Profiles from the Archives – Part 1: Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann

In April we stated our intention of republishing articles from our archives from time to time. It takes a long time for a fan site to get established and Amigos has been no exception. We are now in our third year. Our readership grew slowly in the first year, steadily in the second, but much faster in this third year. Given that we now have a wider readership we decided to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen.

The republishing of the  “Fan View”articles – perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs – went particularly well, according to the viewing stats.

We now plan to look back to some of the player profiles that we have have written and published over the past couple of years. Once again we ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Let’s start with Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

 

Bend it like Beausejour – first published October 9, 2012.

2012-beausejour

Some say he looks a little pudgy. Others complain he doesn’t have the speed to take on defenders. That Birmingham would not have let him go if he were that good. Something of an international journeyman, he has played for ten clubs in a space of ten years, spanning six different countries. Why then did Roberto Martinez continue to pursue Jean Beausejour, following the 2010 World Cup, until finally signing him in January 2012?

After just 15 minutes had gone at Sunderland last Saturday, a sublime cross came over from the left wing that Arouna Kone should have buried to put Latics 1-0 in front. It was the kind of precision pass that David Beckham might have provided in his heyday, curling away from the goalkeeper with pinpoint accuracy. Pure artistry. Neither player is the type to run down the wing and beat a defender for speed. But both somehow are able to get in pinpoint crosses from the tightest of situations, an ability that few players possess. Although Beausejour only joined Latics in January, he led the squad for assists last season.

Let’s not forget his defensive qualities either. Forming a strong partnership with Maynor Figueroa on the left hand side of the defence he provides key defensive cover. Ask Theo Walcott what it is like having Beausejour trail you – the Chilean rendered him totally ineffective in the memorable 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in April. Beausejour is not elegant, but is a complete player, the classic wing back – able to defend and create goals.

Jean André Emanuel Beausejour Coliqueo was born in Santiago in June 1984, of a Haitian father and mother from the indigenous Mapuche ethnic group. Beausejour remains a hero with the downtrodden Mapuche people. He started his professional career playing for leading Chilean club, Universidad Católica in 2002 before moving to provincial Concepción where he played for a year. Within the following three years he’d serve stints at Servette of Geneva, Grêmio of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Gent of Belgium. After returning to Chile for a couple of years he spent the 2009-2010 year playing for Club America, Mexico City’s biggest club.

Beausejour has made 40 plus appearances for Chile, playing under flamboyant Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa for almost three years. Not only did he score the winning goal against Honduras that helped Chile to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup, but he was to play in a classic Bielsa system that had three central defenders and two wing backs. In November 2011, he and four other players were suspendedby Chile FA for 10 matches after arriving in “poor physical” condition, allegedly drunk, before a World Cup qualifying match against Uruguay.

Given Beausejour’s career record of lack of continuity at any one particular club and his suspension from the Chilean national team it was therefore a calculated gamble taken by Roberto Martinez to bring him to Wigan from Birmingham City. However, Beausejour has become a key player in the tactical system adopted by Roberto Martinez. His start to the current season has been marred by a niggling injury but he remains one of the players whose name would be penciled in first on the team sheet. He is 5 ft 11 inches tall and physically strong, not easily deterred.

Jean Beausejour has certainly settled into the Wigan Athletic lineup. A team player, he is solid in defence. When Latics have the ball he is always available, hugging the touchline, stretching the opposition defence. He rarely loses the ball and has a few tricks up his sleeve with quick footwork. His crosses can create havoc in even the best of defences, whether from open play or set pieces. Given his technique one might expect him to more often take direct shots on goal, especially from free kicks. He has proved an excellent signing up to this point and one hopes that his years of wanderlust are over. At 28 years old he is nearing the peak of his career. The best is yet to come, especially if he is encouraged to go for goal from free kicks.

 

McCann silences his critics – first published November 5, 2013

Chris+Mccann

When managers change clubs they often take with them players from their previous club. Roberto Martinez is a prime example in taking Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone, James McCarthy and Joel Robles from Wigan.

It was therefore no surprise when Owen Coyle’s first signing was one of his former players. Most Wigan Athletic fans would have expected it to be someone from Bolton, but it turned out to be a tall Irishman who had played under the Scot at Burnley.

Not many of us had heard much about Chris McCann, who had spent nine years at Burnley after being signed from Dublin club, Home Farm. When we found out more about him, it looked as if maybe Coyle had made a mistake.

McCann’s best season with them was in their promotion year, 2008-09. A cruciate knee injury  early in his first Premier League season proved a severe blow for McCann. He made only eight appearances that season and four in 2010-11, being plagued by injury.

However, the Irishman was to come back to start in 83 Championship matches over the next two seasons.

Owen  Coyle had taken over a fragmented squad at Wigan following Martinez’s departure. There was shortage of players in various positions, particularly the centre of defence and up front. But central midfield was the one area where Latics were well supplied – with James McArthur, Roger Espinoza,  Fraser Fyvie,  Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – plus James McCarthy, who was to be sold.

McCann’s  performances in his early starts for Latics at home to Doncaster and Middlesbrough and at Zulte Waregem were solid, if uninspiring.

Cynics said that Coyle had brought in an ex-player who was not up to par, but who was ahead of both Espinoza and Fyvie in the pecking order. It looked like Coyle was snubbing  players from the previous regime to bring in his own men.

However, McCann was to come back to the starting lineup with a fine display against Rubin Kazan. That night he was tireless in defence and his cultured passing when under pressure helped Latics keep possession. He followed that up with a fine performance at Charlton, being unlucky with a flick header that hit the crossbar. In the subsequent match against QPR he once again put in a hardworking stint, being denied by the woodwork with a far post header. On Sunday against Huddersfield he once again put in solid defensive shift and this time saw a fine long range shot palmed over the bar by the keeper.

Coyle has so far relied heavily on McArthur and Watson in the midfield holding roles. They bring Premier League quality to the Championship. Both have excellent technique and work tirelessly to win the ball back and support their defence.

However, McCann has already shown that he too is a player of such attributes and will be challenging them for a place in the starting lineup. He too has a touch of quality. At 6’1” he also poses an aerial threat to opposition defences.

Chris McCann has already silenced most of his critics through a series of good displays. He is still only 26 years old and could prove to be a key player for Latics for years to come.

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Latinos ready for Brighton

Both Jean Beausejour and Roger Espinoza have had a busy week, but neither would complain if Owen Coyle put them in the lineup against Brighton on Saturday.

What are the chances?

Beausejour played for the first 81 minutes for Chile at Wembley on Friday, then came on as a substitute after only 8 minutes against Brazil in Toronto on Tuesday, completing the remainder of the match.

Beausejour was a key component of Chile’s fine 2-0 win over England. His expert close control in tight situations, together with his patient approach, helped Chile build dangerous moves down the right hand side of England’s defence.

He came early in Toronto because of an injury to midfield dynamo Marcelo Diaz. Brazil went 1-0 up after 10 minutes but Chile got one back when Eduardo Vargas scored a spectacular goal from his headed pass after 71 minutes

Chile had been far from overwhelmed against Brazil, but eventually went down 2-1 to an 80th minute goal from Robinho.

Chile are certainly seeking the right kind of opposition in preparation for the trip to Brazil in June.

Espinoza played for the first 64 minutes against Brazil in Miami, in front of a crowd of 71,000. When he went off Honduras were losing 2-0. They let in another three without him. Check out  this video clip to see how impressive Espinoza looked in that match. Bleacher Report rated him Honduras’ best performer.

Espinoza came on after 46 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Ecuador in Houston on Tuesday. Honduras were trailing 1-0 at half time, but got to 2-1 ahead until Ecuador equalized in the 89th minute. Both teams had been down to 10 men, Wilson Palacios having been sent off after 84 minutes.

Honduras used a total of 12 substitutes in those two matches, in an attempt to give a wide range of players an opportunity to show what they could do against quality opposition. That Espinoza played 109 minutes in the two games is therefore not a reflection upon his performance.

Brazil are going to be the team to beat in June and Honduras needed to play strong opposition outside their usual opponents in CONCACAF. Ecuador are no push-overs either, having finished fourth in the highly competitive South American qualifying competition.

Despite playing well against world class opposition for their countries neither Beausejour nor Espinoza is likely to make the starting lineup against Brighton.

Beausejour missed recent Latics matches through a foot injury, but currently has to compete with James McClean and Callum McManaman for a place on the left flank.

Despite a Man of the Match performance in Kazan, Espinoza was not retained in the starting lineup at Yeovil. In fact he was brought off the bench with five minutes to go. Coyle is blessed with a strong squad of holding midfield players and has rotated them well, with the exception of Espinoza who he has repeatedly snubbed.

In the Brazil match Espinoza played wide in left midfield, not his best position, but he nevertheless looked very involved, winning the ball and putting in some excellent passes.

Coyle has lined up with both Jordi Gomez and James McArthur in wide midfield positions, with little success. He brought Espinoza off the bench in the Charlton match to play wide on the left and the Honduran did not do badly.

Juan Carlos Garcia was also in the Honduras squad for both matches and came on as a substitute after 81 minutes against Brazil. Coyle still has not started him at left back, although he did play in left midfield in the League Cup loss to Manchester City. It would be a big surprise if he started on Saturday.

There is good news for Latics in that the excellent Ivan Ramis is ready to compete for a place, after 10 months out through injury. It will interesting to see if Coyle is willing to put Ramis in the rotation with Leon Barnett, Thomas Rogne and Ryan Shotton for the centre back positions.

At the time of his injury at Fulham in January, Ramis was looking a quality Premier League defender –  a good reader of the game with a strong tackle. Ramis will have to adjust to the high ball game played by so many teams in the Championship, but at 6’2” he is quite capable in the air.

Passing the ball out of defence is something Ramis is good at and the other centre backs in the squad should take note. Too often they have taken the easy option of the long ball or the pass back to the goalkeeper, the end result more often than not being Latics losing possession.

It looks like Will Keane will be shortly be signed on loan.  Although Keane’s signing would look like  a positive move we will have to wait and see if Dave Whelan is going to allow Coyle to make a big money purchase of an experienced striker with a proven record of success.

With a busy month coming up it is going to be interesting to see how Coyle rotates his squad.

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Chile and Latics’ Identity

Above: Owen Coyle, Marcelo Bielsa and Roberto Martinez.

To beat England at Wembley is something to savour.  The look of joy on the faces of the Chilean players after beating England 2-0 on Friday was memorable.

Chile had beaten an experimental England team. Things would have been much harder against the first choice home country lineup. In contrast with England, Chile put forward a team that had played together throughout the demanding South American qualifiers for the World Cup. Moreover having a good prior record against England they were not going to be intimidated.

The  manner of Chile’s victory was something Roberto Martinez would have approved of.

In the first half they threw caution to the wind and attacked England. The forwards Jean Beausejour, Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez  were a constant danger and the Latics player got into a good scoring position in the 31st minute. He could not put it away. But then again, if Beausejour were able to score from positions like that on a regular basis would he still be at Wigan?

In the second half Chile had to defend against England pressure and they were unable to keep up the football of the first half. However, they maintained their composure, passing the ball out of defence, despite having ten England players almost camped inside their half.

It is something that Owen Coyle’s current defensive quartet could not even dream about.

Chile’s attacking style derives from the time Marcelo Bielsa was coach. Current incumbent Jorge  Sampaoli recognizes Bielsa’s influence saying  that “Through his excellence he justifies an attacking style that I have always identified with, and I subscribe to his philosophy and ideas.” .

Chile typically played a high defensive line, meaning their defenders were pushed into risky last-ditch tackles when their forward pressing was by-passed.

Bielsa clearly influenced Sampaoli, but probably also Martinez and his preferred style of play .

I first saw a Bielsa team twenty years ago when I was living in Cali, Colombia. Bielsa’s Newells Old Boys played at the atmospheric Pascual Guerrero Stadium in Cali in the semi final of the Copa Libertadores. They knocked out local club America – who had a great record in the Copa – on penalties . Newells were to be defeated by  Sao Paolo in the final, also on penalties. The football of that Newells of Cordoba team at the time was something different.

Back in Colombia a decade later, I was to see Bielsa’s Argentina team draw 1-1 with Colombia in a World Cup qualifying match in Barranquilla. Argentina  played an exciting formation with three central defenders and two wing backs. Captain Roberto Ayala was superb in the Gary Caldwell role in the centre of defence and Hernan Crespo  got their goal. Bielsa was not to achieve World Cup success with Argentina despite a record of W42 D16 L10 during his tenure.

Chile are an exciting team to watch, almost a throwback to the times when teams attacked with abandon. Last year Barcelona paid dearly against Bayern Munich for their lack of height in the centre of defence. But Chile played 5’8” Cardiff midfielder Gary Medel in a three man defence against an England team who are always going to be dangerous from set pieces.

Sampaoli has bravely continued with the tactical approach put in place by Bielsa from 2007-2011. The team seems to play without fear, characterised by high pressing and 3-3-1-3. Even when under intense pressure they continue to play with composure and belief. Critics would say that the approach is naïve, but it has produced the best results Chile have ever had.

In Bielsa’s  early days at Chile they were able to get a point away to Uruguay at Montevideo and also to beat Argentina. Both were firsts for Chile. But then there was the flip side –  heaviest-ever home defeats in qualifiers, 3-0 against both Paraguay and Brazil.

If Bielsa achieved anything with Chile then it was  giving them an “identity”. In order to play in such a way every player needed to buy in to the system. Players coming in would know exactly what was expected of them and would play with enthusiasm.

At Wigan,  Martinez probably aspired to what Chile do, but never quite had the players to do it. But there are clear parallels.

Latics certainly had those ups and downs, with fantastic  wins over the elite clubs that dominate English football, but also humiliating eight or nine goal defeats.

But then again, like Chile under Bielsa or Sampaoli, there was  certainly “identity”.

Chile will probably get undone in the World Cup finals through set pieces. For the moment they are fascinating to watch, playing with confidence and with a strong footballing philosophy.

Since Martinez left Wigan the style of football has nose-dived. There is a distinct lack of identity about the way this current Latics team plays.

It remains to be seen whether Owen Coyle can provide the results to go along with his more ‘direct’ approach of football.

In the meantime we continue to look for an ‘identity’ at Wigan.

But then again lovers of good football will hope it does not resemble an identity such as those developed by Sam Allardyce at Bolton and Tony Pulis at Stoke.

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Postscript

Current Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino and current Southampton manager Mauricio Pocchetino played in Bielsa’s Libertadores Cup Final team for Newells. As coaches both follow the example of Bielsa
– an attacking approach, with high pressing.

Bend it like Beausejour

Some say he looks a little pudgy. Others complain he doesn’t have the speed to take on defenders. That Birmingham would not have let him go if he were that good. Something of an international journeyman, he has played for ten clubs in a space of ten years, spanning six different countries. Why then did Roberto Martinez continue to pursue Jean Beausejour, following the 2010 World Cup, until finally signing him in January 2012?

After just 15 minutes had gone at Sunderland last Saturday, a sublime cross came over from the left wing that Arouna Kone should have buried to put Latics 1-0 in front. It was the kind of precision pass that David Beckham might have provided in his heyday, curling away from the goalkeeper with pinpoint accuracy. Pure artistry. Neither player is the type to run down the wing and beat a defender for speed. But both somehow are able to get in pinpoint crosses from the tightest of situations, an ability that few players possess. Although Beausejour only joined Latics in January, he led the squad for assists last season.

Let’s not forget his defensive qualities either. Forming a strong partnership with Maynor Figueroa on the left hand side of the defence he provides key defensive cover. Ask Theo Walcott what it is like having Beausejour trail you – the Chilean rendered him totally ineffective in the memorable 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in April. Beausejour is not elegant, but is a complete player, the classic wing back – able to defend and create goals.

Jean André Emanuel Beausejour Coliqueo was born in Santiago in June 1984, of a Haitian father and mother from the indigenous Mapuche ethnic group. Beausejour remains a hero with the downtrodden Mapuche people. He started his professional career playing for leading Chilean club, Universidad Católica in 2002 before moving to provincial Concepción where he played for a year. Within the following three years he’d serve stints at Servette of Geneva, Grêmio of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Gent of Belgium. After returning to Chile for a couple of years he spent the 2009-2010 year playing for Club America, Mexico City’s biggest club.

Beausejour has made 40 plus appearances for Chile, playing under flamboyant Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa for almost three years. Not only did he score the winning goal against Honduras that helped Chile to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup, but he was to play in a classic Bielsa system that had three central defenders and two wing backs. In November 2011, he and four other players were suspended by Chile FA for 10 matches after arriving in “poor physical” condition, allegedly drunk, before a World Cup qualifying match against Uruguay.

Given Beausejour’s career record of lack of continuity at any one particular club and his suspension from the Chilean national team it was therefore a calculated gamble taken by Roberto Martinez to bring him to Wigan from Birmingham City. However, Beausejour has become a key player in the tactical system adopted by Roberto Martinez. His start to the current season has been marred by a niggling injury but he remains one of the players whose name would be penciled in first on the team sheet. He is 5 ft 11 inches tall and physically strong, not easily deterred.

Jean Beausejour has certainly settled into the Wigan Athletic lineup. A team player, he is solid in defence. When Latics have the ball he is always available, hugging the touchline, stretching the opposition defence. He rarely loses the ball and has a few tricks up his sleeve with quick footwork. His crosses can create havoc in even the best of defences, whether from open play or set pieces. Given his technique one might expect him to more often take direct shots on goal, especially from free kicks. He has proved an excellent signing up to this point and one hopes that his years of wanderlust are over. At 28 years old he is nearing the peak of his career. The best is yet to come, especially if he is encouraged to go for goal from free kicks.