Holgerrson to stay?

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Markus Holgerrson is one of several Latics players whose contracts expire this summer.

The big Swede, Markus Holgerrson, at last made his debut for Wigan Athletic, albeit coming on at Blackburn as a substitute after 72 minutes.

Holgerrson was signed as a free agent from New York Red Bulls in early February, with glowing references. His contract is until the end of the current season, which is impending.

Uwe Rosler took a gamble at Blackburn by surprisingly playing Ivan Ramis in a central back line of three. The Spaniard came off at half time, to be substituted by Leon Barnett. Knowing that Ramis could be a key player in the playoffs, Rosler took the gamble of playing him despite the risk of it being too early following the hamstring injury from which he has been recuperating. Only time will tell if Rosler was right to put Ramis in there. A fit Ramis could make a big difference to the promotion push. But will he make it?

At this stage Holgerrson’s future at Wigan is uncertain. Rosler has been able to assess him in training, in the development squad and in about 20 minutes of competitive league play.

Were Holgerrson not to be offered a further contract it would not be a surprise following previous occurrences at the club. At the beginning of last season Roberto Martinez brought in two young players from Spain who had represented their country at youth and schoolboy levels. Eduard Campabadal was an exciting young right back from Barcelona who had put in good performances for the development squad. Martinez gave him his league debut in the last match of the season against Aston Villa and he did not play badly. However, for some unstated reason the 20 year old left the club over the summer and is now back in Spain playing for Cordoba. The other young prospect, forward Guillermo Andres, signed from Villareal, remains in the development squad.

The fate of Nouha Dicko does not bode well for Holgersson and others struggling to get frontline experience. As has happened with other young players at Wigan, Dicko was never given a run of games in which to establish himself. Under Roberto Martinez he went to Blackpool on loan and played well, scoring 9 goals in 32 appearances. Owen Coyle’s arrival saw him shipped off to Rotherham where he once again gave a good account of himself and scored 5 goals in 5 appearances. Despite never giving him a chance in the first choice lineup, in January Uwe Rosler sold him to Wolves where he since has scored 13 goals in 19 appearances. Given Latics’ lack of a forward who can regularly score goals the Dicko transfer was hard to fathom.

The dearth of first team opportunities for young players in particular has been a sore point at Wigan for some time. Callum McManaman had to wait so long to get his chance, as did Lee Nicholls. Their contemporaries Danny Redmond and Jordan Mustoe still have not started in a single league match despite being 23 years old and successfully negotiating Latics’ youth system and the development squad. They still remain on Latics’ books.

During his tenure at Wigan, Roberto Martinez was loath to blood young players from within the club in league games. More surprisingly Martinez gave young midfielder Fraser Fyvie little opportunity outside cup games to prove his worth. Fyvie was certainly no raw recruit, having made more than 50 appearances for Aberdeen in the SPL up to the age of 20, when he joined Latics. The current season has been a disaster for the skilful midfielder with injuries and unfortunate loan spells at Yeovil and Shrewsbury taking their toll. He has now had three managers at Wigan who have not had the confidence to give him a further league start to add to the single one he received at the same time as Campabadal against Aston Villa.

Owen Coyle took Adam Buxton to the USA for pre-season, but the young defender soon disappeared from the limelight. Over recent months he has had loan spells at Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley .

The news came out today that Honduras coach, Luis Fernando Suarez, has named both Roger Espinoza and Juan Carlos Garcia in his squad of 23 players for Brazil. The Colombian has also included ex-Latics favourites Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios. Given that Garcia has played only one senior game all season at Wigan, Suarez clearly has faith in the player’s abilities. It was a surprise that Rosler did not include Garcia in the squad for the Blackburn game on Saturday. The player still has two more years remaining on his contract.

Holgerrson is not alone in that he has a contract expiring in summer. He is joined by Jean Beausejour, Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell, Stephen Crainey, Jordi Gomez and Mike Pollitt. Moreover the loan periods will expire for Jack Collison, Josh McEachran, Nicky Maynard and Nick Powell.

For the moment Rosler will be focusing on the playoffs, which will decide which division Latics play in next year. Should it be the Premier League he might well look at retaining some of those end of contract players who have proven experience at that level. Should it be the Championship, Rosler will look at bringing down both the average age and the salary costs of his squad.

It is going to be a very different Wigan Athletic squad we will see at the beginning of next season.

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Yeovil Preview – Goliath versus David

Over recent years Wigan Athletic have typically been cast as the underdog, but nevertheless capable of slaying the biggest of giants. A second successive FA Cup victory over that Goliath of English football, Manchester City, shows what Latics can continue to do when the odds are stacked against them.

However, in tonight’s encounter at the DW Stadium it is Latics who will be the giant Goliath, with little Yeovil playing the role of David.

Like Latics, Yeovil have come a long way over the years. In fact their path up the ladder has been somewhat slower. It took them 108 years to get into the Football League after being founded in 1895. However, they  got promoted to League 1 at the end of their second season  there. They finished fifth in their first season in League 1, but languished in the bottom half of the table for the next six years.

Under manager Gary Johnson Yeovil won the League One play-offs last season. Remarkably they did that on an average crowd of 4,071 and with a budget reputed to be less than £1m.

“We’re definitely going in as the underdogs, but we said that in League One let alone the Championship. We’ve got to embrace it as a club and we’ve got to be excited about it.” said Johnson in summer.

The odds are that Wigan Athletic will be too good for a Yeovil team which stands in 23rd place, three points away from Millwall, the nearest club above the drop zone. Figures have been bandied about the social media contrasting the vastly different budgets of Latics and Manchester City. It would be interesting to get a comparison between tonight’s two clubs. Underpinned by parachute payments Latics have a large squad of players who are relatively well paid for the Championship division. The combined salaries of a handful of those players probably exceeds that of the whole Yeovil squad.

However, Lady Luck has once more stricken Wigan Athletic with a series of injuries. The excellent Leon Barnett limped off at Ipswich on Saturday and could be out for weeks with his hamstring injury. However, Latics have adequate cover in central defensive positions and Thomas Rogne will probably step in. Ivan Ramis had another good game at the weekend, but Uwe Rosler will have to weigh up whether he wants to risk the Spaniard in his second game in three days. Emmerson Boyce and James Perch are due to be rested, but Rosler will not want to disrupt the understanding that has developed in a settled defence by making too many changes. However, his hand may be forced.

It is in midfield that injuries are hitting hardest with Ben Watson, Chris McCann and Roger Espinoza unavailable. The press reports that Rosler is about to sign Jack Collison on loan from West Ham.  Although still only 25 years old Collison has made over 100 appearances for the Hammers. Not only is Collison experienced but he can play in either wide or central midfield. It is understood that Collison’s contract is up at the end of the season and that West Ham will probably release him. The situation parallels that of Martyn Waghorn, signed under similar circumstances on loan from Leicester in January. It appears to be another shrewd move by the East German.

Callum McManaman and Nicky Maynard are due to return, forming two of the front three. Nick Powell is likely to join them some time during the match. Josh McEachran is due to return in midfield and Jean Beausejour at left back.

It is unusual for Wigan Athletic to be playing the role of Goliath in a league match. They will need to roll down their sleeves to carve out a victory against a Yeovil side that has nothing to lose. Nobody expects the Somerset team to come out with a result, but Latics will surely know how Yeovil feel as the underdogs.

It promises to be a fascinating encounter.

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Ipswich Preview

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Wigan Athletic travel to Portman Road tomorrow to play their third game in six days. They will face an Ipswich Town side currently sitting in 9th place, with ambitions of reaching the play-offs.

On Wednesday Latics scraped out a win against a physical Sheffield Wednesday outfit, courtesy of an 88th minute penalty. However, they have won their last seven matches.

Ipswich will be a tough nut to crack. They have a home record of W9 D4 L4 and under Latics’ old adversary Mick McCarthy they will pose a strong physical threat. He has former Wolves players Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Christophe Berra and Stephen Hunt in his squad. They will be out to avenge a 2-0 defeat at the DW Stadium in September.

The key Ipswich man to watch is full back, Aaron Creswell. The 24 year old Liverpudlian has two goals and a remarkable eleven assists in the 31 league games he has played this season. He has also had 28 shots on goal, a high figure for a full back. Not surprisingly there has been talk in the past of Latics trying to secure his services. Uwe Rosler will be keen to curb Cresswell’s attacks and will almost certainly place a winger on the left hand side to peg him back.

Latics have had good news this week with Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney each playing 45 minutes for the development squad. The bad news was that Chris McCann, a key figure in Uwe Rosler’s plans, will be out for the rest of the season with an injury to the knee cap. McCann was badly missed on Wednesday when Latics midfield could not maintain the quality of possession that one has come to expect. To lose the Irishman so soon after losing Ben Watson is a harsh blow for Rosler.

Rosler will look to field a well-balanced and competitive midfield at Ipswich. It will be interesting to see if he will field Ryan Tunnicliffe against the team for which he made 24 appearances in the first half of the season. Tunnicliffe struggled against Sheffield Wednesday, but he is clearly the type of player Rosler needs to replace Watson and McCann.

There remains the possibility of playing Jordi Gomez in a holding role, something he did at times under Roberto Martinez. Josh McEachran too is in contention, but like Gomez lacks the physical edge that Tunnicliffe might be able to provide. Roger Espinoza remains largely marginalized and Fraser Fyvie’s career has gone backwards this season. Rosler is going to need a midfield enforcer – someone who can help close down a match – and might well choose to employ Rob Kiernan in that role.

Both Markus Holgerrson and Thomas Rogne played for the development squad in midweek. One of them is likely to lineup in the centre of defence, given Rosler’s rotation policy. Emmerson Boyce is due for a rest and Ivan Ramis is likely to step in. Rosler might well revert to a system with three central defenders.

With the return of Nick Powell, Rosler now has a wide range of attacking options available to him. Up to this point he has managed to keep his forwards fresh through shrewd use of the rotation system.

Scott Carson made a successful return from injury at the Etihad and will challenge Ali Al-Habsi for a starting spot. Rosler has the luxury of being able to rotate two quality goalkeepers as he pleases.

Once again Latics will go up against a physical team keen to beat them. In order to match the Tractor Boys physically they are going to have to do a lot of running and much will depend on the ability of a patched-up midfield to give the forwards the service they need.

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Sheffield Wednesday Preview

In mid-December a Wigan Athletic team in transition traveled to Hillsborough to play Sheffield Wednesday. Uwe Rosler had just won his opening Championship match, with a tight 3-2 win over Bolton, following an unfortunate dismissal from the Europa League at Maribor.

I noted in my match preview of the time that  “..not only will it be Latics’ third match in a week, but they are also adjusting to a new style of play. The high pressing that Rösler expects is physically demanding for players who have not managed to keep up such a pace up till now. The question is whether the lineup Rosler puts out will be able to do what he wants most of the time.”

In the event Wigan’s high pressing game proved a powerful weapon against a Wednesday team that was struggling near the bottom of the table. Wednesday were relieved that the rain caused the match to be abandoned early in the second half with Latics a goal up. Since that day their fortunes turned. Wednesday have now lost only one of their ten matches since then. Their victories include a 2-0 win at promotion candidates Reading on Saturday and a 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United on January 11th.

Wigan Athletic too have had a better run of results since then, losing only two of the nine league games in that period. However, although fitness levels may be improving many players are still finding it hard to keep up the pace needed for Rosler’s high pressing game.  The ability of a player to perform the high pressing role clearly comes into Rosler’s thinking prior to choosing his starting lineup, as Callum McManaman found on Saturday, losing his place to Martyn Waghorn, despite looking sharp in the previous game against Charlton.

It will be interesting to see Rosler’s tactical approach to the rematch tomorrow. Wednesday will be ready for the high press and full of confidence following recent results.

The German tends to go more cautiously into away games and he might well opt for his solid midfield trio of James McArthur, Chris McCann and Ben Watson in front of a flat back four. He is unlikely to be able to call upon Ivan Ramis, Thomas Rogne and Markus Holgerrson in the centre of defence, the first two only recently having returned to training and the Swede not having played since the end of his MLS season in November.  That means Emmerson Boyce continuing to partner Leon Barnett at centre back, with James Perch on the right and either Stephen Crainey or Jean Beausejour on the left.

Rosler will have to decide whether to start with his two pacy wingers, McManaman and McClean, or to play with just one. Given Waghorn’s promising performance at Huddersfield it would not be surprising to see him start, possibly in his more natural role as a central striker.

There have been concerns among fans about the lack of flair in Latics’ play over recent games. Latics certainly have flair players but the chemistry has been lacking. It is unlikely that Rosler will risk Nick Powell tomorrow and Josh McEachran is still not one hundred percent fit, although he could come off the bench. However, the mouth-watering prospect of Powell moving on to McEachran’s incisive passes is something we hope to savour fairly soon.

When Rosler has all his players match fit he will have a very strong squad and be able to operate with a flat back four or three central defenders. Other teams might be geared up to deal with his high pressing tactic, but he will be able to alter the shape of the team at his whim. He will continue to rotate his squad, but will still have a very strong bench whichever starting lineup he chooses.

It promises to be a fascinating contest tomorrow – playing Wednesday on Tuesday at Hillsborough.

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Markus Holgerrson to sign for Latics

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It is reported from reliable sources that Wigan Athletic are in the process of signing Swedish defender, Markus Holgerrson.

The highly-rated Holgersson is 28 years old, 6’2” tall and can play at right back or in the centre of defence. He comes from New York Red Bulls as a free agent, having allowed his contract to run down. He has one international cap for Sweden, having played against Qatar in January 2012.

Holgerrson started his career in 2005 with Swedish second division side Ängelholm, from a small town located on the south west coast. He played 89 matches for them, scoring six goals in his four seasons there.

He moved to the neighbouring town Helsingborg in 2009, joining first division side Helsingborgs IF. He played 80 matches and scored five goals during his three year stay there. In 2011 he was part of a Helsingborgs team that became the first Swedish club to gain the treble, winning the Swedish League, Cup and Supercup.

Holgerrson left Helsingborgs in January 2012, after allowing his contract to expire, joining the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. At the time of his signing coach Hans Backe was quoted as saying that “We need a strong physical back on our team.”

Holgerrson was to prove to be just that. He was named the Red Bulls defender of the year in his first season, making 31 starts, more than any other defender at the club. In 2013 he was to make 32 appearances in a successful season when the Red Bulls won the Eastern Conference before going out to Houston Dynamo in the quarter finals of the play-offs.

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