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.

Three points thrown away – Brighton 1 Wigan Athletic 0

BrightonPier

Latics missed a golden opportunity to pick up three much needed points against a Brighton side that was there for the taking.

We have come to expect some unusual team selections from Uwe Rosler and last night’s was no exception. It left one with a sense of foreboding, even before the game started.

Marc-Antoine Fortune was rested and Rosler brought in Martyn Waghorn at centre forward, leaving Oriel Riera on the bench and Andy Delort out altogether. An even bigger shocker was the absence of Ivan Ramis at centre back, Rosler bringing in James Perch to play there in place of the suspended Leon Barnett. Despite his indifferent recent form, Rob Kiernan kept his place at centre back. Rosler continued with his modified 4-4-2 system, with Don Cowie on the wide right of a central midfield trio of Roger Espinoza, Adam Forshaw and Shaun Maloney. James McClean played wide on the left.

Wigan were playing with a new pairing in the centre of defence and it showed in the first minute when Gary Gardner was gifted a goal. The home team had built up a nice move resulting in a cross from Elliot Bennett which Latics’ defence failed to clear.

Latics gradually started to assert themselves but Brighton remained dangerous in breakaways. Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira had the freedom of the park in a Wigan midfield lacking steel. That same player was unlucky not to score in the 14th minute when Kazema LuaLua squared the ball across to him in the penalty box. Luckily for Wigan Teixeira’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and Latics survived.

As Wigan came more into the game Brighton went into their shell, hoping to protect their lead for three points they desperately needed. However, despite having the possession Latics could not seriously test Albion’s 18 year old goalkeeper, Christian Walton.

The second half saw Latics continue to dominate possession, with Brighton massing their defence and making little effort to go forward. However, they could not translate their domination into goals. Walton made saves from a couple of Waghorn efforts and a rasping drive from Forshaw from outside the box. Otherwise there were decent efforts from outside the box from Maloney and Espinoza that went wide.

Despite the substitutions of McManaman for McClean and Riera for Cowie Latics just did not have the finishing to beat a team that had not won for 12 matches. But it was pleasing to see Chris McCann come on near the end for Espinoza following his long absence.

The Good

The return of Chris McCann was the highlight of the evening for the Latics. Maybe Ben Watson will make a similar cameo appearance at Bolton?

Waghorn tried hard in the lone centre forward role and had shots on target. Forshaw played with tenacity in a holding midfield role.

The Bad

The Latics back four were not tested that much by a Brighton side desperately low on confidence. However, even then the home side could quite easily have been two up in the first quarter. Tavernier continues to look vulnerable in defence and a central defensive pairing of Perch and Kiernan hardly inspires confidence. Are Rogne and Caldwell frozen out completely?

Playing Cowie in wide right midfield is a ploy that appears sound. However, Tavernier still continues to look exposed despite Cowie being there to cover him. Tavs just does not look like a Championship quality full back. Better to play him in right midfield and send Cowie back to a midfield holding role or leave him on the bench.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 6 – largely unemployed.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – strong going forward, out of touch in defence.

James Perch: 5 – a bad start, got better but had little to do.

Rob Kiernan: 5 – continues to receive the backing of the manager despite indifferent performances.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 – solid.

Adam Forshaw: 7 – industrious and committed.

Shaun Maloney: 6 – looked useful in the second half.

Roger Espinoza: 6 – worked hard.

Don Cowie: 5 – poor.

Martyn Waghorn: 7 – worked hard as the target man. Maybe more effective as the second striker?

James McClean: 5 – poor. Withdrawn after 67 minutes.

Substitutes

Callum McManaman: – could not make the difference in that last half hour.

Oriel Riera: – brought on after 75 minutes, but made little impact.

Chris McCann: – a welcome return, coming on after 84 minutes.

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Do Latics really need Adam Forshaw?

Forshaw

Rarely can a football club get as inflamed as Brentford have done these past few days. Wigan Athletic have made bids for Adam Forshaw that Brentford just don’t seem to appreciate.

“Warburton fumes as Brentford reject second ‘unacceptable’ bid from Wigan for Forshaw” was the headline in the London 24 newspaper a couple of days ago. So what is it about Latics’ bid for the ex-Everton youth player that has touched a raw nerve at the west London club?

Forshaw is clearly a key player for the Bees in their attempts to hold their own in a higher division. A 22 year old midfield player with a degree of elegance and skill, he was named League 1 Player of the Season. With Chris McCann and Ben Watson recovering from major injuries it is going to take a matter of months before they will be fit enough to challenge for a first team place again. Moreover Shaun Maloney did not play one minute in the pre-season matches. Rosler clearly likes to have a balance of experienced and young players in his squad and would see Forshaw as a good long-term investment for the club, given his age.

Manager Mark Warburton is quoted as saying “A bid is only a bid when it’s realistic. When it comes in and unsettles a player – that’s unacceptable. There’s been a second bid which is totally unacceptable.” He left Forshaw out of a pre-season friendly at the weekend against Crystal Palace because “the bid was unsettling for the player” and “he needed to go away for a couple of days to get his head straight.”

Wigan Athletic fans know all about their top players being courted by bigger clubs who do not hide their interest in the player they seek. It does not seem so long ago that Latics were receiving derisory bids for Victor Moses, but they hung in there until Chelsea eventually came in with a more realistic figure. A similar case happened with Charles N’Zogbia, who was certainly unsettled by interest from other clubs, but eventually stayed for another year and helped keep the club in the Premier League.

In effect all clubs outside the elite handful that dominate the Premier League are selling clubs. It is unsettling for a player when a bigger club takes interest in him because he wants to improve himself professionally and big clubs pay bigger salaries.

Being Player of the Year in League 1 is a great achievement for Forshaw, but there is no guarantee that he can perform to the same level in the Championship or the Premier League. Latics will be loath to pay out a big transfer fee for a player that is of yet unproven in their tier. Reports suggest that Everton will receive a sizeable chunk of the transfer fee if Forshaw does leave, having built an agreement into the deal they made with Brentford. It is rumoured that Brentford want £6m for the player, but Wigan’s first bid was £1.5m. Somewhere between the two figures would apppear realistic, but it is doubtful that Latics would stretch that far for a midfield player, given the need to strengthen other areas in the squad.

Clearly much of the Brentford venom has been aimed at Dave Whelan. He was the one who snatched Uwe Rosler from them at a time when they were on a high, with the announcement of a new stadium coming through. This time it is the Wigan chairman again, who in their eyes is trying to poach away their brightest young player without adequate compensation. Whether it is Whelan, Rosler, Jonathan Jackson or whoever else at the club who has been making the bids is academic. In the real world opening bids tend to start on the low side and gradually build up until a consensus is reached. Whelan might be a tough negotiator, but other labels currently being attached to him are clearly unfair.

But then again, do Latics really need Forshaw?

Much depends on the injury situation. Rosler tends to play with three box-to-box midfielders. Don Cowie has been brought in from Cardiff and can be expected to adopt the role previously held by Ben Watson, as an anchorman sitting in front of the back four. James McArthur is an automatic choice. In pre-season Rosler played new signing James Tavernier in midfield and his shooting, his quality crossing of the ball and ability at set pieces makes him an attractive proposition in the long term. However, Tavernier arrived at the club as a full back and only time will tell if he will develop into a quality midfielder. Should Tavernier not become a regular in midfield, Roger Espinoza is the obvious candidate for that third position. Rosler also has a revived Fraser Fyvie, loan signing Emyr Huws and under 21 player Tim Chow as possibilities in midfield.

The media has also reported Latics’ interest in Chelsea’s George Saville, who was on loan at Brentford last season. Were they to sign both Saville and Forshaw it would be interesting to see how Brentford reacted. Many Latics fans consider that Warburton over reacted to the bid for Forshaw, when it is not unusual for a manager to go back to his previous club for a player. They will also cite Whelan’s oft stated view that should any player want to move on to higher things from Wigan, he would not stand in his way, providing the price were right.

Two questions remain. Would Latics be willing to pay £3m-£4m for an extra midfield player and one who has not proved himself at Championship level? Is Rosler seeking more midfield cover because one of his current squad might be leaving?

If there is a number one priority for adding to the squad it surely lies in the acquisition of another central striker. Would those funds be better used in that area rather than spending it on Forshaw?

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James Tavernier – a Rotherham fan’s view

Taverneir

Over the past week Uwe Rosler has taken his number of new signings to four, with the acquisition of James Tavernier and Oriel Riera.

On signing Tavernier the manager quoted: “James is a player I have been tracking for a long time, dating back to my days at Brentford. He proved last season what great potential he has by being part of a very successful Rotherham side throughout the season and also in the play-offs. He will bring great competition on that side of the field, 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.”

The Bradford-born James Tavernier was part of the Leeds United youth system until moving to Newcastle United in 2008. He was to make his debut for Newcastle United at the age of 17 as a substitute in a League Cup game against Peterborough. The following season he started his first  game in another League Cup tie against Accrington Stanley. That same season he was to make his one single Premier League apperance, as a substitute against Reading. In January 2011 he was loaned out to Gateshead and further loan periods were to follow at Carlisle, Sheffield Wednesday, MK Dons, Shrewsbury and Rotherham United.

Tavernier’s track record is not impressive, but he is clearly a player who Rosler believes has the potential to develop into something special.

That last move, to Rotherham, was clearly his best and Tavernier made 27 appearances for the Millers, scoring five goals, despite predominantly playing at right back.

To find out more about Tavernier’s time at the New York Stadium we reached out to KCM North Stand @KCM_North _Stand) on Twitter, which is described as ‘the unofficial page for the KCM North Stand, New York Stadium and home to the supporters of the pride of South Yorkshire.’

22 year old Newcastle full back James Tavernier joined Rotherham United on an emergency loan deal in November which was later extended for the rest of the season. After relatively unsuccessful spells at MK Dons and Carlisle United among others South Yorkshire was where his career really took off.

Tavs instantly became a fans favourite after his debut goal and performance in the 4-1 victory over Gillingham. With bags of pace and a rocket of a shot he can play in right and centre midfield as well as his preferred right back slot. What I liked about Tavs is he always gave 100% and he really seemed to care about the club, which is something loanees often lack.

His brilliant work rate and stamina allow him to make regular surging runs upfield and he really is exciting to watch. A set piece and long shot specialist, he scored a few beauties during his time with us (most notably a brace against Bristol City if you want to have a look on YouTube).

He has tremendous amounts of energy and his overlapping runs caused a lot of problems for opposition defences this season and led to many goals. His crossing at times can be wild, but that’s the case with most full backs these days. I can’t recall him having a bad game last season and his consistency was rewarded with two Player of the Month nominations and many people thinking he was worth a place in the League 1 Team of the Year.

He very rarely missed a game for us and was an integral part in the best season in our club’s history. He and the fans got on like a house on fire, with mutual respect seemingly remaining between the two, despite his choice to turn us down.

His attacking nature can often leave the defence exposed and he has a tendency to get caught out of position. To be honest, I believe he’s far better going forward than he is defensively and may be suited to a more advanced role. Also his decision making at times can be slightly suspect, with him regularly blazing ambitious 40 yard strikes into the crowd.

However, Tavs came on leaps and bounds in his first year of consistent game time and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so. He will be a Premier League player in the not too distant future – either with or without Wigan – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him represent England one day. That’s how highly rated he is around Rotherham.

There are no hard feelings between Tavs and the Millers and I am sure he’ll get a standing ovation when he visits the New York Stadium, with a rendition of his song “Ohhh we’re half way there, ohh James Tavernier” ringing out from the North Stand.

Fantastic signing for Wigan and a massive mistake by Alan Pardew. If you want to see him in action check out this montage of his performances last season, which highlights how good he was for the Millers.

I can only thank him for his part in a season that was beyond our wildest dreams. All the best, Tavs.

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