“…..Don’t be surprised if one or two players who have not played much for us in the last weeks maybe will start on Saturday.”
The words of Uwe Rosler ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Bournemouth.
Rosler is ready to shake things up, following displays seemingly lacking in commitment. With just one point from the last three games the team is short of confidence. On Monday Latics allowed themselves to be bullied off the ball by an Ipswich side that was there to get a result at all costs. Put simply it was the lack of steel that lost Latics the game.
Gone are the days when Latics had a combative midfield. Lee Cattermole and Wilson Palacios were a pair to be feared in the Steve Bruce era, both rugged tacklers but possessing no mean level of skill. The ultra-competitive Michael Brown provided back up. Palacios had already gone to Tottenham when Roberto Martinez arrived. Cattermole was one of the first to depart before the new season started. However, Hendry Thomas was to arrive and Martinez use the steely Honduran in front of the back four. Thomas was successful for a while in the Makelele role, winning the ball and laying off simple passes. However, the emergence of James McCarthy saw Thomas lose his place. McCarthy was more mobile, not only strong in the tackle but adept at making interceptions. Together with James McArthur he formed a central midfield partnership that could compete on an even keel with the best that the Premier League could offer.
Midfield has been a problematic area so far this season. The loss of the excellent McArthur was a body blow for Rosler. In the absence of Chris McCann and Ben Watson through long-term injury, new players have been brought in and they have found it difficult to gel into a compact unit. Two of the three who played against Ipswich – Adam Forshaw and William Kvist – were recent signings, still short of match fitness.
Last season Rosler’s preferred midfield trio was that of McArthur, McCann and Watson. All hard working, forceful in the tackle and strong technically. Sadly McArthur has gone and it is going to take weeks before the other two will be fit enough to compete for a place. Moreover both suffered serious injuries and one can never be sure that a player can get back to the same level following a long recuperation.
Rosler has brought experience into the midfield through his signing of the 29 year old William Kvist and the 31 year old Don Cowie. Both players are strong defensively, with high work rates. However, they have their limitations going forward. However, Rosler has clearly made a good investment in younger players. The 19 year old Emyr Huws can play in either a holding role or further forward. He has a superb technique and is strong in the tackle. Adam Forshaw, aged 22, made his first start against Ipswich. Not having played a full game since May, he looked out of touch in the first half, but rallied in the second when he switched to a more central role. Some have likened his style to that of Jack Wilshere, through his ability to constantly receive and run with the ball. In the closing minutes he put through a couple of exquisitely timed passes to split a stubborn Ipswich rearguard. He looked the part in those closing minutes.
Rosler’s preferred midfield over the coming weeks could well be a trio of Forshaw and Huws, together with either Cowie or Kvist. However, given the need to inject energy and steel into Latics’ play, will he give a first start to Roger Espinoza?
James Tavernier could well start tomorrow. Rotherham fans will tell you that Tavernier’s strength is in going forward, not in his defending. For that reason he is more likely to be used as a wing back, rather than a full back. Would Rosler be willing to “rest” James Perch to bring Tavs in? Most fans will hope that he will not play Perch at left back again. The other possibility is to put Tavernier into midfield.
Oriel Riera looked lively after coming on in the second half against Ipswich and will probably take the centre forward spot from Andy Delort. Rosler will be hoping that Callum McManaman will be fit enough to play. Shaun Maloney looked a shadow of his former self on Monday. He needs more match practice, but it is difficult for Rosler to give him that time with the team struggling. Martyn Waghorn will be pushing for a place in the starting lineup.
It would be no surprise to see Leon Barnett return in defence, where his steel will add another dimension.
Bournemouth won 3-0 at Cardiff in midweek in the League Cup, breaking a run of five games without a win. The Cherries have won only one of their four home games so far. Latics have not won away from home this season.
It promises to be an interesting contest. Will Rosler be able to rally Latics into showing that touch of steel that is so necessary in the Championship division? If he can, then Latics could get a good result.