A visit to Brentford and a look at a disastrous season

With the final game of the season coming up at Brentford on Saturday, Billy Grant  (@billythebee99) of beesotted.co.uk asked us to respond to some topical questions. The article is also posted on the Beesotted site.

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When we touched base for the first time this season around the time of the Forshaw saga, we had no idea our season would end up like this. We (and the world) thought we would be battling against relegation and you thought we would be battling for promotion with Uwe Rosler making his much awaited return to Griffin Park. Where did it all go topsy turvey?

Things had already started to go awry by the time that Brentford visited in mid-October. Just over a week later, with only three victories in seventeen league games, Rosler was shown the door. It was a sad end to an era in which the German had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. The previous season he had taken over a team in 14th place and got them into the playoffs, only to be narrowly beaten by QPR. Moreover the stunning win at the Etihad against the to-be Premier League champions in the FA Cup sixth round would stick in the memory for years to come. So would the semifinal, taking Arsenal to a penalty shootout.

Sadly things had gone pear-shaped for Rosler in the second half of his reign. The rot had set in towards the end of the 2013-14 season. The confidence that had been generated through a long string of good results had started to wane. Then over summer Rosler was to lose class performers in Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez, but the biggest blow was the departure of James McArthur on the transfer deadline day.

The new season had seen the team coming back from pre-season training in Germany in poor physical shape, with second half collapses being the order of the day. Moreover Rosler had made nine new signings since the summer, all in need of a settling-in period. But their arrival had swelled the first team squad to over thirty, the end result being Rosler having to deal with disgruntled players not getting a regular game.

Sadly Rosler could not inculcate his vision into his players. As time wore on it appeared that he and the players had become  more and more out of tune in terms of what should be delivered on the pitch. As the new season wore on we were to see less and less of the commitment required for the high tempo, high pressing football he sought.

By November the dream of getting back into the Premier League had become almost unreal. It looked like it was not going to happen this season with Rosler. Dave Whelan stepped in, relieving the German of his job, bringing in Malky Mackay, stating his belief that the Scot was the right man to take the club back to the Premier League.

Little did we know what depths the team would plumage towards under Mackay. His appointment did great damage to the club’s image as portrayed by the national media. Moreover the team did not rise on the bounce effect of a new manager, as is so often the case. In fact they got worse. They did not win a single home game during his tenure and he will go into Wigan Athletic history as their least successful manager.

When Mackay had taken over he had stuck by an “old guard” who had been underperforming under Rosler. Neither did they perform well under him. The result was no less than thirteen players dispatched out of the club in the January window. Given the departure of so many players who had proved themselves in the Premier League it was no surprise that the standard of football was to plummet close to rock bottom. The hoofball that had become evident under Coyle, which Rosler could not eradicate, soon became the order of the day under Mackay.

The conspiracy theorists say that Mackay was brought in as a short-term alternative, with his main task being to cull the dead wood within the playing staff. It could be said that he did that. Perhaps some of the players from the Martinez era had become complacent and were causing divisions within the camp.But the cull, together with a reluctance to provide Mackay with sufficient cash to find adequate replacements, left the club so short of quality players that relegation was always going to be a possibility. Mackay was to replace the departed players with those on short term contracts or young loanees green behind the ears. It was a recipe for disaster.

So many fans are relieved that Mackay will not be at the club next year, even if it is in League 1. But it should not hide the lack of foresight and decisiveness by new chairman, Sharpe, who left it too late in dismissing him.

Give us your thoughts on Brentford’s season

Many of us were shocked by the decision to not continue with Mark Warburton. I wonder if he had come to Wigan with Rosler we might have been promoted by now, rather than relegated.

Warburton deserves commendation for what he has done since he took over as manager. He has stuck to his guns by insisting that the team play good football and their quality has surprised others in the division. To be within reach of a playoff spot on the last day of the season is some achievement.

Whoever follows Warburton is on a hiding to nothing. You have to hope that Benham will make the right appointment. Whelan made a major blunder at Wigan by appointing the “long ball” Coyle following the departure of “tiki taka” Martinez. You need to appoint a manager who will build on what is established, rather than one who will destroy it.

There was an enormous who-ha over Wigan’s poaching of Adam Forshaw at the start of the season. He gave his reason for leaving being he wanted to move to a ‘bigger club’ and to one that was ‘challenging for promotion’. A bit cheeky. Would you admit, looking at how the season has panned out, Forshaw made the wrong move? He was a key player for us and has become a bit player since his move.

Rosler was building for the future by signing a handful of younger players. Andy Delort, Adam Forshaw, Emyr Huws, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and James Tavernier were brought in. All were stars at their clubs last season and they are still good players. Sadly they were dragged into a situation where even experienced and capable pros, such as Ivan Ramis, Shaun Maloney and Leon Barnett, had been struggling to impose themselves on the field of play. Sadly those young players were mismanaged, first by Rosler then by Mackay.

Forshaw’s transfer had hit the headlines because of the bad feeling it created between the clubs. From the player’s point of view he was rejoining the manager who had nurtured him to the point of becoming League 1 Player of the Year. He was also joining a club that had a squad good enough to challenge for promotion, which would offer him a more lucrative contract.

Like those other young players Forshaw was never able to truly establish himself. He made 13 starts, with three appearances off the bench, scoring one goal.

Talking of Forshaw, his agent played him a big BIG get-out-of-jail card. Out of the blue he got him a move to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough after staring relegation in the face. At one stage, he looked destined for the Premier League with them but now has to settle for the playoffs. Assuming we don’t make the playoffs, do you think Forshaw will be a Premier League player next season?

Ben Watson’s agent did even better. Since leaving for Watford in January he has been a regular in a side that is already promoted. Forshaw has been largely used as a substitute by Middlesbrough, making only five starts.

Forshaw had been part of the January cull, with the club cutting their potential losses for the season by selling players off for whatever transfer money they could get and freeing others on lucrative contracts. So many fans had been disenchanted by the lack of performance by the squad that Mackay did not meet the opposition one would have expected when selling off the family silver. But there were fans who thought the departures of young players with potential was worrying.

Aitor Karanka has done a good job at Middlesbrough. They can play attractive football and will have as much chance as any other team in the playoffs. We learned last year what a lottery the playoffs can be. Should Boro get promoted they are going to have to bring in a lot of new players as their squad is not anywhere near Premier League standard.

Forshaw still has not established as a regular starter in the Championship, but he does have potential and maybe the Premier League environment would suit him?

For a while Latics fans were a bit disenchanted with Brentford over the Forshaw saga, but most of us will wish the Bees well in the quest for promotion. You have an outside chance of getting into the playoff zone, then a one in four chance of winning the playoffs. But the likelihood is that Derby will win at home to Reading on Saturday. If they do then I will fancy their playoff chances. Despite poor recent form their squad is probably the best outside the top two.

The Rotherham result in midweek has consigned you to Division 1. Despite our little ding dong earlier this season, most Brentford fans would actually prefer you stayed up. We had a good day out at Wigan much preferring it to our trips to places like Bolton and Millwall to be quite honest. How do you think you will get on next season???

Wigan is a friendly town and away fans seem to enjoy their visits. I went to Millwall for the first time a couple of weeks ago and can understand why your fans are not keen.

Dave Whelan is now 78 and after 20 years of guiding the club he has stepped back. He made a mistake with the Malky Mackay appointment and his inappropriate comments were gobbled up by the national media. It has sadly tarnished the image of a man who has done more for Wigan Athletic than anyone before.

When all this was going on the club seemed to have no direction and leadership. But now Latics have a new chairman and a new manager, both young and hungry for success. The 23 year old David Sharpe wisely opted for a manager who believes in playing football the “Wigan way”. Moreover his expectation is that Gary Caldwell – only 32 years old – will stay in the position long-term.

Next season is a great unknown for us. There will be another mass exodus over summer as the club sheds its highest wage earners and rebuilds. Sharpe has already stated his goal of promotion next season, but most of us realise that this might not happen so quickly. A large number of new players will be coming in and it is going to take time for them to gel and learn to play football with the style that Caldwell expects.

With the youngest manager and youngest chairman in the four divisions at the helm there is renewed optimism at Wigan. The era of Whelan has gone, but an exciting new one is about to commence.

Do you think you players will turn up at the weekend?

More than half of the players who made the starting lineup against Wolves last weekend are on short-term contracts which finish next month. Many of the remainder are likely to be leaving in summer. Will this motley crew give their commitment on Saturday?

Nevertheless Caldwell will expect them to give their all and many might want to impress possible future employers. Moreover there is no pressure on them to get a result.

Given such a scenario who knows what will happen? It could be a surprise victory for Latics or a hammering.

My guess is that it will be a 1-1 draw.

 

 

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Tavernier exit sounds the alarm bells

He came with rave reviews from Rotherham. Uwe Rosler was excited about his new signing saying that:

“…… he is still learning and, at just 22, I feel that we can provide the right sort of environment for him to grow and develop into a really important player for this club.”

Can James Tavernier still become a really important player for Latics or is the writing on the wall that he will not be returning?

Tavernier has been sent on loan to Bristol City until the end of the season. It leaves Latics with James Perch and Emmerson Boyce to share the right back/wing back positions. Perch is superb defensively but despite scoring some key goals over the past year he can hardly be labelled a skilful attacking wing back. Boyce was indeed that when playing in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez, but the years have crept up on him. At 35 he just does not have the pace he used to.

Has Malky Mackay already written off the Bradford lad? Or is he sending him to “the right sort of environment” where he can further develop his game?

Tavernier showed a lot of promise in the pre-season where he was used in midfield. He put in some great crosses and scored a stunning goal at Rochdale. He made his competitive debut in the first match of the season, the 2-2 home draw with Reading, as a 72nd minute substitute. Although he made the starting lineup in the next match at Burton in the League Cup, Rosler continued to use him as a substitute in the league.

However, Perch’s unavailability led to Tavernier being at right back against Brentford in mid-October. The young player had a run of four more games, but after an indifferent performance at Brighton he lost his place. It was another six weeks before Tavernier made his return as a wing back in the 2-0 win at Leeds, continuing in that position against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton.

After making seven starts and four appearances off the bench, Tavernier is joining a Bristol city side currently second in League 1. The environment there will certainly be brighter for him than the current case of Wigan, where morale is approaching rock bottom. After playing for a struggling side Tavernier’s confidence could use a boost.

However, the value in sending Tavernier back to League 1 is questionable. He has already more than proved himself in that division and a loan to a Championship side would have been preferable.

It would be fair to say that Tavernier’s performances at Wigan have been disappointing. He lacks the pace and tackling ability necessary to be a successful full back in the Championship. Wing back is a more natural position for him, but his displays in that position were marred by poor distribution. Right midfield in a 4-4-2 formation would probably suit him best, but it is a shape that neither Rosler nor Mackay have favoured. With his exceptional ability to cross the ball and shoot he could have been well employed as an impact substitute and it is hard to understand why Mackay would want to lose someone with such an ability to change the flow of a game.

Rosler was building for the future signing a handful of younger players in the last transfer window. Andy Delort, Adam Forshaw, Emyr Huws, Aaron Taylor- Sinclair and Tavernier were brought in. All were stars at their clubs last season and they are still good players. Sadly they have been dragged into a situation where even experienced and capable pros, such as Ivan Ramis, Shaun Maloney and Leon Barnett, have been struggling to impose themselves on the field of play. Sadly those young players have been seriously mismanaged, first by Rosler now by Mackay.

Tavernier knows what it is like to go on loan. Whilst at Newcastle he was on loan at Gateshead, Carlisle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Milton Keynes Dons, Shrewsbury Town and Rotherham United. However, this is a backwards move for him as he has been trying to establish himself as a Championship-level player. The likelihood is that he will not be returning to Wigan, unless they too are in the Championship next season, heaven forbid!

Supporters of Mackay will say he is doing the right thing in sending Tavernier to Bristol where he will be in a more positive environment away from the relegation pressure at Wigan.

His detractors will say that he is trying to get shut of as many players as he can over the transfer window to make room for his own men. However, he will surely have already found out that players are reluctant to join a team in a relegation mire. He is unable to offer the Premier League style salaries that players like Danny Graham demand, so he will have to find his preferred “hungry UK players” either in the lower leagues in England or from Scotland. The likelihood is that those he might bring in will have no more quality than those already at the club.

Only time will tell if Mackay was right to release Tavernier. But it is a sad state of affairs when a talented young player is sent away on loan less than six months of being signed.

The alarm bells continue to ring at Wigan Athletic.

Clear-out needed – Rotherham (H) match reaction

Will Mackay give the likes of Oriel Riera an extended run in the team?

Will Mackay give the likes of Oriol Riera an extended run in the team?

Once again Malky Mackay kept faith in the “old guard” and once again they let him down. Rotherham had not won a game since mid-October but they were good enough to beat a woeful Latics side. Once again Mackay’s team selection raised doubts, let alone the tactics on the pitch. Latics are going from bad to worse.

Mackay once again stuck with the old guard. There were just two Rosler signings in the starting lineup – Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor – both of whom were part of the manager’s previous old guard at Cardiff. Andy Delort was not even on the bench, after appearing in the 88th and 86th minutes of the previous two games. Was he injured or did his quotes in the French media upset the boss?

Mackay continues to shoot himself in the foot. James McClean has pace and power and cannot be faulted for his physical effort. But does he have the attributes to become a central striker? Physical effort needs to be matched by its mental equivalent, something the hard-working Irishman did not show in the first half when he was caught offside three times.

Perhaps Mackay was yielding to fan pressure when he brought on Marc-Antoine Fortune after 53 minutes for Shaun Maloney. Two central strikers on the pitch at the same time was something so many fans have been hoping for, but was the Rotherham goalkeeper going to be seriously tested by a pairing of McClean and Fortune?

In the event that partnership only lasted ten minutes until Oriol Riera was brought on for Cowie. The Spaniard went close near the end with a header that hit the crossbar, but would be better employed not having to fight for seemingly aimless long balls coming from defence and goalkeeper.

Mackay had chosen a one-paced midfield of Don Cowie, Chris McCann and Ben Watson. Cowie is well into his thirties and the other two have surely been brought in too early after long-term injuries. However, when he took off Cowie he reverted to a 4-2-4 system with two wingers and two central strikers. Not surprisingly the visitors became increasingly dangerous on the counterattack as he second half proceeded.

The time has come for the dissolution of the old guard. It would be true to say that most of the players signed by Rosler have not performed anywhere near the level expected of them. But Rosler created problems by bringing in ten new players over the summer, swelling the first team squad up to thirty. The end result was that he was unable to give so many of them the regular playing time they needed.

Rosler’s signings have come under a lot of criticism for their performances up to this point. Some fans have already written them off. In the podcast recently put on fan sites Mackay talked about the good young players he had at his disposal, including the 25 year old McClean in that category. Interestingly the name of Emyr Huws did not appear in the names he mentioned. The young Welshman made a positive start under Rosler until an ankle injury impeded his progress. Like Adam Forshaw he is a bright young talent. Let’s hope he has not disappeared off Mackay’s radar.

Latics need to start to rebuild a younger team. The old guard has had its day and Latics need to look at the future. The likes of Delort, Forshaw, Huws, Riera and Tavernier need to be given extended runs in the team. Moreover they need to be played in their best positions. For Delort it means playing him alongside another central striker, for Tavernier playing as either a wing back or a wide midfield player.

Although he never played badly for Latics the experienced Denmark captain, William Kvist, has been left out in the cold. Would a midfield of Kvist, Forshaw and Huws have done any worse than Cowie, McCann and Watson yesterday?

Somehow a new manager has come in and nothing much has changed on the pitch. If anything things have got worse and the level of football Latics are playing is poor even compared with the dark days of long ball under Owen Coyle.

Unless Mackay has a paradigm shift in his thinking, things are unlikely to get any better. Dave Whelan is unlikely to trust him with big money in the January transfer window and his new players are likely to be loan signings, plus Grant Holt.

The ball is firmly in Mackay’s court. Following yesterday’s game he was quoted as saying:

“It’s their [the fans] club, we’re custodians and I’ll do everything that I can to make them proud of us, make no mistake about that.”

The patience of those fans is being sorely tested. Is Mackay capable of making them proud of his team?

The jury is out on that one.

Turning the tide – Latics v Norwich

Tide2

The arrival of a new manager so often spurs a team in to playing better. With the improved performances come better results.

Malky Mackay will be hoping that is the case when Latics face Norwich tomorrow. He had a positive start when he recalled the old guard against Middlesbrough, who did well but could not quite get the win they hoped for. But his second match saw two defensive errors give away three points against a mediocre Sheffield Wednesday side.

Like Latics, Norwich come off a run of bad results. In fact their records over the last six games are identical W1 D2 L3. The Canaries started the season well and new signings Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban were banging the goals in. However, since then they have found the Championship division harder than perhaps they had anticipated.

As Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney will testify, referees in this division do not protect skillful players like they do in the Premier League. The Norwich playmaker, Wes Hoolahan, has only played 12 games this season and is still carrying an ankle injury. However, given his importance to the team, manager Neil Adams might risk the little Irishman tomorrow despite not being fully fit. Norwich can be expected to field an attacking lineup with winger Nathan Redmond joining Grabban and Jerome up front.

Ben Watson made his first start in nine months at Sheffield and looked understandably rusty. However, Mackay is likely to continue with him and Chris McCann in central midfield. Shaun Maloney is expected to return following illness. Should he be given a central midfield role then Adam Forshaw will find himself on the bench. However, Maloney could be played wide on the left with Forshaw continuing. Don Cowie is fit again and will challenge for a place, either in central or right midfield.

Mackay fielded two wingers- Callum McManaman and James McClean – at Sheffield. But he will surely have found, as did Uwe Rosler and Owen Coyle previously, that playing the two wide men at the same time just does not work.

Emmerson Boyce moved into the centre of defence in the second half at Sheffield with Leon Barnett. The lack of form of central defenders in recent games is a cause for concern, but Mackay will most likely stick with the two Bs, with James Perch and Andrew Taylor at full back.

The performance at Sheffield once again highlighted the need for a goalscoring centre forward, who receives the necessary support. McManaman and McClean ended up putting in crosses that were too often uncontested.

Mackay’s preferred formation at Cardiff was based on a version of 4-5-1 that was close to the 4-3-3 preferred by Rosler. Like Rosler, it has not been his wont to play with twin strikers. However, given the repeated failure of Latics to put the ball into the back of the net, will he is willing to change his formation? The exciting McManaman is much more effective in a free role than marooned out on the right wing where he it is easier for opposition defenders to pick him off.

Various combinations exist for a twin strike force – choose any two from Delort/Fortune/McClean/ McManaman/Riera/Waghorn. A switch to 4-4-2 would certainly be worth a try.

Once again this is a match that Latics can certainly win. Perhaps Lady Luck might be on Wigan’s side this time? There have been so many times this season when Latics have been within a whisker of getting a crucial goal.

Perhaps the tide will turn tomorrow?

What a Game! Wigan Athletic 3 Fulham 3

 

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.  Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.
Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

It was as entertaining as any game could be – with six goals and two red cards it kept us on our toes for 96 minutes.

Uwe Rosler shocked the fans by resisting his tinkering tendencies and naming an unchanged lineup from the one that started the previous game against Derby.

Latics started well, their pressing allowing Fulham no time on the ball. In the 9th minute Callum McManaman was tripped in the box for a penalty. Adam Forshaw stepped up and scored his first Latics goal, hitting through the middle as goalkeeper Bettinelli dove to his right. Latics continued to look bright but their incisive approach play did not produce another goal.

But by around the 20 minute mark Latics’ high pressing had practically evaporated as Fulham crowded out the midfield and started to dominate possession. It did not come as a big surprise when in the 30th minute Scott Parker put through a superb ball for Lasse Vigen to evade Leon Barnett and tuck the ball past Scott Carson. Then six minutes later Ross McCormack’s right footed punt from the left was easily chested home at the far post by Bryan Ruiz with the left side of Wigan’s defence caught sleeping. Fulham’s wide players had caused Latics’ defence constant problems and Hugo Rodallega was looking lively. The visitors went into half time with a 2-1 lead.

Latics came out in the second half showing renewed vigour and got the equalizer after 52 minutes. The ball came to Roger Espinoza some 25 yards out and he hit a fine volley past Bettinelli. The game became open with end to end play, neither defence looking comfortable. Callum McManaman had a good effort saved, then the dangerous young left winger George Williams crossed for McCormack to force a fine save from Carson. James McClean replaced an out of sorts Emyr Huws after 61 minutes, with Don Cowie moving into the centre of midfield. McCormack handed Latics the advantage after 74 minutes when he received his second yellow card after an altercation with McClean.

Shaun Maloney came on as substitute for McManaman and scored a well taken goal in the 82nd minute following an exchange of passes with Espinoza. It looked as if Latics were going to snatch a much wanted three points but it was not to be. In the 86th minute Kiernan’s inability to clear a lofted ball saw Rodallega running through on goal, to be cut down by Barnett. Barnett received a red card and Ruiz slotted home the penalty. Ivan Ramis came on for Espinoza as the game continued for another 10 minutes, until reaching its conclusion.

The Good

Latics extended their unbeaten run to six, albeit including five draws. Confidence is increasing and new partnerships on the field are being built.

Rosler’s pressing tactic worked well for the opening quarter. It helped Latics get off to a good start and they looked the better team at that stage, with good movement from the midfield.

Despite being behind at the interval they did not drop their heads and would probably have won the game if it weren’t for a defensive error.

Tavernier’s crossing was of high quality and he looks such a fine player going forward. Forshaw was involved throughout and is coming to terms with the physical side of play in the Championship division.

Espinoza was an inspiration. His passing was crisp and precise, he scored a cracking goal and made an assist for another.

Marc-Antoine Fortune once again was tireless in the target man role, his hold-up play being excellent.

The Bad

The back four were awful. Tavernier was repeatedly exposed by the 19 year old Williams and the centre backs did not mesh together. On the left Maynor Figueroa was useful going forward, but looked vulnerable in defence.

The ploy of playing Cowie in right midfield to allow Tavernier to attack did not work. On occasions when Tavernier was found wanting Cowie was not able to provide the support. Cowie looked one dimensional and short of pace on the right, but much better when moved into central midfield later in the game.

It appears that Cowie is heading the same way with the DW crowd as did Jordi Gomez in his early days at Wigan. Roberto Martinez always had faith in Gomez, despite the frustration he could cause among fans in passing the ball backwards or sideways. However, Gomez was never an automatic choice for Martinez, but Cowie has been so under Rosler.

After dominating the opening stages through their high pressing it was frustrating to see Latics drop back and allow Fulham to control the game. Was it something coming from the manager or were the players physically unable to keep up the pressing for longer than 20 minutes or so?

Tavernier is a talented young player, who will hopefully have a bright future at Wigan. In some ways he is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. Taylor joined Latics as a right back, but was not a success in that position. Taylor proved to be so invaluable from set pieces that Steve Bruce would find a position for him in the team. That might also become the case with Tavernier.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves, but was stranded for Fulham’s second goal.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – good in attack, vulnerable in defence.

Leon Barnett: 4.5 – good in the air but otherwise poor.

Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor.

Maynor Figueroa: 5.5 – not at his best.

Adam Forshaw: 7 – worked hard, rarely wasted the ball.

Emyr Huws: 5 – not as involved as usual. Is his ankle still troubling him? Taken off after 61 minutes.

Roger Espinoza: 9 – the best player on the pitch.

Don Cowie: 4 – poor.

Callum McManaman: 6 – heavily marked, but still posed a threat to Fulham’s defence. Fouled for the penalty. Lasted until the 81st minute.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 8 – clearly relishing his place in the lineup ahead of Delort and Riera.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – full of running, but unable to provide that final pass.

Shaun Maloney: – took his goal well.

Ivan Ramis: – came on 85 minutes too late. Why was he not in from the start?

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