Where will Latics finish?

TableDec

After playing 21 games Wigan Athletic lie in 6th place in League 1 with a record of W9 D7 L5.

They have the 3rd best defensive record in the division, together with Bradford City, having conceded 20 goals.

But there are 9 clubs who have scored more than Wigan’s 29 goals up to this point.

Gary Caldwell is a young and inexperienced manager who has had a mountain of a task to deal with. His first managerial appointment was at a Wigan Athletic in free fall, where the team had acquired a losing mentality with morale close to rock-bottom.

His brief was to move on as many of the ex-Championship and Premier League players on his staff as he could, in order for the club to be able to balance its books month-to-month. He was also to make sure the club did not go into the red on the transfer market  through outgoing fees exceeding the incoming ones. Moreover his chairman made clear his hopes that Caldwell’s new team might smash the division with 100 points. The chairman also wanted the new team to play football in “The Wigan Way”, signifying a major transformation from the “direct” style that predominated in the reign of his predecessor.

Caldwell has taken all this on his shoulders with dignity. He is bright and eloquent and may well have a glittering career ahead of him in football management. Up to this point he has brought in 21 new players, with economic necessities indicating that there will be more turnover in January. His team has not played consistently well so far, but results have been good enough to reach the playoff zone.

Caldwell, like his chairman David Sharpe, is aware that Latics have a tight timeline for getting back into the Championship division. This is their penultimate season for the receipt of parachute payments. Should promotion not happen this season or next the club will find itself in the same financial boat as others in League 1. Moreover in the case of it happening next season rather than this, it would mean Latics going into a Championship division without parachute payments, competing against clubs that have that huge advantage over them.

It is not surprising therefore that Caldwell has stated his aim of achieving automatic promotion this season, rather than next. What are the chances of Caldwell’s team achieving his aim? Is League 1 the kind of division where a team can make a rapid ascent of the table in the second half of the season? Is it realistic to expect Latics to overhaul Burton Albion and/or Coventry in those top two positions?

At this stage last season (2014-15) Bristol City and MK Dons led the division:

tabledec202014

They were to hold those 1st and 2nd positions at the end of the season.  Moreover Preston, Swindon and Sheffield United were to hold their playoff places:

Table2013(2)

In 2013-14 Leyton Orient had been top in December:

TableDec2013But the London club eventually finished 3rd, losing out to 4th place Rotherham in the playoffs. Wolves, loaded with big parachute money and ex-Premier League players, ran away with the division in the second half of the season:

Table2014

Notably the top six clubs remained the same from December, even if some positions had changed.

In three of the past five seasons the top two teams at this time of year achieved automatic promotion at the end of the season. Leyton Orient had been overtaken in the top two by Brentford in 2013-14, but the gap between the two teams in December had only been one point. No team below 3rd place at the 21 game mark in December had achieved automatic promotion in those four seasons.

The exception was that of Bournemouth in 2012-13. In December they were lying in 9th place, with 32 points from 21 games. They were to finish in 2nd place, just a point behind Doncaster Rovers who had been in 2nd place after 21 games in December. The December leaders, Tranmere Rovers, had dropped to 11th place by the end of the season.

But how about promotion through the playoffs?

Last season it was 3rd placed Preston who won the playoff place. But interestingly for the previous four seasons it had been the team in 4th place that had won the playoffs.

Following an 11 game unbeaten run Caldwell’s team has not won for the last four. The expectations of the chairman and the fans weigh heavily on the manager. His squad is by far the most expensive in the division and they are expected to perform better. For a hard core of fans a failure to reach promotion this season would be a disaster. Others are more patient and will say that Caldwell needs more time to build a solid base that will not only serve Latics in the here and now, but in the long term.

The statistics over the past five seasons suggest that Latics are unlikely to achieve automatic promotion this year. Moreover there is statistically at best a one in four chance of them winning the playoffs.

However, Caldwell has a large and very able squad at his disposal, which is capable of defying the odds. He has repeatedly experimented, changing his lineups in efforts to try to get the best out of his players. What he rarely changes is the style of football.

Having been employed by his chairman to adapt the style of play from the ugliness of the Malky Mackay era, he has had to change the mindsets of so many players brought up on a more direct style. That remains a work in progress. The frustrations of constant backwards and sideways passing are frustrating to fans who crave for a faster tempo. In the days of Mackay a player under pressure would more often than not hoof the ball away, giving possession back to the opposition. In the Caldwell era they are more likely to retain possession, but too often to little effect.

The 32 year old Caldwell seeks to follow the example of Roberto Martinez who was appointed to his first managerial position at Swansea at the age of 33 in February 2007. Within 15 months Martinez had transformed the Swans style of play and they were League 1 champions by May 2008. He showed that it is possible to play skilful possession football in League 1 and be successful.

The task ahead of Caldwell is to have the whole at least equal the sum of its parts for his team. He will be aware that there are supporters who were never fans of the kind of football that Martinez’s teams played at Wigan. Moreover even the neutrals among the fans have been frustrated by then sterility of Latics’ play in recent matches. The running off the ball that is essential in possession football has been less evident and players on the ball have been unwilling to take risks, taking the easy way out with lateral or backwards passing.

Caldwell has lifted the gloom of the Mackay days and there are rays of hope for the future. His teams have shown a fierce determination to fight back when things have not been going well, something that last year’s outfits were unable to do. Although Caldwell’s teams can be criticised for failing to adjust their play in the bad weather conditions they have nevertheless shown their ability to grind out results. The draws at Bradford and Southend may not have been pretty to watch, but the determination was certainly evident.  However, the combined play of the team has not yet reached the heights one would expect given the talents of the squad as a whole.

But after 26 matches in all competitions up to this point, involving 31 players, the gelling process is not complete and players are still adjusting to Caldwell’s preferred style of play. Having a large squad can be seen as a significant advantage over other League 1 clubs, particularly as injuries come into play. However, the other side of the coin has been rotations of the starting lineup.

Doom and gloom continues to be bandied about on the message boards and social media. Some pundits are even suggesting Caldwell be dismissed,  despite his considerable achievements up to this point with Latics having a good squad of players, being only five points away from an automatic promotion place. Expecting instant results from Caldwell given the tasks that he has had to deal with is surely unrealistic.

If Caldwell can get his squad down to a size that will continue to give him a competitive advantage but alleviate the need for constant squad rotation, the gelling process will surely hasten. Given the range of players he has at his disposal he is unlikely to have a regular starting eleven. But certain players will form the backbone of the team, even if small adjustments are made from game to game.

But more than anything, Caldwell needs time. The question is how much time does he need for his team to gel into a promotion winning side.

 

 

 

Dave makes the right decision, but can he get the next one right?

Whelan

“Following the incredible achievements of last season, I felt it was the right thing to do that he should be given more time. However, the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, and the run of results in recent months, really has been alarming. Something is clearly not working. For whatever reason, the team is not gelling, despite substantial financial backing in the summer and the dressing room being blessed with a huge amount of quality. Therefore, I have now come to the reluctant conclusion that for the long term good of the club, we need a change.”

Dave Whelan’s words signaled the end of another era at Wigan Athletic. Uwe Rosler departing after only eleven months at the helm. The club is going to have its third manager in a period of a year.

Given only three victories in seventeen league games it seemed like a matter of time before Rosler would be shown the door. It was a sad end to an era in which Rosler had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. He took over a team in 14th place and got them into the playoffs, only to be narrowly beaten by QPR. Moreover the stunning win at the Etihad against the to-be Premier League champions in the FA Cup sixth round will stick in the memory for years to come. So will the semifinal, taking Arsenal to a penalty shootout.

Sadly things went pear-shaped for Rosler in the second half of his reign. The rot had set in near the end of last season. The confidence that had been generated through a long string of good results started to wane. The new season saw the team coming back from pre-season training in Germany in poor physical shape, with second half collapses being the order of the day. Moreover Rosler had made nine new signings since the summer, all in need of  a settling in period. But their arrival had swelled the first team squad to over thirty, the end result being Rosler having to deal with disgruntled players not getting a regular game. Sadly we never saw Rosler’s dream of high pressure, high tempo football come to fruition. The players just did not seem capable of delivering it.

One hopes that Rosler will be remembered with some degree of affection among Latics fans. Serious injuries to midfield lynchpins Chris McCann and Ben Watson were a cruel blow when his team was doing so well. Moreover Nick Powell’s form had dipped at the wrong time, with the playoffs within reach. The team’s form wavered as the end of season approached, the loan players brought in during January being largely disappointing. However, despite the playoff disappointment fans remained supportive of Rosler and looked forward to the coming season when he could bring in his own signings and play the high tempo football he sought.

However, Rosler was to face a difficult task in the transfer market. In Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez he lost two skillful, quality players who would be difficult to replace. But the biggest blow was the departure of James McArthur on the transfer deadline day. Latics have only won one game since he left. Rosler had to fill the void left by the three who had oodles of Premier League experience.

There has been a lot of criticism of Rosler’s new signings. It would probably be fair to say that none of them have yet reached their best form. However, Rosler should be commended for his acquisition of young players with exciting technical skills, who will surely make their mark with more experience. Whelan backed the manager by forking out significant transfer fees for Adam Forshaw and Emyr Huws, who could prove to be the lynchpins of the midfield in the future. James Tavernier was acquired from Newcastle for a modest fee and the quality his crossing and set piece deliveries make him a threat to opposition defences. Left back Aaron Taylor-Sinclair has yet to appear in a league game. Bringing in the experience of Don Cowie, William Kvist and Andrew Taylor on free transfers made sound sense and all three will have a part to play as the season progresses. Sadly the two new central strikers, Andy Delort and Oriel Riera, in whom Whelan made a significant investment, just have not clicked up to this point.

Whelan did what was necessary by removing Rosler as manager. He now seeks to appoint a manager who can get the best out of the players, in a manner that eluded Rosler over these months. Moreover the squad is unnecessarily large and the new man will surely release a number of players in the January transfer window.

Rumours continue to fly around that some of the senior players within the squad were undermining Rosler. Similar stories were in the wind when Owen Coyle was dismissed last December. Like any football club, Latics prefer to clean their dirty washing in private, so one can but surmise that this has been happening. But it will be interesting to see who does leave in January.

The squad contains players signed by Roberto Martinez, Coyle and Rosler and all three managers had different preferences in terms of style of play. Sadly the flowing football of the FA Cup winning side is becoming an increasingly distant memory, but fans will hope that the new manager will be able to produce that, in addition to getting results. Perhaps it is too much to ask for a new manager coming in with morale at low ebb.

Once again Latics are back in the managerial merry-go-round. A new manager coming in from outside is likely to want to bring in his own right hand men and there could well be a cull of coaching and backroom staff. Or would Whelan insist that current staffing be maintained as he did when Rosler was appointed?

A valid alternative for Whelan would be to appoint from within. The name of Eric Black immediately comes to mind. The costs of hiring and firing will surely play a part in Whelan’s decision, with the financial fair play framework hovering above him.

Once again Dave Whelan has to make a key decision. Like anyone else in the football business he is by no means infallible. His big mistake in recent years was in not replacing Martinez with someone with a similar footballing philosophy. It is in the first year in the Championship that teams who have been relegated from the Premier League have the best chance of returning. Whelan blew it by appointing a manager whose teams more often than not reverted to route one, poles apart from the Martinez era. However, he deserves credit for appointing Rosler who really did lift the club, although in the end he could not maintain it.

Let’s hope Dave gets it right this time.

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Huddersfield Town 0 Wigan Athletic 0 – Latics get their first away point in scrappy game

A return to form for captain, Emmerson Boyce. Photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner.

A return to form for captain, Emmerson Boyce.
Photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner.

Latics claimed their first away point of the season, but were unable to convert their superior possession into goals. Many Latics fans will consider this an opportunity lost, that Huddersfield were there for the taking, with three points going begging. However, some will point to last season when a Huddersfield side no better than the current one, beat Rosler’s Latics by a single goal. A point away from home to any team in the Championship is not such a bad result.

Uwe Rosler shocked us all with his team selection, starting with the same eleven as at Blackburn.

Huddersfield were lively in the first ten minutes, Andrew Taylor blocking Danny Ward’s cross shot on the goal line and Scott Carson making a good save from the same player. But Latics then started to control possession, albeit without much penetration. Don Cowie and William Kvist were controlling the centre of midfield and the defence was looking sharp. Andy Delort had a rasping shot from distance saved well by Smithies. Then Callum McManaman collected a fine through ball from Cowie and rounded Smithies but a couple of defenders got back to block his shot. On the half hour mark McManaman went down for what looked like a penalty, but was instead rewarded with a yellow card from the referee for simulation.

Emyr Huws was looking lively in the more advanced midfield role and threatened the home team’s goal twice in the first couple of minutes of the second half. However, as one might have predicted Latics dropped back and Huddersfield started to show more attacking threat, mainly through half time substitute Sean Scannell. However, the back three of Emmerson Boyce, Ivan Ramis and Rob Kiernan were on their toes and managed to keep the home team at bay.

After 63 minutes Rosler took off Latics’ main goal threat McManaman and put on James McClean who had not played competitive football since May. Delort had a powerful drive go wide, but other than that Latics rarely looked dangerous. Their possession football just did not have any cutting edge and too often ended up in coming back for the defence to put a long ball forward.

James Tavernier came on for Taylor after 72 minutes, with James Perch moving to the left. Tavernier added some energy to the right of the attack and put over some quality crosses. Oriel Riera came on for Delort after 76 minutes and a few minutes later he came close with a volley from a Tavernier cross.

Huddersfield looked threatening in the closing minutes and Jonathan Stead almost squeezed a late winner past Carson. In the end a draw was probably a fair result in a scrappy game. Huddersfield had achieved their first clean sheet in 20 games.

The Good

The stats show that Latics largely controlled the game. They had 61% of the possession, with 15 shots (4 on target), compared with Huddersfield’s 9 shots (3 on target). The back three of Boyce, Ramis and Kiernan were excellent throughout. They were provided solid protection by Cowie and Kvist. Despite the knock he received against Blackburn, Huws was lively throughout. A pity his set pieces continue to be disappointing.

Although there was a lull in early stages of the second half Latics’ legs were much more willing this time around. They were able to keep going for the 90 minutes, if not playing a full pressing game of high intensity. It was a step forward.

Andy Delort worked hard up front and had four shots on goal, one forcing a fine save from Smithies. Delort has the style of a typical old fashioned bustling centre forward, with a powerful club of a right foot. Once he gets his first goal he will surely get plenty more. Riera came on for the last 15 minutes and went close with a volley. He is a more subtle kind of player and is continuing to adjust to the hurly burly of the Championship.

McManaman looked dangerous until he was taken off early in the second half. Huddersfield clearly considered him a threat and he was heavily marked.

The introduction of Tavernier for the last 20 minutes gave Latics more cutting edge on the right hand side. He is able to consistently deliver high quality crosses, something that his team mates are rarely able to do. In terms of his crosses and set piece deliveries Tavernier is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. However, if Tavernier is to claim a regular place in the team he will have to work on the defensive side of his game. In an old 4-4-2 system he could have been effective in a right midfield position.

Apart from the McManaman incident, Latics had two other penalty claims, which were for hand ball, either of which could have been given. Such matters change the course of a match and Latics can consider themselves unlucky in that respect.

The Bad

Once again the lone centre forward was looking very isolated. The midfield players were just not giving enough support. James McArthur is being desperately missed in the build up from the back. Neither Cowie nor Kvist can be faulted for their effort and their defensive cover, but far too often they were passing the ball sideways or backwards. There is room for one such player, but having the two there led to Latics being too predictable.

Adam Forshaw could provide the key, but his ten minutes against Blackburn was his first competitive football since May. There was a development squad game against Preston on Monday, but the Liverpudlian did not appear, presumably because Rosler wanted him in the squad at Huddersfield. With no more development squad matches coming up for a couple of weeks, will Rosler risk him as a starter in the next league match against Ipswich?

At times Latics seem confused about their style of play. The possession football in this match was reminiscent of the Martinez days, but many bouts of possession ended in a final pass going back to the defence for a hoof forward.

One of the main criticisms of Owen Coyle’s reign was that there was no set style of play, too often resulting in giving the ball away through aimless long passes. It was particularly noticeable after the consistency – and maybe rigidity – of Martinez’s teams. Rosler’s current team seems to alternate between the two approaches. We are yet to see the high pressing, high tempo approach with rapid counterattacks that the German espouses.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – confident in his handling. Distribution remains an issue. The high diagonal balls to the wings don’t seem to work.

James Perch: 6.5 – solid defensively.

Emmerson Boyce: 8 – back to his best. Made some key interventions.

Ivan Ramis: 8 – a class act.

Rob Kiernan: 8 – a much better performance than against Blackburn. More aggressive, with good use of the ball.

Andrew Taylor: 6.5 – worked hard up and down his flank. Substituted after 72 minutes.

William Kvist: 7 – provided good defensive cover and rarely wasted the ball.

Don Cowie: 6 – cannot be faulted for effort and shielded his defence. The final pass was too often disappointing.

Emyr Huws: 7 – growing into a fine player. Full of industry, with a great left foot. Needs to work on his set pieces.

Callum McManaman: 7 – heavily marked, but remained a threat. Substituted after 63 minutes.

Andy Delort: 7 – combative and brave. Managed to get in some powerful shots although heavily marked. Substituted after 76 minutes.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – energetic as always, but looked rusty.

James Tavernier: – added energy and threat to the opposition’s defence.

Oriel Riera: – being left out of the starting lineup in the last two games is not going to help his confidence. The best is yet to come.

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Selling off quality

“We need the right offer. I don’t want to stop the lad from going into the Premier League.”

The words of Dave Whelan regarding the probable departure of James McArthur over the coming days. Once again Latics are playing the role of a club selling off quality.

When thinking of James McArthur the words “automatic choice” come to mind. In fact his would be the first name most Latics supporters would pencil into a team lineup. The Scot might not be the most elegant of movers, but he has been the key man in the engine room of the team. McArthur grew up under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, where good football was of the essence, even if the results did not always match.

Working under three different managers in less than a year, McArthur stayed with the club when relegation happened. He is a player of genuine Premier League quality, with a massive work rate to supplement his considerable skills. Even in the dark days of long ball under Owen Coyle, McArthur did not succumb. He stuck to his footballing principles, providing the link between defence and attack, preferring to keep the ball on the ground rather than make hopeful long passes. With McArthur on the pitch there has always been a chance of good football coming from Latics.

The same could also be said for Ivan Ramis, the club’s most classy defender. Ramis might well have proved to be one of Martinez’s most astute signings, had he not suffered that cruciate knee ligament injury at Fulham in January 2013. Ramis remains a class act and if he can maintain his fitness he can still be a top flight player. Martinez never had much luck with injuries to his squad and one can only ponder on what might have been if Ramis and Antolin Alcaraz had been able to play together in the centre of defence on a regular basis.

Reports suggest that Ramis is on his way to join Deportivo  La Coruña in Galicia, now back in La Liga after a year’s absence. No fee has been mentioned, but if there is one it is likely to be modest, given the player’s injury record over the past 18 months. Ramis is reputed to be one of the highest earners at the club and his departure has been imminent.

The media reports that both Burnley and Leicester City have made bids for McArthur, the latest one being around £5m from the Foxes. Whelan will probably try for £7m, but the final figure is likely be closer to £6m. The lure of playing in the Premier League and earning a commensurate salary will be hard for the Scot to resist, although the cynics might say that he could well be back in the Championship a year from now if he joins either of those clubs. However, possibilities remain for other Premier League clubs to get involved as the week progresses.

At the moment it looks like Latics are going to take one step forward – in signing Adam Forshaw – and two steps back in allowing players of the quality of McArthur and Ramis to leave.

The dismantling of Roberto Martinez’s squad continues. In July  Latics lost both Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez, skilful players who added poise to the team.  Martinez himself did his old club no favours a year ago when he took James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to Everton, along with Alcaraz and Joel Robles. Four of the players remaining from the Martinez era – Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell, Ali Al Habsi and Shaun Maloney – are now well into their thirties. Al Habsi is playing second fiddle to Scott Carson and might well be gone over these coming days.  Roger Espinoza and Fraser Fyvie have not impressed  Rosler sufficiently to push for regular first team places. Even Ben Watson could have left in summer if it had not been for his double leg fracture. On a more positive note Callum McManaman is getting back to his best form and both Rob Kiernan and Lee Nicholls have come up through the ranks.

Times have changed at the club. Few fans these days expect Whelan to get out his cheque book as he did in not only in helping Latics rise to the Premier League, but in keeping them there.   They made losses for six successive years in the elite league despite selling off prized assets like Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios. However, when Whelan brought in Martinez he cut the budget and somehow the Catalan managed to keep the club up there for three more years,  an horrendous injury list contributing to relegation in his fourth and final year.

A few years ago fans might have expected Whelan to back the manager in retaining quality players like Beausejour, Gomez, McArthur and Ramis. Uwe Rosler does not have such luxury. He is now likely to lose his classiest players in both defence and midfield. Rosler has to balance the books, using money brought in from transfers to fund his own searches for players.

Ramis played at his best for Rosler when in the centre of a back line of three. Although Latics remain well stocked for central defenders only Caldwell has experience in that position.

It looks like Forshaw will be McArthur’s replacement.  A young player who has excelled at League 1 level compared with an experienced campaigner who played in all of the most eventful games in the club’s history in the higher echelons of English football.However, Rosler clearly has confidence in Forshaw’s ability to make it in a higher level of football.

However, fans will hope that the proceeds of the sales of Ramis and McArthur will go towards improving the squad. The media reports that Latics are in negotiations to sign central striker Andy Delort from French second division side, Tours. It is rumoured that they are offering around  £2m-£3m for the player. This added to an investment of around £5m for Riera and Forshaw would come close to what Latics would recoup. However, the possibility remains of more players leaving, particularly those on higher salaries or out of favour with the manager.

In McArthur and Ramis, Latics will be losing two more players of genuine Premier League quality. However, Rosler has to take a wide overview and make sure that his squad is well balanced and competitive in all positions. At the same time he needs to make sure that he not only breaks even on his transfer dealings, but that he keeps a cap on the wage bill.

Rosler does not have the financial backing that Paul Jewell or Steve Bruce had during their time at Wigan. His situation is more akin to that faced by Martinez. Although he has recruited mainly UK based players he has had to look further afield to find strikers that he can afford.

Fans will be disappointed to see McArthur and Ramis go, less so the Spaniard given his injury problems. They are quality players capable of performing at a high level in the first tiers of football in both England and Spain.

 

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Profiles from the Archives – Part 1: Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann

In April we stated our intention of republishing articles from our archives from time to time. It takes a long time for a fan site to get established and Amigos has been no exception. We are now in our third year. Our readership grew slowly in the first year, steadily in the second, but much faster in this third year. Given that we now have a wider readership we decided to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen.

The republishing of the  “Fan View”articles – perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs – went particularly well, according to the viewing stats.

We now plan to look back to some of the player profiles that we have have written and published over the past couple of years. Once again we ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Let’s start with Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

 

Bend it like Beausejour – first published October 9, 2012.

2012-beausejour

Some say he looks a little pudgy. Others complain he doesn’t have the speed to take on defenders. That Birmingham would not have let him go if he were that good. Something of an international journeyman, he has played for ten clubs in a space of ten years, spanning six different countries. Why then did Roberto Martinez continue to pursue Jean Beausejour, following the 2010 World Cup, until finally signing him in January 2012?

After just 15 minutes had gone at Sunderland last Saturday, a sublime cross came over from the left wing that Arouna Kone should have buried to put Latics 1-0 in front. It was the kind of precision pass that David Beckham might have provided in his heyday, curling away from the goalkeeper with pinpoint accuracy. Pure artistry. Neither player is the type to run down the wing and beat a defender for speed. But both somehow are able to get in pinpoint crosses from the tightest of situations, an ability that few players possess. Although Beausejour only joined Latics in January, he led the squad for assists last season.

Let’s not forget his defensive qualities either. Forming a strong partnership with Maynor Figueroa on the left hand side of the defence he provides key defensive cover. Ask Theo Walcott what it is like having Beausejour trail you – the Chilean rendered him totally ineffective in the memorable 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in April. Beausejour is not elegant, but is a complete player, the classic wing back – able to defend and create goals.

Jean André Emanuel Beausejour Coliqueo was born in Santiago in June 1984, of a Haitian father and mother from the indigenous Mapuche ethnic group. Beausejour remains a hero with the downtrodden Mapuche people. He started his professional career playing for leading Chilean club, Universidad Católica in 2002 before moving to provincial Concepción where he played for a year. Within the following three years he’d serve stints at Servette of Geneva, Grêmio of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Gent of Belgium. After returning to Chile for a couple of years he spent the 2009-2010 year playing for Club America, Mexico City’s biggest club.

Beausejour has made 40 plus appearances for Chile, playing under flamboyant Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa for almost three years. Not only did he score the winning goal against Honduras that helped Chile to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup, but he was to play in a classic Bielsa system that had three central defenders and two wing backs. In November 2011, he and four other players were suspendedby Chile FA for 10 matches after arriving in “poor physical” condition, allegedly drunk, before a World Cup qualifying match against Uruguay.

Given Beausejour’s career record of lack of continuity at any one particular club and his suspension from the Chilean national team it was therefore a calculated gamble taken by Roberto Martinez to bring him to Wigan from Birmingham City. However, Beausejour has become a key player in the tactical system adopted by Roberto Martinez. His start to the current season has been marred by a niggling injury but he remains one of the players whose name would be penciled in first on the team sheet. He is 5 ft 11 inches tall and physically strong, not easily deterred.

Jean Beausejour has certainly settled into the Wigan Athletic lineup. A team player, he is solid in defence. When Latics have the ball he is always available, hugging the touchline, stretching the opposition defence. He rarely loses the ball and has a few tricks up his sleeve with quick footwork. His crosses can create havoc in even the best of defences, whether from open play or set pieces. Given his technique one might expect him to more often take direct shots on goal, especially from free kicks. He has proved an excellent signing up to this point and one hopes that his years of wanderlust are over. At 28 years old he is nearing the peak of his career. The best is yet to come, especially if he is encouraged to go for goal from free kicks.

 

McCann silences his critics – first published November 5, 2013

Chris+Mccann

When managers change clubs they often take with them players from their previous club. Roberto Martinez is a prime example in taking Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone, James McCarthy and Joel Robles from Wigan.

It was therefore no surprise when Owen Coyle’s first signing was one of his former players. Most Wigan Athletic fans would have expected it to be someone from Bolton, but it turned out to be a tall Irishman who had played under the Scot at Burnley.

Not many of us had heard much about Chris McCann, who had spent nine years at Burnley after being signed from Dublin club, Home Farm. When we found out more about him, it looked as if maybe Coyle had made a mistake.

McCann’s best season with them was in their promotion year, 2008-09. A cruciate knee injury  early in his first Premier League season proved a severe blow for McCann. He made only eight appearances that season and four in 2010-11, being plagued by injury.

However, the Irishman was to come back to start in 83 Championship matches over the next two seasons.

Owen  Coyle had taken over a fragmented squad at Wigan following Martinez’s departure. There was shortage of players in various positions, particularly the centre of defence and up front. But central midfield was the one area where Latics were well supplied – with James McArthur, Roger Espinoza,  Fraser Fyvie,  Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – plus James McCarthy, who was to be sold.

McCann’s  performances in his early starts for Latics at home to Doncaster and Middlesbrough and at Zulte Waregem were solid, if uninspiring.

Cynics said that Coyle had brought in an ex-player who was not up to par, but who was ahead of both Espinoza and Fyvie in the pecking order. It looked like Coyle was snubbing  players from the previous regime to bring in his own men.

However, McCann was to come back to the starting lineup with a fine display against Rubin Kazan. That night he was tireless in defence and his cultured passing when under pressure helped Latics keep possession. He followed that up with a fine performance at Charlton, being unlucky with a flick header that hit the crossbar. In the subsequent match against QPR he once again put in a hardworking stint, being denied by the woodwork with a far post header. On Sunday against Huddersfield he once again put in solid defensive shift and this time saw a fine long range shot palmed over the bar by the keeper.

Coyle has so far relied heavily on McArthur and Watson in the midfield holding roles. They bring Premier League quality to the Championship. Both have excellent technique and work tirelessly to win the ball back and support their defence.

However, McCann has already shown that he too is a player of such attributes and will be challenging them for a place in the starting lineup. He too has a touch of quality. At 6’1” he also poses an aerial threat to opposition defences.

Chris McCann has already silenced most of his critics through a series of good displays. He is still only 26 years old and could prove to be a key player for Latics for years to come.

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