Rosler is the man to take Latics forward

Rosler4

What a difference results make. A couple of weeks ago Uwe Rosler was the flavour of the month and had almost universal support from the Latics faithful. But now after three disappointing performances dissent is becoming rife.

This is not unusual at a football club in England or any other part of the world. The manager is only as good as the team’s next performance and his time in the job is finite. If the results do not improve, he goes, as was the case with Owen Coyle at Wigan last year. But there are exceptions.

The long-term reigns of such as Ferguson and Wenger and their triumphs are well documented. You can add to that the likes of the unsung Dario Gradi and the miracles he worked at humble Crewe.  All three had enough support from their chairmen to be undeterred by the naysayers and snipers who would undermine most managers at football clubs.

So it was with Roberto Martinez at Wigan. Martinez had to shield all kinds of criticism from a hostile minority who were uncomfortable with him as manager. The criticism came forth in his early days as in charge and continued for four years. It was based on the team’s style of play, but if the results had been better would there have been so much dissatisfaction?

Martinez was courageous and strong in his beliefs about the way football should be played. He never let the naysayers sway him, although it must have been tough for him. He had taken over at a time of austerity within the club after Steve Bruce had done a fine job at stabilizing Latics’ position in the Premier League, but at a financial cost. His achievement in winning the FA Cup will be hard for any future Latics manager to emulate.

It was Dave Whelan’s spoken and unspoken support that gave Martinez the backing to go ahead and continue to do what he considered right. Martinez not only won the cup, but kept Latics in the elite league until a cruel injury situation proved his undoing and led to him moving on from the club.

Dave Whelan has made Wigan Athletic into a dream come true. Who could have dreamed twenty years ago that Latics would have a superb stadium and compete with teams that were household names? Whelan’s success has been through appointing the right man at the right time and giving him support. Without Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez where would Latics be now?

But then again, Whelan also appointed Chris Hutchings and Owen Coyle, both of whom he dispatched when he realized he had made the wrong decision.

So what of Rosler? Will he get the support from Whelan that Jewell and Martinez enjoyed?

Rosler maintains the support of the majority of fans who are not fazed by indifferent early season results. He did a remarkable job last season, lifting a team that was drifting down towards the lower layers of the league table. To go into extra time in an FA Cup Semi Final and reach a playoff spot would have beggared belief months before.

Like Martinez, Rosler has a clear view how football should be played. If he had been appointed to take over from the Spaniard the changeover might have been easier to handle. In appointing Coyle, Whelan damaged much of the legacy left by Martinez in one fell swoop. Football at Wigan took a nosedive and it still has not fully recovered.

At the risk of repeating myself from a previous article, it took Martinez some two and a half seasons to get his players to fully respond to his ideas. Fans will remember those wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United for years to come, as they will Ben Watson’s header at Wembley. But it is not just the results, but the style in which Latics gained those victories.

Injuries in the pre-season have severely hampered Rosler’s plans. Critics will say the players were “overtrained”, leading to niggling injuries for too many. But only time will tell if Chris Haslam’s routines pay dividends over the coming weeks, with Latics physically outperforming the opposition.

The loss of free agents Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez over summer was a body blow for the German. Both were able to provide a certain poise that has been lacking since their departure. The lack of creativity in midfield is a cause for concern, although a fit Shaun Maloney would go a long way to solving those problems. It remains to be seen whether the Adam Forshaw saga will be resolved, but the Brentford player would also add creativity if Rosler could get him.

Rosler continues to scour the market for central strikers to add a third to his squad. Marc-Antoine Fortune remains an option in attack despite his poor goalscoring record. Oriel Riera just could not get into the game in the first half at Charlton, where there was a disconnect between midfield and the big forwards. One hopes he will not go the way of Mauro Boselli who was starved of service with Charles N’Zogbia on the right flank and Hugo Rodallega on the left, both of whom were going to go for goal themselves, rather than supply the central striker. Boselli’s demise is a chilling reminder of what can happen to central strikers at Wigan.

Rosler’s new signings will take time to settle in. Andrew Taylor was troubled by injury in pre-season and is clearly not at his best. Don Cowie made a useful contribution at Charlton and with time he will become an important player. Despite having a good technique, Cowie keeps things simple, harrying the opposition, tacking, intercepting, and making sure his passes reach his teammates. Emyr Huws has already made a positive impression. Strong in the tackle, with a cultured left foot, he is playing in the Chris McCann position. The young full backs, James Tavernier and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair will be gradually eased in, more often used as wing backs where the defensive duties are less onerous.

Rosler will continue to demand that his players embrace his high tempo, high pressing game. It has been unrealistic to expect a team that has been palpably unfit up to this point to perform at that level of intensity. The end result has too often been hoofing the ball out of defence, although football returned to their play at The Valley.  The team was clearly playing under orders to play the ball out of defence and build up through midfield. With two new players in the middle of the park it is going to take time to develop the mutual understanding that will make the midfield tick like a well-oiled machine. Cutting out the hoofing is the important step.

Only two teams in the division – Bournemouth and Millwall – have won both of their opening league games. There are four teams who are pointless. Latics have not made the worst start, but expectations are high and they have disappointed so far. But there are another 44 matches to go.

Like any manager Rosler will be judged on results. With the signing of another creative midfielder and another central striker he will have a squad that will be the envy of most other clubs in the division. As the squad gets fitter and his key players raise their levels of performance the results will surely come.

For the moment Rosler needs the continued support of the fans and the owner. Latics are lucky to have such a talented and bright manager.

Despite the poor start, promotion remains a distinct possibility. Uwe Rosler is the man to lead Latics back into the Premier League.

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Off to Charlton in an air of uncertainty

James McArthur is pivotal to Latics' promotion hopes.

James McArthur is key to Latics’ promotion hopes.

Uncertainty creeps up on us. Only a couple of weeks ago there was a mood of buoyant optimism about the season ahead. Uwe Rosler was seen as Latics’ saviour. Trust in Uwe said so many people. But now after a draw and a defeat in the first two games and rumours of the departure of James McArthur, fans are getting edgy.

Following his achievements last season Rosler has deserved the level of support he has received from fans. A home draw against decent opposition followed by an exit from the League Cup is not a huge deal. But what has been disconcerting has been the lack of fitness shown by the players and disjointed play that has not approached the high pressing, high tempo style that the manager espouses.

When Latics played at the Valley last October they had lost their previous three away matches, so the dull 0-0 draw that followed was an improvement. Charlton were struggling on a low budget and Latics’ form had been indifferent. Since then Charlton have had changes at board and football management levels and their outlook is looking brighter.

Rosler’s honeymoon period at Wigan is closing in on him and he will be keen to get a good result at Charlton. Critics are already starting to say that the manager’s vision of the football he seeks is not being realized on the field of play. Rather being super-fit and playing at a high tempo, Latics have looked sluggish compared with their opponents. Moreover the lack of creativity in midfield stands out like a sore thumb. If Oriel Riera is to become the successful striker that Latics so desperately need he is going to need decent service from midfield.

However, only two games have gone. Latics are out of the League Cup, but their clear priority this year is the league. It takes time to impose a style of play upon a squad of players, as Roberto Martinez found in his time at the club. Martinez arrived in the summer of 2009 and it took until the second half of the 2011-12 season before the players were able to realize his vision. The eventual realization was stunning, with Latics beating the elite clubs in the country on merit.

Possibly the most worrying thing for supporters at this stage is the possible exit of more quality players. The exits of the skilful Latins, Jordi Gomez and Jean Beausejour, are already being felt. However, with time it is to be hoped that the new players will adapt to fill the void.

James McArthur is probably the club’s most important player. He typifies total commitment and brings genuine quality to the midfield. To allow him to leave would be a body blow to Latics’ promotion possibilities. However, Dave Whelan has so often stated that any player wanting to move on can do so if the price is right.

One would have to be a mind reader to predict the lineup that Rosler will send out there tomorrow, let alone the team shape. However, both the manager and the players will be keen to show their commitment and their quality at The Valley.

A good result for Latics is a distinct possibility.

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Uwe Rosler – a look at his tactics and philosophy [revisited]

Uwe Rosler

Uwe Rosler

Uwe Rosler continues to enjoy huge support at Wigan, after making such a positive impression last season. He took over a club that was slipping down the Championship league table, taking them to not only the playoffs, but also to an FA Cup semi-final.

Rosler is by no means a typical English football manager. He has a style and methodology that places him apart from the rest. Sometimes his approach can be baffling, although fans are finding him easier to read than when he first arrived.

In the month of May we reached out to Billy Grant (Twitter -@billythebee99 , who writes for the Brentford fanzine http://www.Beesotted.co.uk (Twitter – @beesotted). Billy was able to give us a fascinating insight into Rosler’s tactics and footballing philosophy.

So here are Billy’s responses to the questions we composed for him.

First of all I would like to say we at Beesotted have a lot of time for Uwe Rosler. A lot of Brentford fans do to be honest. He came to us at a time that we needed to instil a new mentality into the club. Uwe was very much part of that new mentality. I do believe his work was instrumental in getting us to the Championship. Mark Warburton did a great job in picking up where Uwe left off. It could have gone horribly wrong at that point and Brentford fans would have no doubt felt a little bit more bitter about Uwe’s departure. But it all worked out right in the end.

We also have to realise that Uwe was also a relatively rookie manager when he came to Brentford. Yes he had managed clubs in Norway but he was an unknown force in the UK and was still learning on the job so to speak when he started managing us. And he’s still learning now. Wigan fans should remember that. He has taken a step up in division and has so far over-performed so give him a little rope.

High pressing is clearly the centerpiece of Uwe’s main tactical ploys. The pressing has worked for Latics in patches but when they have run out of steam they have stopped pressing and also surrendered possession too easily, inviting teams upon them. This is probably fatigue more than instruction, but how did it work for Brentford? Were his teams able to sustain the high pressing for 90 minutes, or would they enjoy possession for periods to “rest” or the break the opposition’s rhythm?

Yes Uwe’s tactic was to play the pressing game when he came to Brentford. He introduced playing the ball out from the back and pressing high to a team that quite frankly wasn’t quite used to it. It worked in patches but when it broke down, we were often punished. It was quite amusing as fans used to the blood and thunder of third division football would often be heard shouting from the terraces “Just bloody get the ball up there. Kick it. Forget the fancy stuff”. The players struggled to cope with playing that style of football naturally on an ongoing basis. But they were learning.

A couple of seasons later with a few personnel changes and more experience of playing “Uwe’s way”, the team had things pretty much sorted. The season when we lost out on promotion with the 94th minute penalty against Doncaster (2012/13), we often had games where we had over 70% possession. When we played Doncaster at their ground earlier in the season, apparently we had 82% possession at one point. We went 1-0 up but were beaten 2-1 with a Doncaster smash-n-grab. Even their manager Dean Saunders said at the time he had no idea how they won that game. We had loads of possession and were were creating loads of chances but unfortunately our finishing was letting us down. Uwe admitted that was an issue and looked to address that in the close season.

Uwe was a stickler for fitness. Last summer he took the team away for a conditioning week in Germany where they undertook an iron man session involving all sorts of body straining and team bonding exercises. The team was infinitely fitter at the beginning of this season as opposed to when Uwe took over. Fitness is a real key to the way he wants the team to play. It’s no co-incidence that he poached the conditioning coach Chris Haslam from Brentford and no one else (as yet .. Let’s see if he goes for one or two of our players in the close season). Chris was instrumental in installing a programme to get the Brentford team in ship shape and Uwe would think him as an important part of the jigsaw in getting Wigan to play the way he wants.

Of course Wigan will have some better players than Brentford to an extent. But overall, the principle remains the same. Uwe will no doubt be looking to bring to Wigan what he brought to Brentford. Without a shadow of doubt he feels that he is missing a couple of certain types of player to complete the jigsaw.

For Brentford our jigsaw was completed by adding a no nonsense player into the mix in Alan McCormack. a central midfielder-come right back. His impact on the team was phenomenal with him winning him supporters player of the year and Beesotted player of the year awards. And an attacking/wide midfielder option. For us it started with Conor McAleney from Everton but he got injured. Then it was Kadeem Harris from Cardiff but he got injured. Then it was Alan Judge from Blackburn (who joined after Uwe left). The third piece of the jigsaw was a striker and Will Grigg was bought in. Unfortunately, Grigg has not as yet lived up to his potential but we got away with it as we started scoring more goals from midfield.

But it’s all about time. A person needs time to deliver results. That’s the problem with football nowadays. There is no long term plan for most clubs. They want everything yesterday. That means there is no real scope for proper development. I’m a person that really believes that the best employees are ones who make and learn from their mistakes. For someone to really develop he (or she) has to be given time to find the right path forward.

Give Uwe a bit of time and Im sure he will get your squad in ship shape.

Uwe has clearly stated that he believes in squad rotation. Although some just don’t like it, most fans have accepted that it has been necessary because of the exceedingly long season Latics faced. Or is he just a serial rotator?

This was one of the biggest issues a vocal section of the Brentford fans had with Uwe if I had to be honest. His player rotation policy. At Beesotted we obviously get a lot of the fan opinion channelled through the website and can gauge the feeling out there. Many people were saying “We don’t know if he knows what his best team is” even at the beginning of this last season. Uwe felt that player rotation was essential to enable to squad to last a whole season. People agreed with him in principal but the argument many had was .. Couldn’t some players have a run of games .. Then get rested as opposed to rotating players constantly?

Things really went a bit awry when Uwe decided to rest practically the whole first team away to Derby in the second round of the League Cup. Many Bees fans Had their “let’s concentrate on the league” head on and were a bit dubious of getting into another cup run like we did the season before when we lost eventually to Chelsea. But we took a fair few fans up to Derby on a Tuesday night because we wanted to see Brentford give them a fight at least with a few regulars and some up-and-coming kids in the side. As it was, we went down 5-0 and the fans were really p!ssed off. Meanwhile, the rested players all came back into the side the following Saturday and huffed and puffed to grind out a 0-0 draw with a hapless Carlisle team – one which was getting knocked for 4 and 5 goals every week by the opposition. We then lost 4-0 to Bradford, 1-0 to Rotherham and, worst of the worst, 2-1 to a useless Stevenage side within the next 6 weeks or so.

To be fair, Wigan fans should be thanking Stevenage as if they hadn’t beaten us, Uwe would never have be managing their team. After that game, Uwe embarked on an excellent piece of man management. He locked the team in the dressing room for 90 minutes and everyone had it out. It was apparently a no holds barred two-way feedback session. Players could say what they felt about other players. About the manager. About tactics. Anything they weren’t happy with. And vice versa.

Whatever was uttered in that dressing room has never been leaked … But the following match, Uwe dropped fans favourite right back Shaelum Logan and replaced him with hard man central midfielder Alan McCormack. Logan was great going forward but could sometimes find himself missing in defensive positions, giving the ball away in key areas. But we were short on right back options and he was deemed too good to drop. More interestingly though, from the following game onwards, Uwe picked a team and stuck with that same team until he left for Wigan two months later. He never lost another match after that in his time at Brentford. In fact, he won them all except a 0-0 draw away to eventual title winners Wolves. What’s more … After Uwe left, we continued the no rotation policy as much as we could bar injuries. As a result, we went on an incredible 19 match 4 month unbeaten run seeing us win 17 games and draw 3 before being beaten by eventual champions Wolves. I can only assume that the right back and team rotation points were discussed at length in the Stevenage dressing room and, fair play, Uwe took them on board.

Fans here find it hard to predict Uwe’s lineups and substitutions can be even harder to predict. Granted that much of this might have been down to having to rotate his squad and save players for upcoming matches. Do have any insight into what his rationale might be?

Not really. One reason why Uwe used to rotate the team was he would try and adapt the Brentford team depending on the opposition. Many fans wanted him to stick to the same team and let the opposition worry about us. That obviously changed after the Stevenage game when he stuck with the same team week in and week out.

To be fair to Uwe, he would often change the team quite radically as well as the tactics if it was not working in the first half. More often than not, this has proven to have positive results with the changes turning the game around. His teams were also known for fighting till the very very end. Brentford were well known for scoring important goals very late in the game – this I believe was down to the team’s increased fitness levels that Uwe insisted on, an incredible team spirit within the side fostered by Uwe and an alteration in the team, formation and or tactics.

Uwe’s masterstrokes were becoming legendary.

At Loftus Road in the playoff semi final we saw the hoof once more rear its ugly head. That was what fans might have expected more from Coyle’s teams than Rosler’s. Over the past months it has become more and more prevalent. A measured long pass is one thing, but hoofing forward speculative high balls to the opposition defence is something else. It could have been a symptom of mental tiredness on the part of the players, but did Uwe manage to keep a lid on it when at Brentford?

We saw a bit of both at Brentford. There was the total passing game which was interspersed with a long ball game. In division one, Uwe learned that pretty football did not always get you the results you wanted. Long ball was sometimes effective for Brentford although after three seasons of seeing our style change, many fans would get p!ssed off if we resorted to a long ball game.

We had a striker, Farid El Alagui, who was a big fans’ favourite who used to attack aerial balls and chase everything down with a passion. Unfortunately, he got injured early on in the “Doncaster” season and when he came back a year later at the beginning of the promotion season, our football style had changed somewhat. Brentford were beginning to rely a lot less on playing the long ball game. Farid was reduced to an occasional substitute. Ironically, in quite a few games he came on in, he managed to switch the game up and score. Brentford fans wanted to keep Farid as an option so that we could switch to a “B” plan which involved playing a more direct style of football. But he was used less and less and eventually was loaned to Dundee Utd just after Uwe left.

I was actually at Loftus Road in the Wigan end for the QPR game with Laney the Beesotted founder. Uwe kindly sorted us out match tickets. We blame ourselves for Wigan losing. Brentford have a terrible record in the playoffs – losing every 7 of the playoffs we have been in – so I’m surprised he let us anywhere near the match with our dismal playoff record. Saying that, Uwe is totally practical when it comes to superstition not believing that past Brentford’s failures should have any impact on current games. I think he may take a different view after we lost to Yeovil in the final once again last year and our jonah appearance at Loftus Rd.

My personal opinion was with so much at stake, Uwe probably played it a little bit too cautious at QPhah. It reminded me of some games at Brentford back in the day. Lots of good skillful passing play. Getting the ball up to front men quickly who are unable to deliver. Giving the ball away in midfield needlesslessly at times. Quite frustrating as naturally, we wanted you guys to win. But his argument will be – Wigan were playing away from home so you keep it tight and hit the opposition with a sucker punch and all of a sudden they’re chasing you for the game. That’s when you switch it up in the last 20 minutes with substitutions to expose those gaps.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work that way.

How successfully did Uwe use the loan system at Brentford? Things did not work out well for him here with many of his loan players. Not one of them appeared in the starting lineups in the two playoff games. What proportion of loan players “made it” at Brentford. How many were later to sign permanent contracts?

Brentford have a wicked loan system. We have a sporting director who’s main role is dealing with the player side of things. Current manager Mark Warburton was sporting director when Uwe was manager. The two very much worked as a team. Who actually found specific players we signed I cannot say for sure. But as Warburton’s background and passion is developing youth team players, I can only assume that it was he who developed relationships with a number of premier league academies as he created the NextGen series (sort of the champions league for academy teams). As a result I can then assume that he  recommended the signing of young Everton academy players Luke Bidwell, Adam Forshaw (league one player of the year this season) and Conor McAleney, as well as players like Harlee Dean (Southampton), Kadeem Harris (Cardiff), Tom Adeyemi (Norwich) and Marcello Trotta (Fulham). I may be wrong though. Bidwell, Forshaw and Dean played a good season or so on loan for the Bees before becoming permanent signings.

Adeyemi was great for Brentford in the “Doncaster” season and we tried to buy him in the summer. We would have got him if we got promoted but Birmingham waded in and promised him Championship football so he left for them. We’re still trying to sign Trotta after he matured massively after “crossbar-gate” in the last league game of last season. He’ll probably end up at Wigan as will George Saville (Chelsea) who had a great debut season for us and Uwe tried to sign in the January window. We tried to sign him too but he’s going places and has already said his farewells to Brentford after the team’s promotion holiday in Vegas.

The policy Brentford has is to pick up players with great potential but still needing a lot of developing. Then give them match time and try and sign them from the parent club on a deal which gives the club a decent sell-on clause.

Matthew Benham the owner also keeps an eye on what is happening in the transfer market and, as he owns a company which analyses football data of players worldwide, he occasionally throws in suggestions of players Brentford should look at. But it is ultimately down to the manager and sporting director to see whether these players fit into the squad.

We did have a number of duff loan and permanent signings too. Paul Hayes comes to mind as a striker with potential that just didn’t work out. His fitness levels were apparently incredibly poor and his work rate wasnot up to Uwe’s standards. He was on decent money too. it’s no secret that him and Uwe fell out. He was banished to the development team, trained on his own at stages and was loaned out to Plymouth and Crawley. We ended up having to pay him off as no one would even take him on loan for any period of time.

Bradley Wright-Philips I feel was also a disappointment. Yes he scored a last minute equaliser up at Bramall Lane when we were down to 9 men which will always be remembers for years to come as one of the great Brentdord matches .. But the reality is if he had scored more goals in his loan spell at the end of “Doncaster” season we would not have had to rely on Marcello Trotta to score that 94th minute penalty to get automatic promotion to the Championship.

Czech striker Martin Fillo played for Uwe in Norway. We signed him on a season-long loan but he didn’t make the grade. Maybe this was a reflection of the standard of our division where players who looked great playing in the Norwegian league, couldn’t even make the bench in a Division One side. Lesson learned for Uwe there.

This last season, the decision was made that the manager, sporting director and owner had to agree on all signings. That I believe helped to ensure there we maximised the potential of all our signings and didn’t repeat the Paul Hayes mistake.

So to answer your question, Uwe played the loan system very well at Brentford. He had a great team of people to work with to make sure the right decisions were being made and to bounce off. Something he will need at Wigan I reckon.

What is Uwe’s transfer market style? Where does he like to shop? Is he willing to splash cash either on transfer fees or wages for the right players? Obviously Wigan has a bit more money than Brentford, what sort of signings should we expect?

This is a toughie. I can’t be sure who initiated the decision to bring in particular players. I do know for example Uwe was incredibly keen on Marcello Trotta. When we failed to get promoted, Uwe wanted to bring Marcello back but for various reasons, it was decided that was best if we looked elsewhere. When the season started, we we still short of a striker and to make matters worse, Conor McAleney got injured within the first month. We tried desperately hard to bring in a striker before the deadline but were turned down repeatedly. After the deadline closed, Uwe then requested he bring Trotta back from Fulham on loan and the wish was granted. The move was met with anger from a large section of the Brentford fanbase (I will be quick to point out that Beesotted was behind Trotta’s move back to Griffin Park from day one). Trotta went on to show what a great player he is by putting in a shift and scoring some crucial goals for the team this season including the one away to Orient in mid March which, in effect, sealed our promotion to The Championship.

That was an incredibly brave move by Uwe. But he believed in Trotta and wanted him to prove to people what he was capable of. Yes he’s still green and makes mistakes but he’s young and is developing. We’re currently trying to sign him but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up at Wigan if Fulham decide to cash in on him.

Uwe likes to give younger more enthusiastic players a chance to grow with him. Interesting that he pulled Rob Kiernan from Southend and put him in your team (Rob was at Brentford on loan last season and we were meant to be getting him on loan in January but it fell through much to our disappointment). I was very surprised he let Dicko go though. I seriously thought Uwe was going to send him to Brentford when he pulled him from Rotherham or keep him. He was just the type of player we needed. I was gutted when he went to Wolves. I believe his signing turned their season as they were third and we were top when they signed him. 13 goals in 16 starts says it all.

I feel Uwe would be prepared to splash cash if the player is right. But he won’t go overboard Harry Redknapp-stylee as he believes every player has a value and that should adhered to. He bought Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg for £350k plus which was big money for us. He scored 20 goals from Walsall the season before. So far he hasn’t quite worked out for us but it will be interesting to see how he fairs in the Championship.

Uwe has used a variety of tactical formations here at Wigan, using either a conventional back four or a line of three central defenders and wing backs. Did he have a preferred team shape at Brentford?

Uwe would often switch formation during the game. But we would normally go for four at the back, four or five in the midfield and one or two up front. normally 4-5-1 away from home. Or maybe 4-4-1-1 with a player in “the hole”. Then some time during the game we would switch to a traditional 4-4-2. But we have never played with three centre backs as far as I can remember. Sometimes a player would drop back from midfield and play deeper just in front of the centre backs.

Uwe also believed massively in wing backs with Jake Bidwell and Shaelum Logan (who was then replaced by Alan McCormack) careering down the wings. This season, we have been playing a lot of games 4-4-3. I have a feeling Uwe instigated the 4-3-3 switch post Stevenage when we brought in Kadeem Harris to bomb up and down that left wing. But then I can’t be sure. It’s been a long season trust me.

One last question – squad discipline. Did Uwe have to deal with anything such as players drink driving or causing trouble. Any public reprimanding?

There were a few incidents I know about but I would rather not repeat them in public. They were obviously kept under wraps for a reason. Some things are best held down in order to maintain the equilibrium within the team. But a job of a manager is to manage a team of individuals. And that will involve making some tough calls. There were dressing room politics and personal battles at Brentford for sure. That will be the same in any team. How the manager deals with it is the important thing. The Stevenage dressing room lock-in allowed a number of issues that were festering to come out. It obviously did the job as we went on a 19 match unbeaten run after that. That to me was good man-management.

From what I can gather, Uwe was an incredibly firm but fair manager. He wanted things done his way and he would be meticulous in ensuring that that happened. He was a big believer in team spirit and bonding. That’s why he took the team over to Germany two seasons running for a training and bonding exercise. The fans were invited over to stay in the team hotel the first season as Uwe felt that having the fans and team bonding together was an important exercise in the club moving forward together. Needless to say, this move went down incredibly well with the fans who felt that the team hadn’t got “too big” for them.

It was not Uwe’s style to publicly reprimand any player. Some of the stuff we have heard that has gone down behind closed doors would have definitely been made public by certain managers. But Uwe preferred to keep a lid on it. And even at times blame himself or himself and the team together for things when they didn’t go to plan. Which was a refreshing change to our previous manager Andy Scott who week in and week out used to blame the players for any failings without criticizing himself occasionally for poor tactics or team selection.

The final thing I would say about Uwe is he is still learning. He will make mistakes but he puts his hand up and readily admits that. But if the club allows him to grow with them, he will make a great manager. I personally don’t believe he has quite finalised his staffing issues. I reckon he will bring in a few more people around him so that he has his own team to work with – just like he had at Brentford. We were all surprised that Alan Kernaghan didn’t go with him at Christmas. Maybe he will be on the way in the summer. Lovely bloke is Alan. But I say Uwe really benefitted from Brentford’s Sporting Director system. It took a lot of pressure off him as a lot of the work for finding and delivering players was being done by a man who’s full time job it was to build relationships with key clubs and unearth and present players for possible additions to the squad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Uwe was talking to Whelan at this very moment about poaching one of the premiership academy coaches for this very role.

 

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The Paderborn game is important for injury-hit Latics

The Benteler Arena, Paderborn.

The Benteler Arena, Paderborn.

On Friday Wigan Athletic travel to face SC Paderborn, newly promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history. In May, Paderborn clinched second place in the Bundesliga second division with a 2-1 win in the last game of the season at home to Aelen.

As with Latics entering the Premier League in 2005, the skeptics are not expecting Paderborn to survive for long in the higher league. Paderborn play in the Benteler Arena, which has a capacity of 15,300. They will be keen to prove their critics wrong by holding their own in the Bundesliga.

Over recent seasons Wigan Athletic have had more than their fair share of injuries and Uwe Rosler will be keen to get his squad in good physical shape for the opening Championship match against Reading on August 9th. Although they are convalescing well from major injuries, neither Chris McCann nor Ben Watson is going to be available over the coming weeks. Shaun Maloney has not played a single minute in the five pre-season matches up to this point and James McArthur’s only action has been coming on as a 72nd minute substitute at Dusseldorf. On top of that, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Rob Kiernan, James McClean and Andrew Taylor have picked up injuries in the pre-season preparations.

However, apart from the injuries, Rosler has managed to share out the playing time among the rest of the squad. Most of the senior players have amassed between 220-250 minutes of playing time in the pre-season games with Havelse, Walsall, Besiktas, Rochdale and Fortuna Dusseldorf. With so many midfield players unavailable the 21 year old Fraser Fyvie and 20 year old Tim Chow have stepped up to the plate and have amassed 375 and 369 minutes of playing time respectively. Another young player, James Tavernier, has played 332 minutes. Of the senior pros Leon Barnett has had the most playing time, 290 minutes. The three goalkeepers have shared the playing time, with Ali Al-Habsi having slightly more than Scott Carson or Lee Nicholls.

The last pre-season match typically provides indicators as to the manager’s preferred starting XI from the players available. Rosler will be keen to get his most experienced players ready for the beginning of the league season, but will have to tread lightly in the case of James McArthur, who is still trying to overcome an injury suffered at the end of last season. Rosler will look for experience in midfield and Don Cowie is likely to be a starter. Fraser Fyvie has come in from the cold and it will be hard for Rosler to leave him out of the starting lineup, given his good recent performances.

In defence the injury worry is Andrew Taylor, likely to be the preferred left back against Reading. Given the inexperience of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Roger Espinoza might be retained as a left wing back. There are good options in the rest of the defence. Ivan Ramis has played in all five pre-season matches, with 272 minutes of game time. Rosler will be hoping to get the Spaniard to the level of fitness he had before that cruciate knee injury at Fulham. He is likely to line up in the centre of defence with Emmerson Boyce. Leon Barnett and Thomas Rogne have both played in all five games and will challenge for a place, together with Rob Kiernan, if he is fit. The solid and dependable James Perch is likely to start at right back, with the more attacking option of James Tavernier available later in the game.

It could be anyone’s guess who will start in goal. Latics are blessed with two experienced and highly capable ‘keepers in Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson, with the huge potential of Lee Nicholls breathing down their necks.

Up front we can expect Oriel Riera to play as the target man. Callum McManaman has been getting fitter and fitter and the 90 minutes he put in at Dusseldorf is something he has not been able to do for a long time. McManaman is typically played on the flanks, but might well find himself in a more central role, effectively as a second striker. Latics have been so short of players with the ability to finish, but Riera and McManaman are players who can show the kind of coolness and poise needed to put the ball in the back of the net. Martyn Waghorn scored two goals against Besiktas and will challenge for a starting spot.

Following a poor defensive display at Dusseldorf, Latics will be keen to tighten up at Paderborn. Once again Rosler will employ his high pressing, high intensity tactic in the hope that Latics can sustain it throughout the match.

The Paderborn match is an important one for Rosler in that he needs to get his key available players as match fit as possible. Paderborn will provide tough opposition, but Rosler will be looking at the performances of individual players more than at the result of the game. Last year Owen Coyle’s squad enjoyed success in terms of results in their US tour, but were to be palpably short of match fitness as the season progressed. Rosler and his conditioning team are clearly demanding more of the players and despite the current injury situation, they will are unlikely to be deterred. The success of the high tempo style that Rosler seeks is dependent on the players’ physical abilities to meet its demands.

It promises to be a fascinating contest and an indication of what we can expect over the coming weeks.

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Team selection and shape, loan players and discipline – A Brentford View of Uwe’s Tactics: Part 2

 

Billy down the pub with Rosler signings Brentford captain Tony Craig and Alan McCormack (and the rest of the team) the night Brentford won promotion.

Billy down the pub with Rosler signings Brentford captain Tony Craig and Alan McCormack (and the rest of the team) the night Brentford won promotion.

Following Uwe Rosler’s appointment in December, Billy Grant gave us a fan’s view of the German’s time at Brentford (click here to see the previous article). Six months later we have come back to Billy to give us more of his insight.

Billy writes for the Brentford fanzine http://www.Beesotted.co.uk (Twitter – @beesotted). He will also be travelling to his sixth World Cup this year, video-blogging his way around the country for All Mouth No Action’s ‘World Cup FanCam’. You can follow Billy by RSS linking http://www.worldcupfancam.com. Also follow him on twitter @worldcupfancam and @billythebee99. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldcupfancam.

This is Part 2 of our look at Rosler’s footballing philosophy and tactical style through the eyes of this knowledgeable Brentford fan. Click here to see Part 1 on high pressing and squad rotation.

Fans here find it hard to predict Uwe’s lineups and substitutions can be even harder to predict. Granted that much of this might have been down to having to rotate his squad and save players for upcoming matches. Do have any insight into what his rationale might be?

Not really. One reason why Uwe used to rotate the team was he would try and adapt the Brentford team depending on the opposition. Many fans wanted him to stick to the same team and let the opposition worry about us. That obviously changed after the Stevenage game when he stuck with the same team week in and week out.

To be fair to Uwe, he would often change the team quite radically as well as the tactics if it was not working in the first half. More often than not, this has proven to have positive results with the changes turning the game around. His teams were also known for fighting till the very very end. Brentford were well known for scoring important goals very late in the game – this I believe was down to the team’s increased fitness levels that Uwe insisted on, an incredible team spirit within the side fostered by Uwe and an alteration in the team, formation and or tactics.

Uwe’s masterstrokes were becoming legendary.

At Loftus Road in the playoff semi final we saw the hoof once more rear its ugly head. That was what fans might have expected more from Coyle’s teams than Rosler’s. Over the past months it has become more and more prevalent. A measured long pass is one thing, but hoofing forward speculative high balls to the opposition defence is something else. It could have been a symptom of mental tiredness on the part of the players, but did Uwe manage to keep a lid on it when at Brentford?

We saw a bit of both at Brentford. There was the total passing game which was interspersed with a long ball game. In division one, Uwe learned that pretty football did not always get you the results you wanted. Long ball was sometimes effective for Brentford although after three seasons of seeing our style change, many fans would get p!ssed off if we resorted to a long ball game.

We had a striker, Farid El Alagui, who was a big fans’ favourite who used to attack aerial balls and chase everything down with a passion. Unfortunately, he got injured early on in the “Doncaster” season and when he came back a year later at the beginning of the promotion season, our football style had changed somewhat. Brentford were beginning to rely a lot less on playing the long ball game. Farid was reduced to an occasional substitute. Ironically, in quite a few games he came on in, he managed to switch the game up and score. Brentford fans wanted to keep Farid as an option so that we could switch to a “B” plan which involved playing a more direct style of football. But he was used less and less and eventually was loaned to Dundee Utd just after Uwe left.

I was actually at Loftus Road in the Wigan end for the QPR game with Laney the Beesotted founder. Uwe kindly sorted us out match tickets. We blame ourselves for Wigan losing. Brentford have a terrible record in the playoffs – losing every 7 of the playoffs we have been in – so I’m surprised he let us anywhere near the match with our dismal playoff record. Saying that, Uwe is totally practical when it comes to superstition not believing that past Brentford’s failures should have any impact on current games. I think he may take a different view after we lost to Yeovil in the final once again last year and our jonah appearance at Loftus Rd.

My personal opinion was with so much at stake, Uwe probably played it a little bit too cautious at QPhah. It reminded me of some games at Brentford back in the day. Lots of good skillful passing play. Getting the ball up to front men quickly who are unable to deliver. Giving the ball away in midfield needlesslessly at times. Quite frustrating as naturally, we wanted you guys to win. But his argument will be – Wigan were playing away from home so you keep it tight and hit the opposition with a sucker punch and all of a sudden they’re chasing you for the game. That’s when you switch it up in the last 20 minutes with substitutions to expose those gaps.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work that way.

How successfully did Uwe use the loan system at Brentford? Things did not work out well for him here with many of his loan players. Not one of them appeared in the starting lineups in the two playoff games. What proportion of loan players “made it” at Brentford. How many were later to sign permanent contracts?

Brentford have a wicked loan system. We have a sporting director who’s main role is dealing with the player side of things. Current manager Mark Warburton was sporting director when Uwe was manager. The two very much worked as a team. Who actually found specific players we signed I cannot say for sure. But as Warburton’s background and passion is developing youth team players, I can only assume that it was he who developed relationships with a number of premier league academies as he created the NextGen series (sort of the champions league for academy teams). As a result I can then assume that he  recommended the signing of young Everton academy players Luke Bidwell, Adam Forshaw (league one player of the year this season) and Conor McAleney, as well as players like Harlee Dean (Southampton), Kadeem Harris (Cardiff), Tom Adeyemi (Norwich) and Marcello Trotta (Fulham). I may be wrong though. Bidwell, Forshaw and Dean played a good season or so on loan for the Bees before becoming permanent signings.

Adeyemi was great for Brentford in the “Doncaster” season and we tried to buy him in the summer. We would have got him if we got promoted but Birmingham waded in and promised him Championship football so he left for them. We’re still trying to sign Trotta after he matured massively after “crossbar-gate” in the last league game of last season. He’ll probably end up at Wigan as will George Saville (Chelsea) who had a great debut season for us and Uwe tried to sign in the January window. We tried to sign him too but he’s going places and has already said his farewells to Brentford after the team’s promotion holiday in Vegas.

The policy Brentford has is to pick up players with great potential but still needing a lot of developing. Then give them match time and try and sign them from the parent club on a deal which gives the club a decent sell-on clause.

Matthew Benham the owner also keeps an eye on what is happening in the transfer market and, as he owns a company which analyses football data of players worldwide, he occasionally throws in suggestions of players Brentford should look at. But it is ultimately down to the manager and sporting director to see whether these players fit into the squad.

We did have a number of duff loan and permanent signings too. Paul Hayes comes to mind as a striker with potential that just didn’t work out. His fitness levels were apparently incredibly poor and his work rate wasnot up to Uwe’s standards. He was on decent money too. it’s no secret that him and Uwe fell out. He was banished to the development team, trained on his own at stages and was loaned out to Plymouth and Crawley. We ended up having to pay him off as no one would even take him on loan for any period of time.

Bradley Wright-Philips I feel was also a disappointment. Yes he scored a last minute equaliser up at Bramall Lane when we were down to 9 men which will always be remembers for years to come as one of the great Brentdord matches .. But the reality is if he had scored more goals in his loan spell at the end of “Doncaster” season we would not have had to rely on Marcello Trotta to score that 94th minute penalty to get automatic promotion to the Championship.

Czech striker Martin Fillo played for Uwe in Norway. We signed him on a season-long loan but he didn’t make the grade. Maybe this was a reflection of the standard of our division where players who looked great playing in the Norwegian league, couldn’t even make the bench in a Division One side. Lesson learned for Uwe there.

This last season, the decision was made that the manager, sporting director and owner had to agree on all signings. That I believe helped to ensure there we maximised the potential of all our signings and didn’t repeat the Paul Hayes mistake.

So to answer your question, Uwe played the loan system very well at Brentford. He had a great team of people to work with to make sure the right decisions were being made and to bounce off. Something he will need at Wigan I reckon.

What is Uwe’s transfer market style? Where does he like to shop? Is he willing to splash cash either on transfer fees or wages for the right players? Obviously Wigan has a bit more money than Brentford, what sort of signings should we expect?

This is a toughie. I can’t be sure who initiated the decision to bring in particular players. I do know for example Uwe was incredibly keen on Marcello Trotta. When we failed to get promoted, Uwe wanted to bring Marcello back but for various reasons, it was decided that was best if we looked elsewhere. When the season started, we we still short of a striker and to make matters worse, Conor McAleney got injured within the first month. We tried desperately hard to bring in a striker before the deadline but were turned down repeatedly. After the deadline closed, Uwe then requested he bring Trotta back from Fulham on loan and the wish was granted. The move was met with anger from a large section of the Brentford fanbase (I will be quick to point out that Beesotted was behind Trotta’s move back to Griffin Park from day one). Trotta went on to show what a great player he is by putting in a shift and scoring some crucial goals for the team this season including the one away to Orient in mid March which, in effect, sealed our promotion to The Championship.

That was an incredibly brave move by Uwe. But he believed in Trotta and wanted him to prove to people what he was capable of. Yes he’s still green and makes mistakes but he’s young and is developing. We’re currently trying to sign him but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up at Wigan if Fulham decide to cash in on him.

Uwe likes to give younger more enthusiastic players a chance to grow with him. Interesting that he pulled Rob Kiernan from Southend and put him in your team (Rob was at Brentford on loan last season and we were meant to be getting him on loan in January but it fell through much to our disappointment). I was very surprised he let Dicko go though. I seriously thought Uwe was going to send him to Brentford when he pulled him from Rotherham or keep him. He was just the type of player we needed. I was gutted when he went to Wolves. I believe his signing turned their season as they were third and we were top when they signed him. 13 goals in 16 starts says it all.

I feel Uwe would be prepared to splash cash if the player is right. But he won’t go overboard Harry Redknapp-stylee as he believes every player has a value and that should adhered to. He bought Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg for £350k plus which was big money for us. He scored 20 goals from Walsall the season before. So far he hasn’t quite worked out for us but it will be interesting to see how he fairs in the Championship.

Uwe has used a variety of tactical formations here at Wigan, using either a conventional back four or a line of three central defenders and wing backs. Did he have a preferred team shape at Brentford?

Uwe would often switch formation during the game. But we would normally go for four at the back, four or five in the midfield and one or two up front. normally 4-5-1 away from home. Or maybe 4-4-1-1 with a player in “the hole”. Then some time during the game we would switch to a traditional 4-4-2. But we have never played with three centre backs as far as I can remember. Sometimes a player would drop back from midfield and play deeper just in front of the centre backs.

Uwe also believed massively in wing backs with Jake Bidwell and Shaelum Logan (who was then replaced by Alan McCormack) careering down the wings. This season, we have been playing a lot of games 4-4-3. I have a feeling Uwe instigated the 4-3-3 switch post Stevenage when we brought in Kadeem Harris to bomb up and down that left wing. But then I can’t be sure. It’s been a long season trust me.

One last question – squad discipline. Did Uwe have to deal with anything such as players drink driving or causing trouble. Any public reprimanding?

There were a few incidents I know about but I would rather not repeat them in public. They were obviously kept under wraps for a reason. Some things are best held down in order to maintain the equilibrium within the team. But a job of a manager is to manage a team of individuals. And that will involve making some tough calls. There were dressing room politics and personal battles at Brentford for sure. That will be the same in any team. How the manager deals with it is the important thing. The Stevenage dressing room lock-in allowed a number of issues that were festering to come out. It obviously did the job as we went on a 19 match unbeaten run after that. That to me was good man-management.

From what I can gather, Uwe was an incredibly firm but fair manager. He wanted things done his way and he would be meticulous in ensuring that that happened. He was a big believer in team spirit and bonding. That’s why he took the team over to Germany two seasons running for a training and bonding exercise. The fans were invited over to stay in the team hotel the first season as Uwe felt that having the fans and team bonding together was an important exercise in the club moving forward together. Needless to say, this move went down incredibly well with the fans who felt that the team hadn’t got “too big” for them.

It was not Uwe’s style to publicly reprimand any player. Some of the stuff we have heard that has gone down behind closed doors would have definitely been made public by certain managers. But Uwe preferred to keep a lid on it. And even at times blame himself or himself and the team together for things when they didn’t go to plan. Which was a refreshing change to our previous manager Andy Scott who week in and week out used to blame the players for any failings without criticizing himself occasionally for poor tactics or team selection.

The final thing I would say about Uwe is he is still learning. He will make mistakes but he puts his hand up and readily admits that. But if the club allows him to grow with them, he will make a great manager. I personally don’t believe he has quite finalised his staffing issues. I reckon he will bring in a few more people around him so that he has his own team to work with – just like he had at Brentford. We were all surprised that Alan Kernaghan didn’t go with him at Christmas. Maybe he will be on the way in the summer. Lovely bloke is Alan. But I say Uwe really benefitted from Brentford’s Sporting Director system. It took a lot of pressure off him as a lot of the work for finding and delivering players was being done by a man who’s full time job it was to build relationships with key clubs and unearth and present players for possible additions to the squad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Uwe was talking to Whelan at this very moment about poaching one of the premiership academy coaches for this very role.

Best of luck for next season. But not too much luck. We’re in the same division now remember.

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