struggled for the first 60 minutes, but looked useful in the closing stages.

Callum McManaman: – dangerous until he had to go off after 36 minutes,

Andy Delort: 4.5 – a game to forget.

Shaun Maloney: 5- ineffective on the left wing.

Substitutes:

James McClean: 6.5 – full of running and endeavour.

Oriel Riera: – a pity he could not have been brought on earlier. Looked lively.

Martyn Waghorn: – another goal to add to his tally.

Click here for the match highlights.

 

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Latics ready for a good second half at Huddersfield?

“I was disappointed that we dropped our intensity at the start of the second half and it started very much from the front…….Also the willingness to get on the ball dropped. We can’t hold the level for 90 minutes in certain positions – and that we have to address ….A football game isn’t 45 or 60 minutes, it’s 90-95, and we have to make sure we can play like we want for 95 minutes.”

Uwe Rosler was speaking with his usual openness about the flaws that were once again evident in his side’s performance, this time at Blackburn.

The first six league games have yielded just seven points for Latics, one less than Owen Coyle’s team had at this stage. Like Coyle’s team the current side has stayed unbeaten in its first three home games. But Coyle’s team started with an away win at Barnsley, before losing the next two on the road at Bournemouth and Leicester. This team has lost all three away games.

If the six league games played so far had finished at half time, Latics would be unbeaten with a record of W3 D3, having scored six goals and conceded one. However, they have lost all three matches so far in which the scores were level at half time. They have conceded seven goals in the second halves of their games, scoring only two. Latics certainly have been a first half team this season.

A win at Huddersfield would put Latics back into mid-table, within striking distance of the top six. Huddersfield have started the season poorly, with just one win so far. They have drawn one and lost two of their three home games. So is the scene set for Wigan to get their first away points of the season tomorrow?

Reading between the lines in what Rosler was saying the loss of intensity at Blackburn was started by the front players not closing down opposition defenders, then players not moving around to make themselves available to receive passes. The result was the Blackburn midfield receiving better service from defence and the Latics backline falling deeper. The cynics would say Scott Carson enjoys making those long kicks from his penalty box for the opposition defence to gobble up. Ali Al Habsi gets criticised for his poor kicking, but he is at least always looking for a teammate to throw the ball to. However, in Carson’s defence, if players are not moving to receive the ball his options are limited.

Were Latics to be able to play at full throttle for the 90 minutes-plus at Huddersfield a win would be on the cards. However, the manager seems caught between two stools. He wants to bring in his new players as soon as possible so that they can gel with their teammates, but all three have been short of match practice. On Saturday only William Kvist was remotely match fit and he only lasted 63 minutes. Andy Delort, who had not played a competitive game for weeks, was given the full 90 minutes. He was expected to press the opposition central defenders when they had the ball, together with doing all the onerous duties of a lone centre forward. Adam Forshaw was wisely only played for the final 10 minutes, given his lack of match fitness.

A player of the calibre of James McArthur is bound to be missed. It was evident at Blackburn. Moreover a central midfield of Don Cowie and William Kvist is not going to provide the kind of invention that Latics had when Auld Mac was there. Both are the kind of players who rarely get the plaudits, covering a lot of ground, making interceptions, winning tackles, making simple passes. Such types of player are essential in any effective and well balanced team.

In the long run we can expect the midfield to consist of either Cowie or Kvist in front of the centre of defence, with Forshaw on the right and Emyr Huws on the left. Chris McCann will eventually come back to challenge Huws for that left midfield position spot where he played so well last year. Ben Watson’s best position is probably in the centre of the midfield three, but he can also do a good job on the right. In the meantime Tim Chow, Roger Espinoza and Fraser Fyvie remain possibilities, but will never prove themselves without being given the chance. Neither will James Tavernier who can play at right back or midfield.

The backline of three central defenders was inevitably going to be tested against Gestede and Rhodes, but they looked ragged and uncoordinated at times in the second half. Perhaps Emmerson Boyce was suffering from his long trip to the Caribbean to play for Barbados, but he has not yet shown last season’s form. Ivan Ramis made some last gasp interceptions and put through some nice passes, but even he was looking short of composure by the end. Rob Kiernan will have to fight for his place, with Leon Barnett breathing down his neck, not to mention Thomas Rogne and Gary Caldwell.

We can expect Oriel Riera to return to the lineup tomorrow. It would not be a surprise to see a reversal to 4-3-3 with Martyn Waghorn returning on the right, with Callum McManaman on the left. James McClean will be keen to get a game, but Rosler really needs to be careful since the Irishman is another who is clearly not match fit. Better to give him a good run out with the development squad first.

Shaun Maloney is another of those players who is still not fully match fit, but Rosler will be tempted to put him in from the start. If Cowie and Kvist can provide the protection in front of the back four the Scot could play an advanced midfield role. Emyr Huws went off injured on Saturday so his participation must be in doubt.

Rosler might well rest Boyce and go for a central defensive pairing of Ramis and Barnett, although Kiernan cannot be discounted despite a disappointing game at Blackburn.

Rosler has lots of permutations and combinations possible for his team selection. However, he will need to provide some continuity and wholesale changes might well make things worse. Moreover he cannot afford to make the gamble of playing too many players whose fitness is questionable.

As always it will be fascinating to see the lineup he puts out. The bottom line is to put out a balanced team that can play with intensity for the 90 minutes plus. A tall order? Let’s hope not.

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