Have the loan players let Latics down?

 

 

Last night’s bore draw against Queens Park Rangers leaves Latics with a mountain to climb in the return game on Monday. After 61 matches this season can Uwe Rosler motivate his players to find sufficient energy and motivation to give it a real go at Loftus Road?

Significantly there were no loan players in the starting eleven to face QPR. Nick Powell and Josh McEachran were not even named in the squad. Jack Collison and Nicky Maynard were on the bench and the latter was called into play with less than 20 minutes to go.

The situation last night was calling for someone to come off the bench and do something special, as the game drifted towards a goalless draw. Maybe Powell could have chipped in with one his spectacular goals and McEachran’s passing might have unlocked QPR’s dogged defence? It was not to be.

When Uwe Rosler took over in December he inherited a squad with an average age of around 28. There were ten players who had been signed over summer by Owen Coyle, together with those brought in during the Martinez era. Two of Coyle’s initial signings had been loan players, Nick Powell and Ryan Shotton. Both made favourable impressions during Coyle’s tenure. The Scot also brought in Marc Albrighton and Will Keane on short term loans. The former looked useful, but the latter could not establish him. Ironically Keane is now on loan at QPR.

Once the January transfer window opened, Rosler too, was busy in the loan market.

His first acquisition was young defender Tyias Browning from Everton on a one month loan. Browning had a good debut after coming on after half time in a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth. However, he gave away a penalty in the 3-0 defeat at Doncaster and never appeared again.

Nicky Maynard, aged 26, was signed on-loan from Cardiff in mid-January. The striker had been dogged by injury and was in need of playing time. He made his debut in the 3-0 home win against Doncaster. Since then Maynard has started in 13 games, coming on as substitute 5 times. He has scored 4 goals and made one assist. Maynard has struggled with the physical demands of the lone centre forward role and is probably better suited to a twin striker system.

The 21 year old Josh McEachran was then signed from Chelsea, on loan until the end of the season. He made a fine start coming on in the 57th minute against Charlton. His exquisite pass in the 88th minute led to Marc-Antoine Fortune getting an equalizer, which was later converted into a victory through a Jordi Gomez free kick. McEachran had successful prior experience in the Championship division, having played 38 games on loan at Middlesbrough last season. At the time he looked a very good loan signing. Since then he has made 8 starts for Latics, with four appearances off the bench. In 6 of his 8 starts he was substituted on or before the 68th minute.

The 24 year old Martyn Waghorn made an immediate impact on joining on loan from Leicester City. He made his debut in the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield on February 8th. Waghorn was soon to become a key player in Rosler’s set up with his versatility and his ability to take set pieces. Waghorn has made 15 starts, with just one appearance off the bench in last night’s match. He has scored 5 goals and has 5 assists. He has now been given a long term contract.

Ryan Tunnicliffe, aged 22, was signed on loan from Fulham at the end of February. He had a successful loan spell at Ipswich in the first half of the season. He made his debut as a substitute in the 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest on March 1st. He made his last appearance against Bolton at the end of March. Tunnicliffe struggled to adapt to Rosler’s system. He started in three games and came off the bench in two.

The 26 year old Jack Collison was signed in mid-March on loan from West Ham. His debut was off the bench after 61 minutes in the 2-1 home win over Watford. Collison came with a lot of Premier League experience with the Londoners. After initially looking like he could slot into Rosler’s style of play, his performances have been disappointing. He has made 5 starts, with 6 appearances off the bench.

In the 61 matches that Wigan Athletic have played this season they have used 35 players, out of which 10 were signed on loan. Only Powell has been on a season long loan, the remainder being half season or less.

The most successful of the loan players have been Powell, Shotton and Waghorn. But it would be fair to say that Albrighton impressed in his brief stay.

Uwe Rosler had a successful track record in using loan players at Brentford. In fact they had four players in the squad that recently won promotion to the Championship, who the German signed on loan. Forward Marcello Trotta, on loan from Fulham, made 37 league appearances for them this season. George Saville, midfielder from Chelsea, made 40 appearances. Blackburn’s Alan Judge made 22.

When Rosler first started bringing in loan players at Wigan it added an extra dimension to the squad, let alone lowering its average age. However, as the season progressed and games came in thick and fast, so many of the loan players disappointed. That led to Rosler having to be over-reliant on his key players, who have struggled to maintain their high performance standards after being overloaded with playing time.

That was evident yesterday as a starting lineup without loan players looked jaded and unable to raise their tempo.

There has been criticism of Latics’ current crop of loan players from fans who say they do not have their hearts in the club and think they are above it. They cite the perceived lack of effort from talented individuals like Powell and McEachran who will go back to their elite clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea. However, Collison is unlikely to survive the end of contract cull at West Ham and Maynard faces another season in the Championship with relegated Cardiff.

Why those loan players have not played up to potential is hard to determine. Maybe some of the criticism is valid, but injuries and physical fitness might also be factors. The bottom line is that, Waghorn excepted, they have not performed up to expectations.

Ideally Powell and McEachran in particular will come back on Monday and show us all what they are capable of. They are both talented individuals who could make a difference in the pressure cauldron of Loftus Road on Monday.

The likelihood is that they have played their last games for Wigan.

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Blackburn Preview – Latics to rest key players

A trip to Ewood Park has been known to fill Wigan Athletic supporters with a sense of foreboding. Latics have only won there once and that was at the end of the 2011-12 season when they were miraculously staying up and Blackburn were being relegated from the Premier League. An Antolin Alcaraz header gave Latics a 1-0 win. The next best result was Paul Jewell’s side getting a 1-1 draw there in the 2005-06 season. The other seven confrontations went Blackburn’s way.

But this time around Latics fans will not worry too much about the result. Wigan are already assured of a playoff place and will want to rest their key players ahead of the home game against either Derby or QPR next Thursday or Friday. Blackburn will be hoping that Latics put out their second string, praying that they can get an avalanche of goals and that Brighton and Reading both lose. That far-fetched scenario would be enough for them to leapfrog into a playoff place.

Latics will certainly look at resting key players, but still have enough strength in depth to ensure a fair contest tomorrow. Rosler might well give Honduran left back Juan Carlos Garcia his league debut. Thomas Rogne is also likely to feature in the centre of defence. The big Swede Markus Holgersson still has not featured in the first team and has not played for the development squad for some time. If he is fit will he make his debut at right back?

Nicky Maynard is due to return at centre forward. Jack Collison will step into central midfield. James McClean, Josh McEachran and Nick Powell might reappear, despite not having even made the bench for the match at Birmingham.

The pressure if off Latics, but on Blackburn tomorrow. However, Lancashire derbies can be full-blooded affairs and strange things can happen. Rosler will want his players to stay clear of injuries and disciplinary sanctions, but nevertheless represent their club with pride.

The likelihood is a Blackburn victory, but Latics’ fringe players are a talented bunch who might surprise us tomorrow. It will depend on their willingness to slug it out with the opposition in the true tradition of a Lancashire derby.

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Latics ready to pick up 3 points against Leicester

Leicester City come to the DW Stadium tonight on the crest of a wave, sitting at the top of the Championship table, following on from a 2-0 away win at second placed Burnley.

Nigel Pearson has built a team that plays good football and has picked itself up since losing out to Watford in the playoffs last season. They looked impressive at Burnley, inflicting on the Clarets theirv first home defeat of the season.

However, Pearson has indicated that he will be making changes to a lineup that has been unchanged for the past six matches. Forward Jamie Vardy is injured and Pearson will have to look at making some rotations given the fixture congestion over the coming weeks.

Uwe Rosler knows all about fixture congestion and up to this point he has juggled his squad effectively. However, one player who has been a permanent name on the team sheet in the Rosler era is James McArthur. The Scot has been a model of consistency, but looked jaded in the Bolton game on Saturday. McArthur is in the engine room of Latics midfield and denies the opposition space as well as being the instigator of much of the good football that they play. Rosler will have to rest him soon. It could be tonight or against Leeds on Saturday.

Jean Beausejour is out with a two game suspension and Rosler will look towards either Stephen Crainey or James Perch to cover the left of defence. The German prefers utilizing Crainey as a wing back, rather than full back. Perch is a solid left back, but is not able to support attacks as effectively on his “wrong foot”.  In any case Ivan Ramis is likely to return and we might well see Rosler employing a 3-4-3 system with Emmerson Boyce, Leon Barnett and Ramis forming a formidable central defensive line.

Josh McEachran is due to return in midfield and Nicky Maynard at centre forward. Martyn Waghorn is unable to play against his parent club, but Rosler has a wealth of attacking options available. Callum McManaman looked more like his old self when coming on as a substitute against Bolton and remains relatively fresh, not having played so many games recently. Nick Powell scored a cracking equalizer at Bolton and will probably make the starting lineup. If he does it will be interesting to see if Rosler once again plays him in a wide position.

Latics will be keen to keep up with their quest for a play-off position by collecting three points from tonight’s game. Having beaten three Premier League teams, including title chasing Manchester City, in their FA Cup run they will not be overawed by playing the top team in the Championship.

It promises to be a fascinating contest tonight and a win against the league leaders would send shock waves to the other clubs contesting for play-off positions.

Maybe we will see Shaun Maloney coming off the bench in the later stages. A fully fit Maloney could be key to promotion back to the Premier League.

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Watford and beyond – Latics and promotion

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At half time during the Ipswich match last Saturday the Wigan Athletic substitutes came on the pitch to play ‘Piggy in the Middle’. Latics had gone into half time 2-1 ahead  after James McClean’s well taken equalizer and Leon Barnett’s header .

The quality of players in that group was impressive . Carson, Crainey, Kiernan, McEachran, Maynard, McManaman, Powell – a strong bench that most Championship clubs would envy. But it was more than that – there was an almost tangible atmosphere of camaraderie among those players. Football clubs these days are experts in telling fans that there is a team spirit among their players. In fact even Owen Coyle would tell us the same thing, although one seriously doubted that was the case.

However, there can be no doubt that Uwe Rosler has built up a strong team spirit at Wigan. The German’s preferred style of football is as physically demanding as it could possibly be for the players. But the players have adjusted and since his arrival fitness levels have improved.

Rosler made five changes for the midweek match against Yeovil, but the team spirit was still there when they were 2-1 down five minutes from the end. It led to two goals before the end of regular time and it reminded one of that late comeback against Charlton when the three points seemed to be lost. However, this time it was not to be as Yeovil got a scrambled equaliser in the last minute of added time.

Over the last couple of weekends Latics had been full of running and energy in victories at Manchester City and Ipswich. However, in the midweek games against Sheffield Wednesday and Yeovil they have looked jaded and lethargic. Which Wigan Athletic will we see against Watford tomorrow?

In the next six weeks Wigan Athletic have to play twelve matches. That kind of schedule needs a strong squad with a rotation policy that involves adjustments, rather than wholesale changes. Much of Latics’ defensive stability in recent weeks has been underpinned by the presence of James Perch on the right, with various combinations of Leon Barnett, Emmerson Boyce and Ivan Ramis in the centre of defence. The mutual understanding among those players has helped to them to play as a very solid unit.

When Perch went off injured after 27 minutes on Tuesday it caused a disruption to that smooth running unit. With no recognized right back on the bench Rosler was forced to move Boyce across. Thomas Rogne, who had not played since December, paired up with Ivan Ramis in their first game as a central defensive partnership. Rogne is a fine young player and Ramis possibly the best central defender in the division, but Yeovil centre forward Ishmael Miller proved too much for them on the night, scoring two well taken goals and missing an easier chance before that.

Even if Perch is available tomorrow Rosler will have to think hard about playing Boyce. Although 34 years old the captain has already played 46 matches this season, more than any other player. Boyce is a key player for Rosler and has been in great form, but badly needs a rest. Playing too many matches in a condensed period of time puts the player at higher risk of receiving an injury, let alone burnout.

Rosler has been unlucky with long term injuries to Ben Watson and Chris McCann, who were part of the nucleus around which his team was built. Moreover the consistent and reliable Leon Barnett is out with a hamstring injury, hopefully for not too long.

A strong defence has been the key to Wigan Athletic’s surge under Rosler. He now has to shuffle his pack and some coherence in defence will be lost. Thomas Rogne and Markus Holgersson will probably have a part to play over the coming weeks. Jean Beausejour continues to play at left back, not his natural position, but outstanding in attack.

In the absence of Watson and McCann in midfield much of the pressure will be on the admirable James McArthur. A midfield without the Scot is hardly worth contemplating, as like Boyce in defence, he is a lynchpin of the team.

Jordi Gomez has been excellent in recent matches and deserves his place. He has adjusted to Rosler’s style of play. Josh McEachran is a quality player, but has struggled to meet the physical demands of Rosler’s pressing style over 90 minutes. But watch out for him in the coming weeks. Ryan Tunniciffe has struggled to adjust to that system, but has high ratings from Ipswich fans from his time there. He is clearly not short of confidence and should get better. New loan signing Jack Collison could have a major part to play, although playing  multiple games in a week is probably beyond what his knee can withstand.

Rosler has a wealth of players available to him upfront, although he lacks a natural goalscorer. Both Marc-Antoine Fortune and Nicky Maynard are capable centre forwards, of differing styles. Callum McManaman remains a potential match winner, despite his indifferent form so far. Martyn Waghorn has a great left foot, is excellent in the delivery of corner kicks, and a team player who complies at both ends of the pitch. James McClean is a much better player under Rosler. He is now lifting his head at key moments and becoming a more mature player. If he continues in his current vein of form he will attract interest from the big clubs. Nick Powell remains a wild card, the position in which he will play being uncertain. Being played wide is not his best position, but Rosler has the option to play him at centre forward or in the hole in midfield, which might be his best position.

Latics have the luxury of quality goalkeepers with not only the excellent Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson, but the exciting young Lee Nicholls waiting for another chance. Al-Habsi and Carson can be expected to rotate over coming weeks.

Given the injuries and the hectic schedule, Latics are likely to experience some ups and downs before the end of the season. It will be hard to maintain the level already established by the German.

Rosler has built up a fine team spirit and a strong squad. The aim is for Latics to be in the top six at the end of the season. If they can do that they have the players to take them back to the Premier League.

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Yeovil Preview – Goliath versus David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It promises to be a fascinating encounter.

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