Short term loans or home grown talent?

Francisco Junior's one month loan has been extended to January.

Francisco Junior’s one month loan has been extended to January.

The last match of the 2014-15 season at Brentford typified the kind of football we had been witnessing far too often.

Latics had dominated the game up to the 25th minute, at least in terms of possession. But once a wicked deflection had beaten Lee Nicholls a team with such brittle confidence was never going to be up to the task of getting back into the game. What was to follow was merely a replay of the football we had seen so often over those past months.

Toothless in attack, woeful in defence, passing awful. But there were some saving graces in that 3-0 whitewash.

Gary Caldwell had already sent Leon Clarke back to Wolves and he left out young loanees Josh Murphy, Sheyi  Ojo  and Jerome Sinclair for the visit to Griffin Park.  Moreover he had given Tim Chow the chance to show what he could do in the first team, the 21 year old rewarding his manager’s faith with a headed goal in his first start against Brighton. Caldwell was to give Lee Nicholls his first start of the season in goal. Then after 64 minutes he introduced the 19 year old Jordan Flores and 18 year old Louis Robles for their debuts.

Caldwell’s actions looked like a bold statement at the time, giving a chance to home grown players. Fans had been asking questions for months. Why had Malky Mackay continued to ignore the young talent already at Wigan, giving priority to those from the likes of Liverpool and Norwich?

Caldwell was to continue in a similar vein in the pre-season, bringing in a host of development squad players alongside the senior professionals for the games at Altrincham and Southport.  Then Flores, Robles and Ryan Jennings were to make the starting lineup against Partick Thistle, the latter scoring a well taken goal. Sadly Chow was injured in the next game at Dundee and has not yet reappeared. But Flores was to go a step further with an excellent performance in his first competitive game as a starter against  Bury in the League Cup, with Jennings making his debut off the bench.

Caldwell has sent a clear message to the youth ranks within the club – if you can show you are good enough we will give you the chance. Had he learned from the mistakes of his hapless predecessor?

Mackay’s first signing had been that of Liam Ridgewell on a six week loan. Fans immediately questioned the value of such a short term loan, some suggesting that Portland Timbers had sent him to get match fit for the upcoming MLS season.  Ridgewell certainly did not look fit in his first game, being taken off after 45 minutes at Birmingham. However, little by little he was to impose some stability into a rickety Wigan back line. Mackay was to replace Ridgewell with the loan of Harry Maguire from Hull.

With the departure of thirteen senior players over the January transfer window, Mackay had a mountain to climb. It could be argued that the loan of Ridgewell was  a qualified success and Maguire did even better. Mackay was unlucky in losing the experienced loanee Chris Herd to serious injury early on in his stay, but it was his signing of young, developing players from other clubs that was to mystify the fans.

However, Mackay was faced with the likelihood of a threadbare squad and had to find loan players to bring in. The mid-season loan market was never going to supply Mackay with the quantity of experienced players he needed to fend off relegation. Moreover the signing of young loanees would come with strings attached, their clubs wanting some kind of reassurances that their players would be given first team opportunities.

Despite the positive messages Caldwell has sent out to young players within the club, he has also involved himself in the recruitment of young loan players, with Francisco Junior (23) and Sean Murray (21) being signed on a one month basis, and Jonjoe Kenny (18) for two months.

Having created a positive impression, both on and off the field, Junior’s loan has since been extended until January.  Should he continue to progress there would be a likelihood of a permanent deal, given that the player’s contract at Everton terminates at the end of the season. In the case of Junior it can be argued that the club had given itself time to fully assess the player before committing itself to a more long term deal.

Murray’s  case has been less straightforward. Junior had been recruited in July, giving him time to settle in during the pre-season. Murray joined in early August, making his debut as a 72nd minute substitute  at Coventry. He was ineligible to play in the League Cup match against Bury, but came back as a substitute against Doncaster (54th minute), Scunthorpe (76th minute) and Gillingham (46th minute). Unlike Junior, Murray has a wealth of senior team experience with 75 appearances for Watford, despite being only 21 years old.

With the impending returns of Tim Chow and Emyr Huws from injury, Caldwell has a significant number of midfielders at his disposal. On Saturday he chose to bring on Murray ahead of Max Power who has impressed in his early games for the club. Time is running out on Murray’s loan and Caldwell may be faced with having to make a decision on the player’s future at the club without being able to give him a starting berth.

Kenny is clearly a different type of proposition to Junior and Kenny. Although only 18 years old he is already looking like a future Premier League player.  With the injury to Kevin McNaughton, Caldwell will be leaning heavily on the youngster in the coming weeks. Although there may be possibilities for permanent signings in the cases of Murray and Junior, it is a matter of time before Kenny goes back to Everton. Should Caldwell be able to lengthen Kenny’s loan beyond that initial two months period he will surely do it.

Caldwell has already brought in 15 new players to the club and there will surely be more to come in the next couple of weeks. Some will be permanent signings, others loanees. There will also be more outgoings.

The long saga of Billy Mckay and Dundee United will surely be resolved soon. Caldwell had given Mckay his first start in that Brentford game and it will probably be the Northern Ireland international’s last at the club. With Mckay off the books and Shaq Coulthirst back at Tottenham, Caldwell will be anxious to bring in another striker, even if Grant Holt regains full fitness and is back by October.

Rumours are circulating regarding interest in Wycombe’s 22 year old central defender Aaron Pierre. The futures of both Leon Barnett and Chris McCann remain uncertain.

Caldwell will surely continue to keep the door open for home grown talent. Sending the 18 year old Sam Cosgrove out to Barrow on a short term loan looks like a good move. One wonders if Caldwell will look at similar opportunities for the likes of Flores, Jennings and Robles, or whether he will be able to offer them ample first team opportunities with the club.

In the meantime Caldwell will continue to scour the transfer market. His squad is close to being complete but there are still pieces missing in his jigsaw puzzle. Moreover it will be interesting to see if he will continue to look at short term loans as a means of assessing players with a view to signing them in the future or uses them as temporary to provide replacements to cover for injuries.

The “new era” has begun with one outstanding performance and four indifferent ones. However, the changes in the squad are still not complete and it is going to take some time before everything comes together. Despite the young chairman’s unfortunate “smashing League 1 ” statement it is clear that there are going to be some difficult times ahead for Caldwell and his squad.

A mid-table place by Christmas might be the best that we can expect. It is in the second half of the season that we are most likely to see Caldwell’s plans move towards fruition.

 

 

A large squad poses problems for Rosler

 

It reads Ali Al-Habsi , Leon Barnett, Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell, Scott Carson, Don Cowie, Andy Delort, Roger Espinoza, Adam Forshaw, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Fraser Fyvie, Juan Carlos Garcia (on loan), Grant Holt (on loan), Emyr Huws, Rob Kiernan,William Kvist, Shaun Maloney, James McClean, Callum McManaman, Lee Nicholls, James Perch, Ivan Ramis, Oriol Riera, Thomas Rogne, Chris McCann, James Tavernier, Andrew Taylor, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair , Martyn Waghorn, Ben Watson.

But let’s not forget to add the name of Maynor Figueroa to the list.

The Honduran got a deserved warm welcome from the DW crowd on his return to action for Wigan Athletic. It was a bolt out of the blue. Who could have expected the stalwart who had made 148 appearances in five years at Wigan to come back?

The addition of Figueroa means there are now 31 names on the above squad list. If we consider Figueroa’s primary position to be that of left back, it means that Latics now have four who play there. Does the squad really need to be so big? Has it just happened or was it planned? How is Uwe Rosler going to keep so many players happy?

Before the transfer deadline the list numbered 27, but included long-term absentees Chris McCann and Ben Watson whose returns to action were looking distant at that time. However, the recent news on the two has been uplifting and fans will be looking forward to seeing the two back in action in the near future.

 

 

With six extra games coming up in the Europa League last season, Owen Coyle saw the need for a large squad. He signed ten new players and brought in two more on loan. At this time last year Coyle had 25 players in his senior squad, but three were long-term absentees through injury.

The return of Figueroa serves to remind us of how the club’s circumstances have changed. The Honduran was one of Roberto Martinez’s key players. He originally played at left back, but when Martinez switched to a 3-4-3 system in the middle of the 2012-13 season, he played with great effect on the left hand side of the back three. Latics were to go on to that winning spree against the finest in the land. Given the current state of affairs at the club many of us are beginning to wonder if we will ever see that quality of football again.

Figueroa gives Rosler options. Reportedly brought in because of an injury to Andrew Taylor we can expect him to be largely employed as a left back. However, given Ivan Ramis’ hamstring problem and a trip to a strong Derby County on Saturday, Rosler might be tempted to revert to 3-5-2 with Figueroa in the back three and James Perch at left wing back.

The critics will say that Rosler’s acquisition of Figueroa on a month’s loan smacks of desperation. Moreover he had cover at left back in Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, who arrived at the club with a fine reputation following a stint at Partick Thistle. It could be argued that the 23 year old is not yet ready for the hurly burly of Championship football. However, Rosler has brought young James Tavernier in at right back for the last couple of games and Taylor-Sinclair could hardly have performed worse than the rest of the players who played against Millwall.

Rosler’s squad has swelled in numbers because he has brought in ten players since his arrival, with not so many leaving. Ironically the players who did leave included quality players such as Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and James McArthur.

If the squad remains so large Rosler will be hamstrung in efforts to bring in loan players when the transfer window reopens. He will be keen to send more players out on loan as well as bringing funds in by offloading more senior professionals through permanent transfers. He has already signaled the departure of Roger Espinoza back to the United States and that could happen sooner rather than later.

In the meantime Rosler has exacerbated his problems in keeping a large squad happy by bringing in Figueroa. Let’s hope that the arrival of that icon of days gone by will help raise the spirits in a squad that is low in confidence and self-belief.

Only time will tell if Rosler was right or wrong in bringing the likeable Honduran back.

 

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Will Powell be back for the playoffs?

nick-powell-wigan

Wigan Athletic have a paltry goalscoring record this season, notching just 81 goals in 60 matches. But among the goals they have scored there have been some absolute crackers. Jean Beausejour’s rocket shot at Derby, Jordi Gomez’s free kicks, Roger Espinoza’s 35 yard blinder against MK Dons.

But in terms of sheer self-confidence and artistry Nick Powell’s second goal in the Europa League home game against Maribor stands out. It is the kind of thing that one might expect to happen at places like the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu, but it was certainly a joy to see it at the DW.

Powell was the hero for Latics that night. His first goal had come after 22 minutes from a simple header into an empty net after the Slovenian goalkeeper had made a hash of a punch. Ben Watson scored with a header from Jean Beausejour’s cross some 12 minutes later. But Maribor clawed their way back into the game as Latics went flat, scoring after 61 minutes. Powell’s deciding goal came in the 91st minute when he somehow found the energy that most of his teammates did not have to slalom through the visitor’s defence and score with aplomb.

That was in early October and Powell’s stock was high. His name was being touted around the media as the one who could go back to Old Trafford and lift his parent club out of their lethargy.

Owen Coyle was clearly delighted to sign Powell on loan last August, saying “I said to David (Whelan) when I was bringing him in, for me it was a win-win-win situation.We would win out of it because we got a terrific player, Nick Powell would win because I’ve given him a platform to showcase his talents and Manchester United will get back a more-developed player with more experience and a player who can challenge; as we’ve done before with the Sturridges and the Wilsheres.There’s no doubt from me he can have a huge career.”

During the time Coyle was at Wigan it looked like his assessment of Powell’s potential might be right. The 19 year old was to get rich experience in Europe, starting in five of the six Europa League games and coming on for the last half hour in the other in Kazan. His first appearance for Latics was coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester on September 14th. Five days later he started in the unfamiliar centre forward position in the 0-0 draw with Zulte Waregem in Bruges. With experienced central strikers Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune struggling with injuries, Powell soon established himself in that position.

Alex Ferguson had signed him from Crewe in July 2012. Powell had been a boy wonder with the Railwaymen, making his debut at the age of 16. He was to get lots of media attention scoring a spectacular goal for Crewe in the 2012 League 2 playoff final, but he had already agreed on a move to Old Trafford before then.

The iconic Dario Gradi, Director of Football at Crewe, explained what Ferguson saw in Powell: “He is athletic, he’s a good size, he’s good physically and he’s bright, he knows where people are around him. His clever with his play, he’s not just twinkle toes. Nick’s got a brain and a desire and Alex spotted it on the strength of one outing.”

Powell had become a key player in Coyle’s squad. Given the number of games Latics were facing Coyle was operating a rotation policy but Powell seemed to be the one Latics forward who could go the full 90 minutes on a regular basis. It prompted fans to wonder about the fitness levels of his team mates. At the time of the Scot leaving the club in December, Powell had made 14 starts, 3 appearances as a substitute and scored 6 goals.

In both of Graham Barrow’s games in charge, Powell started, but was substituted early in the second half. He was pulled off after 65 minutes in Uwe Rosler’s first game, the 2-1 defeat at Maribor. However, in the next match he came back to play the full ninety against Bolton, scoring with a bicycle kick in Latics’ 3-2 win.

He scored a goal in the 2-1 win at Reading in the next match, but was taken off at half time. Around that time in late December media speculation over Powell’s future was going haywire. The main theme was that Manchester United were going to recall him from his loan spell. Another version was that he was either going to go on loan to another Premier League club for the rest of the season or another club was to sign him. The names of Everton and Swansea were often quoted.

In the event, Powell was to stay at Wigan until the end of the season. His next goals came after coming on in the 60th minute in the FA Cup tie at MK Dons when Latics were in trouble. His two well- taken goals helped them reach the fourth round.

Injury caused Powell to miss the month of February and he returned to the field on March 12th coming on in the 54th minute in the 1-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday. Since then Powell has only completed two games, including a goal in the 3-3 home draw with Yeovil. His other goal was an 88th minute equalizer at Bolton, after coming on at the 70 minute mark. The last game he completed was the 1-0 defeat at QPR on March 25th.

Since Uwe Rosler’s arrival, Powell has made 12 starts, 10 appearances off the bench and scored 6 goals. The stats paint a different story than in the first half of the season under Coyle.

Nick Powell had an impressive start to his loan spell under Owen Coyle. Although Ferguson and Manchester United signed him as a midfield player,  Coyle thrust him into a central striking role. During Coyle’s tenure he looked the part.

The young player exudes a certain kind of arrogance in his body language on the field of play. Some have compared him to Berbatov, but under Coyle, Powell was willing to graft and defend in a way that would not typify the Bulgarian. Powell won the hearts of many Latics fans through not only his excellent technique and confident play, but also through the physical effort he put out for his team.

Somewhere along the line, Powell lost his way. He just has not been the same kind of player in the second part of the season. Have injuries and illness played a part? Has the extreme media attention got too much for him, above all not knowing where he will be next year? Or is it just that he is a young player, not long turned 20, who lacks consistency? The conspiracy theorists will say that there is a rift between Powell and Rosler.

What fans have seen over the past weeks is a Powell who has not shown the same kind of physical commitment that we saw earlier in the season. Moreover the swagger that the young player was showing in his body language earlier in the season was seen as a sign of self-belief, but  is now being interpreted by some as a “couldn’t care less” attitude. However, some would say that Powell has not been well used by Rosler, too often pushed out to the wings where he is less effective. At times under Coyle, he enjoyed a free role.

Nick Powell is a fine young player, who has represented his country at all youth levels 16-21. He has recently been nominated Crewe’s best player of all time. He is a class act and will almost certainly represent his country at senior level.

If Powell can make the playoffs – in a positive frame of mind and a good state of health and fitness – it might conceivably make the difference between another year in the Championship division or a return to the Premier League for Wigan Athletic.

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A look at Jack Collison

Colison

Once again Uwe Rosler has made a shrewd move in the loan transfer market with the signing of Jack Collison from West Ham. The midfielder joins Josh McEachran, Nicky Maynard, Nick Powell, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Martyn Waghorn as loan players at the club.

Collison is only 25 years old, but has made over 100 appearances for the Hammers since his debut on January 1st, 2008. He can play in either centre or wide midfield. During his time at West Ham he made 49 Premier League starts, with 25 appearances off the bench, scoring 7 goals with 4 assists. If it had not been for injuries Collison would surely have made more appearances at Premier League level.

Although born and raised  in England, Collison qualified to play for Wales through his Welsh maternal grandfather. He has made 17 appearances for Wales. Earlier this season he spent the month of October out on loan at Bournemouth, where he made four appearances.

Given the loss of midfielders Ben Watson, Chris McCann and Roger Espinoza through injury the signing of Collison is well-timed. He will immediately compete for a place in the starting line-up. Collison has already played in the Championship for West Ham in 2011-12 when he made 28 starts, with 5 appearances as a substitute, scoring 6 goals with 3 assists.

West Ham have a dozen players whose contracts or loans expire in June 2014. The fan site West Ham Till I Die  suggests that only three of those players – who include not only Collison, but the likes of Joe Cole and Jussi Jaaskelain – will be offered further contracts, as the London club aims to cut £9 million off its wage bill.

As such as Ryan Tunnicliffe and Josh McEachran have discovered it can take loan players some time to get used to the style of play preferred by Rosler. However, providing Collison can maintain a good level of fitness he will be an important member of the squad. Should he impress there will surely be a strong possibility of him continuing at Wigan next season.

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Rosler’s loan signings can make the difference

transfer window

An unknown third choice goalkeeper from Spain, an end of contract midfielder from Kansas City and a 32 year old unwanted by Hamburg. Such were the loan signings made by Wigan Athletic a year ago.

The feeling at the time among Latics supporters was of being “underwhelmed”. Was this the best that Roberto Martinez could do? Why wasn’t Dave Whelan opening his wallet and bringing in players that could really make a difference?

In the event Joel Robles, Roger Espinoza and Paul Scharner did make a difference. It was not enough to save Latics from relegation, but all three were to go on and play in the lineup that won the FA Cup for the club.

That same underwhelming feeling has surfaced again.

Who on earth was Tyias Browning? Why would Latics want to sign a crock from Cardiff, who had not started in a league game this season? Why go for a player from Chelsea who had already been on loan at three other clubs? But most confounding of all – why would Latics take a player who had never made it in a team from their own Championship division?

Nicky Maynard was sought by Roberto Martinez while at Bristol City. In the event he went to West Ham who sold him on to Cardiff City for a fee around £2.75m in August 2012. Unfortunately he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in only his third game at the Welsh club, which was to keep him out of action until May 2013.

The 27 year old central striker is a Cheshire lad who came up through the Crewe Alexandra academy. His most successful year as a goal scorer was in 2009-10 when he scored 20 goals in 40 starts for Bristol City in the Championship division.  Maynard has struggled since the injury, his appearances for Cardiff this year being two starts in the League Cup and eight times off the bench in the Premier League.

Maynard is clearly a player of some pedigree and a proven goal scorer at Championship level. If he can regain an optimum level of fitness he will be a threat to Championship defences. Maynard is likely to alternate with Marc-Antoine Fortune for the centre forward spot, although there will be times when Rosler will play them together.

Latics fans saw what Josh McEachran can do yesterday when his superbly judged pass put Fortune through for an 89th minute goal yesterday. He made his Chelsea debut as a 17 year old. Still only 20 he has played for Swansea, Middlesbrough and Watford on loan. McEachran can play as a holding midfielder but his best position is in the hole between the midfield and the central striker.

McEachran is not fully fit at this stage, but he has so much quality that he can add the cutting edge that has been lacking in Latics’ play in recent weeks.

Rosler’s signing of Martyn Waghorn has been questioned by many Latics supporters who were hoping the club would sign a player with a proven history as a goal scorer.  They are unimpressed that Leicester City are willing to let him go out on loan although they are challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Moreover Waghorn will be a free agent in summer when his contract runs out.

However, Waghorn is still only 24 years old and can play in any of the three front positions. He played for England at both under 19 and under 21 levels.  Leicester paid a fee of around £3m when he arrived from Sunderland in a permanent deal in August 2010. He had been voted young player of the year at Leicester the previous season when he had been on loan with them. See his goals during that season here.

Waghorn has had his ups and downs and played for five clubs before coming to Wigan. However, he had a successful spell on loan at Millwall this season, making 12 appearances and scoring 3 goals. Millwall boss Steve Lomas wanted to sign Waghorn permanently, but it was not to work out.

Waghorn will be keen to impress at Wigan and show that his success at Millwall is not a flash in the pan. He has a good left foot and is no mean penalty taker.

The 19 year old Tyias Browning was signed on a one month loan from Everton on January 10th. A day later he made a strong impression after coming on as a second half substitute in the 3-0 win against Bournemouth. A week later he was to concede a penalty in the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Doncaster. Browning is clearly one for the future, but the value of having a young player join the club for such a short loan period is open to question.

Following the last-gasp victory over Charlton yesterday Latics remain within reach of a play-off place.  Only one player – Nouha Dicko – left permanently during the transfer window. Grant Holt has gone on loan to Aston Villa, but Ivan Ramis will be staying at least until the end of the season following his failure to pass medicals at Cardiff and Crystal Palace. It could be a blessing in disguise for Latics.

A fit Ramis would make a big difference to the promotion push. Not one of that skilful trio – Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – left during the transfer window, although their contracts terminate in summer.

All in all, Latics have a better squad now than they had before the January window began. Moreover if loan players like Maynard, McEachran and Waghorn were to reach their optimum levels they could swing the balance and get Wigan into that play-off place.

Like Martinez last year, Rosler seems to have made ‘underwhelming’ loan signings in the transfer window.

But then again maybe they are better than they seem at first glance.

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