“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.