Kvist is back – but for how long?

 

His last appearance for Latics had been as a substitute at Derby in late October. Despite that William Kvist made a successful return, playing the full 94 minutes against Blackburn Rovers yesterday.

Why had the Denmark captain been left out in the cold for so long? Can he become a regular component of Malky Mackay’s team?

Kvist is by no means an exciting player to watch. His preferred role is to sit in front of the back four, making tackles and interceptions, using the ball economically. However, given the fragility of the Wigan Athletic defence the shielding that Kvist can provide could be invaluable.

Kvist was signed at the end of the summer transfer window and has now made seven starts for Latics, with three appearances off the bench. Strangely enough until yesterday he had made as many starts for Denmark this season as he had for Latics.

The Dane arrived at Wigan with a reputation for long throw-ins. Uwe Rosler did not utilize that part of his game. However, given Malky Mackay’s focus on set plays we are likely to see him use Kvist in that way, providing he is included in the team. But will Kvist still be at Wigan two weeks from now?

There were rumours that Kvist (and Thomas Rogne) were looking to move in January. Despite the midfield functioning as badly as it has over the past weeks Mackay has stuck with long term injury returnees Chris McCann and Ben Watson. McCann has started in all ten games since Mackay arrived, being substituted only twice in the closing minutes. Although still not back to his form of last season the Irishman has done well to get back his match fitness. Watson too has been an ever-present under Mackay, although his appearance against Birmingham was off the bench. Following two long spells out following leg breaks, Watson has shown his resilience, although the standard of his play has been disappointing. Given such injuries one wonders how comfortable he is coping with the physicality of Championship teams’ midfields.

The departure of Roger Espinoza and the indifferent form of Watson surely precipitated Kvist’s return. However, the conspiracy theorists will say that his reappearance against Blackburn was an effort by Mackay to put him in the shop window, with an imminent departure a possibility. But Kvist has never let Latics down and surely deserves the opportunity to stake a claim for a regular place.

Yesterday also saw the return of the 21 year old Welshman, Emyr Huws. The ankle injury that was hampering his fight for a regular place in the starting lineup under Rosler was to put him out of action for weeks. When fully fit Huws will be a big asset. He is strong, energetic and tough in the tackle. The opposition know his skills are a threat, as indicated by the 29 fouls he has suffered, compared with the 16 he has committed.

Andy Delort continues to bide his time but at least was given more of a chance yesterday, coming on after 72 minutes, rather than the dying moments. Mackay clearly does not rate him, but Delort will want to prove him wrong. Delort’s main problem under Rosler was being played as a lone centre forward, which he is not. However, Mackay has been playing two upfront as of late and if he will give the young Frenchman a run in the team we will finally get to know whether he is capable of becoming a top striker in the Championship.

The futures of such as Kvist and Delort at Wigan are in the balance. It may well depend on which other players are offloaded. So far Espinoza, Oriol Riera and James Tavernier have been offloaded, with Liam Ridgewell coming in on a short term loan.

It looked like Shaun Maloney might go to Leicester, but the Foxes did not offer him the length of contract that he was seeking. The alternative is for him to wait until the end of the season and be in a strong negotiating position as a free agent, with Celtic and Chicago Fire both reportedly interested.

Mackay will be keen to get in funds to help him seek his own transfer preferences. If money does not come in for Maloney the departure of Callum McManaman could be hastened.

The family silver is to be sold and by the end of the season the squad could be stripped bare of quality players. If Latics stay up and Mackay is still here in August we will be seeing a different brand of football, but hopefully one with commitment from the players.

Skill alone does not suffice, particularly in the harsh world of the Championship division.

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.

A touch of steel needed at Bournemouth

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“…..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.

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Rosler is the man to take Latics forward

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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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