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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Rosler’s loan signings can make the difference

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An unknown third choice goalkeeper from Spain, an end of contract midfielder from Kansas City and a 32 year old unwanted by Hamburg. Such were the loan signings made by Wigan Athletic a year ago.

The feeling at the time among Latics supporters was of being “underwhelmed”. Was this the best that Roberto Martinez could do? Why wasn’t Dave Whelan opening his wallet and bringing in players that could really make a difference?

In the event Joel Robles, Roger Espinoza and Paul Scharner did make a difference. It was not enough to save Latics from relegation, but all three were to go on and play in the lineup that won the FA Cup for the club.

That same underwhelming feeling has surfaced again.

Who on earth was Tyias Browning? Why would Latics want to sign a crock from Cardiff, who had not started in a league game this season? Why go for a player from Chelsea who had already been on loan at three other clubs? But most confounding of all – why would Latics take a player who had never made it in a team from their own Championship division?

Nicky Maynard was sought by Roberto Martinez while at Bristol City. In the event he went to West Ham who sold him on to Cardiff City for a fee around £2.75m in August 2012. Unfortunately he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in only his third game at the Welsh club, which was to keep him out of action until May 2013.

The 27 year old central striker is a Cheshire lad who came up through the Crewe Alexandra academy. His most successful year as a goal scorer was in 2009-10 when he scored 20 goals in 40 starts for Bristol City in the Championship division.  Maynard has struggled since the injury, his appearances for Cardiff this year being two starts in the League Cup and eight times off the bench in the Premier League.

Maynard is clearly a player of some pedigree and a proven goal scorer at Championship level. If he can regain an optimum level of fitness he will be a threat to Championship defences. Maynard is likely to alternate with Marc-Antoine Fortune for the centre forward spot, although there will be times when Rosler will play them together.

Latics fans saw what Josh McEachran can do yesterday when his superbly judged pass put Fortune through for an 89th minute goal yesterday. He made his Chelsea debut as a 17 year old. Still only 20 he has played for Swansea, Middlesbrough and Watford on loan. McEachran can play as a holding midfielder but his best position is in the hole between the midfield and the central striker.

McEachran is not fully fit at this stage, but he has so much quality that he can add the cutting edge that has been lacking in Latics’ play in recent weeks.

Rosler’s signing of Martyn Waghorn has been questioned by many Latics supporters who were hoping the club would sign a player with a proven history as a goal scorer.  They are unimpressed that Leicester City are willing to let him go out on loan although they are challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Moreover Waghorn will be a free agent in summer when his contract runs out.

However, Waghorn is still only 24 years old and can play in any of the three front positions. He played for England at both under 19 and under 21 levels.  Leicester paid a fee of around £3m when he arrived from Sunderland in a permanent deal in August 2010. He had been voted young player of the year at Leicester the previous season when he had been on loan with them. See his goals during that season here.

Waghorn has had his ups and downs and played for five clubs before coming to Wigan. However, he had a successful spell on loan at Millwall this season, making 12 appearances and scoring 3 goals. Millwall boss Steve Lomas wanted to sign Waghorn permanently, but it was not to work out.

Waghorn will be keen to impress at Wigan and show that his success at Millwall is not a flash in the pan. He has a good left foot and is no mean penalty taker.

The 19 year old Tyias Browning was signed on a one month loan from Everton on January 10th. A day later he made a strong impression after coming on as a second half substitute in the 3-0 win against Bournemouth. A week later he was to concede a penalty in the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Doncaster. Browning is clearly one for the future, but the value of having a young player join the club for such a short loan period is open to question.

Following the last-gasp victory over Charlton yesterday Latics remain within reach of a play-off place.  Only one player – Nouha Dicko – left permanently during the transfer window. Grant Holt has gone on loan to Aston Villa, but Ivan Ramis will be staying at least until the end of the season following his failure to pass medicals at Cardiff and Crystal Palace. It could be a blessing in disguise for Latics.

A fit Ramis would make a big difference to the promotion push. Not one of that skilful trio – Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – left during the transfer window, although their contracts terminate in summer.

All in all, Latics have a better squad now than they had before the January window began. Moreover if loan players like Maynard, McEachran and Waghorn were to reach their optimum levels they could swing the balance and get Wigan into that play-off place.

Like Martinez last year, Rosler seems to have made ‘underwhelming’ loan signings in the transfer window.

But then again maybe they are better than they seem at first glance.

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Rosler’s January Sales

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“The budget is spent in terms of the amount of players we have in. It’s a big squad but that was needed because of the European games. What (the January transfer window) allows me is it might free up some money on the wage budget to bring in loan players until the end of the season or on a short-term to help us and that is what I’ll try to do.”

So said Uwe Rosler according to media reports yesterday. But what can be read into his comments?

Some money has now been freed from the wage budget with the transfer of Nouha Dicko to Wolves, for a fee reputed to be around £300,000. On the other hand Dicko was not one of the big wage earners and Latics already added a new member to their staff last week by recruiting Chris Haslam, Brentford’s performance coach.

Letting a striker go when the team has been so goal-shy would seem like a backward step, but Dicko was never able to secure a first team place despite his successes on loan at Blackpool and Rotherham.

In fact Haslam’s recruitment could be the key to a successful second half of the season for the club. The players continue to adapt to the high pressing game that Rosler demands, although they often run out of steam. If Haslam can improve player fitness levels it is going to make the team more consistently competitive.

Rosler’s right hand men at Brentford – assistant manager Alan Kernaghan and coach Peter Farrell – left the London club soon after he did. But they have not followed him to Wigan, with Graham Barrow continuing and John Doolan being brought up from youth team duties to help out. It has become the norm for a new manager to bring his tried and trusted lieutenants with him, but in this case Rosler certainly seems to have made a good start without them.

The budget might be the constraining factor, but it could also be down to an awareness within the club that more wholesale changes to the coaching and backroom staff could be damaging. It is only six months ago that Owen Coyle brought in a swathe of new staff to replace those that Roberto Martinez took with him to Everton.

Rosler’s dilemma is in how he is going to be able to further reduce the wage bill, without weakening Latics’ chances of getting back to the Premier League. The established players who are still with the club from the Martinez era are going to be among the highest wage earners, although Coyle probably had to offer salaries above Championship division norms to many of the players he recruited.

Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson are out of contract at the end of the season. All three are experienced former Premier League players who will attract interest in this transfer window. At least one is likely to go unless offers come in for others in the squad with a similar profile.

Ivan Ramis is a prized asset, but has only recently come back from long-term injury and a club is unlikely to want to take a gamble at this stage. A few months ago one would have expected the big clubs to be chasing Callum McManaman in January, but his form has been disappointing so far. Keeping Ramis and McManaman and at least two of Beausejour, Gomez or Watson will provide a backbone of players who can not only help Latics get promotion, but go on to play in the Premier League next season.

Rumours have been circulating that Rosler will cut his losses with Grant Holt, reputedly the highest wage earner of the players recruited by Coyle. The main talk is of sending him off on loan, which would help the lower the wage bill for now but it should not be forgotten that Holt is on a three year contract. It remains to be seen whether another club would come in and even take him on a free transfer, given his wage expectations. Will he suffer the same fate as Mauro Boselli to be sent off on various loans until his contract winds down in 2016?

Coyle’s hopeful signing of the two 32 year old strikers – Holt and Fortune – has proved a damp squib up to this point. He has the option to try to offload them and reduce the wage bill, but he might be shooting himself in the foot in doing so and leaving the squad without any specialized and experienced strikers.

With the short term loan signing of Tyias Browning and the not-too-distant return of Gary Caldwell the defence remains well staffed. So too does the midfield, although it looks like Fraser Fyvie will once more be sent on loan. Moreover rumours abound that Roger Espinoza will be leaving in this transfer window. He was marginalised by Coyle and Rosler has not seemed particularly keen on him despite the Honduran putting up good performances when given the opportunity. One wonders if off the field issues are coming into play.

Latics have a peculiar situation with goalkeepers, for some reason having four. Rosler is already talking about sending Lee Nicholls out on loan again and Mike Pollitt’s contract is up in summer. Even so he has two ex-Premier League keepers  in Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson. Should Latics get promotion they might both continue. Should they not then it is likely one will depart in summer.

The January transfer window period always seems to be a stressful time at the DW Stadium. In the past Latics have lost key players during this period. But it can work both ways. Last year Martinez brought in Roger Espinoza from Kansas City and both Paul Scharner and Joel Robles on loan from Hamburg and Atletico Madrid respectively. All three were to play in the lineup that won the FA Cup final.

Let’s hope that not too many of Wigan’s better players are whisked away over the coming weeks and that Rosler can make good loan signings.

He will be hoping that Cardiff forward Nicky Maynard will be his second loan recruit within the next few days.

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