Five talking points following a narrow home defeat to Leeds

Wigan Athletic 1 Leeds United 2

 

It was always going to be an uphill task playing against a team vying for automatic promotion. Added to that was the unavailability of Paul Cook’s first choice front four, together with a lack of confidence following poor recent results. In the end the visitors got the result they deserved, but their two goals should have been avoided.

Cook’s starting line-up gave an indication of what to expect. Darron Gibson was brought in for Lee Evans, Cedric Kipre in for a not-fully-fit Chey Dunkley who was nevertheless on the bench. In the absence of Nick Powell, Josh Windass was drafted into the number 10 position, with Joe Garner at centre forward and Kal Naismith on the left wing. Flair players Leonardo Da Silva Lopes and Callum McManaman were confined to the bench.

Reece James has come close to scoring from free kicks before, but this time he found the back of the net after 6 minutes with a superb strike. The early goal must have lifted Wigan’s spirits, but just three minutes later Pablo Hernandez levelled it for the visitors after the midfield had failed to track Mateusz Klich’s run. The Pole had acres of space to run into before squaring the ball for the Spaniard to score. The goal knocked the stuffing out of Latics and they became unable to offer any attacking threat other than launching long balls to Garner and Windass.

Leeds’s style football has been transformed by Marcelo Bielsa. Granted, they still have the kind of rugged defenders as we have come to expect from them over the years, but now they attack with the kind of movement and vision that is rarely seen in the Championship. For the neutral it would have been a joy to watch, but for Latics fans it was painful seeing their team starved of possession and unable to string passes together when they did have the ball.

Cook would have been delighted that his team went in level at half time, given the visitors’ dominance. But any delight he might have had soon disappeared as a mix-up between Christian Walton and Kipre gifted Kemar Roofe a tap in goal after just one minute. With their backs to the wall Latics managed to prevent further goals from the visitors but offered little attacking threat. McManaman had been brought on after 63 minutes but could make little impact with the awful service the front players were receiving. Da Silva Lopes came on for an anonymous Naismith after 70 minutes, but he too struggled to make an impact. But one wonders if even Leo Messi could have done much given the muted service from an overrun midfield and a pressured defence. In fact the two substitutes combined well after 85 minutes Da Silva Lopes slipping the ball to McManaman in the left of the penalty box. Macca cut inside his defender to curve the ball narrowly wide of the far post.

Following the game Cook commented: “We’re just massively disappointed, especially with the start we had and then to concede so quickly and the way they scored their second goal just after half-time. You have to be fair and say Leeds carried a threat all game and they were excellent at times, especially with the pace and movement of their forward players, but we managed that, and we were controlling that, as well as looking like a threat going forward.”

Let’s take a look at some points arising:

A Sea of White Shirts

In the 52nd minute Latics mounted a sharp counterattack with Gibson put Windass through from his own half with one Leeds defender in front of him and the goal. Within just 6 seconds the Latics player found himself hopelessly outnumbered by no less than 7 Leeds players, with not a teammate supporting him. You can see the clip on this Twitter link.

The “Sea of White Shirts” was hugely impressive and can be seen as an indicator of the commitment that Bielsa has instilled into his team. That Latics players did not support Windass should be seen in the context of a team “under the cosh”, reluctant to push forward in case of conceding more goals.

In February 2017 Pep Guardiola commented “My admiration for Marcelo Bielsa is huge because he makes the players much, much better. Still, I didn’t meet one guy, a former player from Marcelo Biesla who speaks no good about him. They are grateful about his influence on their careers in football. He helped me a lot with his advice. Whenever I speak with him I always feel like he wants to help me.”

Paul Cook too has instilled commitment into his players. Despite indifferent recent results he has done a wonderful job so far at Wigan. Cook is new to the Championship and will surely get even better. He has a wonderful career record in the lower leagues and was a very successful player in England’s second tier. If he continues to learn and develop at this level Latics will surely have difficulties in warding off approaches from other clubs.

Breaking up the Dunkley-Kipre partnership

Dan Burn’s return to fitness has posed selection problems for Cook. Burn was outstanding in League 1 last year and the previous season in the Championship was Latics’ “Player of the Season”. He is due to join Premier League Brighton in January.

However, Burn has not looked impressive since returning. Yesterday he looked far from a player who could be a success in the Premier League. Was Cook right to break up the Dunkley-Kipre partnership to bring in Burn? Is there a clause in Burn’s loan agreement that requires him to get regular games?

When he was last in the Championship Burn had lots of protection in a Warren Joyce team that played with a massed defence. He is at his best when the ball is in the air. Yesterday he had to face the touch play and movement of Bielsa’s Leeds.

But Burn cannot be written off. With more game time he will get better and better. In fact, he could be invaluable at Middlesbrough on Saturday given the mode of attack that typifies Tony Pulis’ approach.

The option remains for Cook to amend his approach and play a Burn-Dunkley-Kipre trio. Given his belief in 4-2-3-1 it is unlikely.

Fitting in the flair players

It was a surprise when Latics signed Callum McManaman, given Cook’s preferred style of football. One suspects the manager does not trust him defensively and he doesn’t have the vision to be a 10 but also does not put enough balls in the box to be a winger under Cook. In essence his position is “inverted winger”. Cook has found it hard to find a suitable role for the player within his system.

Cook has bided his time in bringing in Da Silva Lopes. He is a raw and exciting talent but is hardly “green” with over 100 appearances for Peterborough although still only 19. During his career he has played in various positions and Cook will have to decide which is his best.

We can only hope that Cook will find ways of incorporating the two “flair players” into the team on a more regular basis.

Another flair player was absent yesterday too. On the face of things Lee Evans is a solid, hardworking central midfielder. But he is also the player who has created the most chances this season, not only from his set pieces but also from his superb crossing in open play. His creative influence was very much missed.

Powell sorely missed

Nick Powell was sorely missed yesterday. When he is not present the standard of Latics’ football so often deteriorates.

The rumours have started to resurface that Powell will leave in January. It is indeed a possibility. Everton’s Kieran Dowell is already being touted for a loan in January. Dowell is an England under-21 international who played 38 games for Nottingham Forest last season.

Whether Powell signs a new contract or leaves will give us a glimpse into the new ownership of the club and its mode of operation.

The takeover finally happens

The media has been awash with the news of the takeover and the end of the Whelan dynasty. It has been an emotional time for Latics supporters, given the departure of the man whose drive, vision and financial support put Wigan Athletic on the world football map.

However, we now face a new reality. The IEC will be the new owners and the club’s future is less certain. Pleasantries have been passed between the Whelans and IEC, but nobody has let us know why the takeover has been so protracted.

But we must face reality. No one can rightly criticise DW for deciding not to pump more funds into the club after 23 years of ownership/sponsorship. The question is whether IEC is right for the club. Were there other meaningful offers? What does a business such as IEC have to gain from the takeover?

In the meantime, we must try to be positive about the takeover. Much will be revealed over the next three months, with the January transfer window likely to give us indications of IEC’s intentions.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

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Mackay gets it right – Post match reaction Leeds United (A)

Our luck was in today”.

So said James McClean, the architect of Wigan Athletic’s first win since October 25th. McClean’s cross led to a Leeds own goal after 11 minutes, then he sealed the win with a powerful finish in the 82nd minute.

Mackay got his tactics right this time around. He brought in James Tavernier in his best position as right wing back, with Andrew Taylor on the opposite flank and a central defensive trio of James Perch, Ivan Ramis and Rob Kiernan. He stuck with the experienced trio of Don Cowie, Chris McCann and Ben Watson in midfield, with McClean and Marc-Antoine Fortune upfront.

Nobody looked happier with yesterday’s win than the beleaguered manager, Malky Mackay. It was a welcome surprise to see him opt for a 3-5-2 formation, after his sterile tactics in previous matches. Fans were wincing at the prospect of him playing with just one striker, but the change in formation allowed him to play with two, whilst providing more defensive stability.

This time Mackay fielded three of Uwe Rosler’s signings in his starting lineup, having brought in Tavernier to join his trusted lieutenants, Cowie and Taylor. He boldly left out the underperforming FA Cup winning trio of Emmerson Boyce, Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney.

Maloney might well be leaving the club over the coming weeks, as Latics are likely to want to cash in with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Boyce has been a wonderful club servant and played in Wigan’s most famous victories, but has just not looked the same player this season. At 35 he is now unlikely to be able to command a regular place in the starting lineup.

Ironically McManaman was left out when Mackay opted for the formation that suits him best. Playing wide on the flank makes it too easy for the opposition to snuff him out of the game with multiple markers. In a 3-5-2 system he has the freedom to wander, making it hard for the opposition defence to control him. The young player has received criticism over recent weeks from fans who have thought he has not been sufficiently involved in the game. However, unlike with Rosler, who would often only play him for an hour, he is now expected for play the full ninety.

Mackay is the third manager who has tried to play with the two wide men – McManaman and McClean – in the same lineup to find out it does not work. Of the two, McManaman is the more clinical finisher, although McClean hit home his goal with aplomb yesterday. Would Mackay consider playing the two together as strikers in a 3-5-2 formation, rather than as orthodox wingers?

Even in the Martinez days of 3-5-2 (or a modified 3-4-3), Latics played with at least one target man. In the last season in the Premier League it was Arouna Kone and Franco di Santo before that. Yesterday Mackay had Fortune playing there. Moreover over the past months Wigan’s defenders and goalkeeper have grown accustomed to using the centre forward as an outlet for hopeful long punts. But yesterday saw Ramis and Kiernan restored to the centre of defence and both are capable of resisting the hoof and playing the ball out from the back.

At last Wigan’s luck has changed for the better. In so many matches this season they have done enough to win, but thrown it away through defensive laxness or unlucky goals. This time around the remodeled defence held firm during the onslaught from the home team.

They say that one swallow does not make a summer. But at least fans can now see some light on the horizon. The coming weeks are going to continue to be a rollercoaster ride, both in terms of performance on the pitch and in changes in personnel over the period of the transfer window.

A win can do wonders for a team’s confidence and the players will now be looking forward to Tuesday’s home game with Sheffield Wednesday. They will hope that the ill-luck that has dogged them so much this season has gone for good.

Unlucky Latics fall apart – Bolton 3 Wigan Athletic 1

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How can a team that had more than matched the opposition fall apart as Latics did in this game? The capitulation in the second half brought back memories of  8-0 and 9-1 defeats in the Premier League days. Admittedly Latics did not concede a panful of goals, against a very ordinary Bolton side. But the way they played after Bolton scored their first goal was reminiscent of those debacles of the past.

Wigan had played well in the first half and were unlucky not to be ahead. Callum McManaman had hit both the crossbar and the post, they went close with other good efforts and had withstood the physical barrage of the opposition.

Uwe Rosler put out a well balanced team this time. James Perch moved across to right back to accommodate the return of Leon Barnett in the centre of defence. Emyr Huws returned in place of Don Cowie to form a useful-looking central midfield trio with Adam Forshaw and Roger Espinoza. Shaun Maloney and Callum were brought in to play wide with Marc-Antoine Fortune returning at centre forward.

Latics dominated the first quarter if the game, their high pressing leading to the home team struggling to retain possession. McManaman was making mincemeat out of Bolton right back Vela and he put in a superb left wing cross for Maloney to volley just wide. Then after cutting in from the left he hit a superb effort from 25 yards that scraped the top of the crossbar. Espinoza found himself free in the box but his claims for a penalty   were brushed aside as he went down. McManaman once again found space but goalkeeper Lonergan blocked his shot.

Bolton came back into the game and Max Clayton evaded the marking of Rob Kiernan only for Scott Carson to make a fine save from his angled shot. Latics were under more pressure now but the defence was holding firm. Espinoza had a chance to put Latics ahead from Fortune’s pass but the ball was on his weaker right side and the chance went begging.  McManaman’s shot hit the post and Espinoza shot wide.

One wondered if Latics could maintain their intensity in the second half. Sadly that was not to be. In the 50th minute Clayton was put free on the left of Carson’s goal and his shot somehow passed through the goalkeeper who had not made himself look big. That goal changed the whole tone of the game. Latics looked wobbly and Bolton got another five minutes later. A high cross from the right seemed to take an eternity to arrive, but when it did there was no sign of either of Wigan’s centre backs as Bolton centre forward Craig Davies headed home.

Rosler made a double substitution after 58 minutes with James McClean coming on from Maloney and Chris McCann for Huws. A couple of minutes later Barnett wrestled Matt Mills to the ground in the box, almost in front of the referee. Lee Chung-Yong easily beat Carson from the penalty with shot through the middle.

Latics had fallen apart. William Kvist came on for Forshaw after 69 minutes, but none of the substitutions had made a difference. Latics had simply fallen apart. Somehow in the 79th minute they got a goal with a rocket shot from McManaman from McClean’s cross, but more goals were not likely to come from a side looking desperately low on confidence.

A limited Bolton side had won on grit and determination against a Wigan team with enough talent to have beaten them.

The Good

McManaman was back to form and with luck could have had a hat trick. But once again he did not see enough of the ball. Fortune did well, especially in the first half. His hold-up play was excellent despite the presence of two powerful Bolton centre halves.

Following his cameo appearance at Brighton, Chris McCann was brought on earlier this time, after 58 minutes. Latics are going to need him back to his best if they are to reverse this awful sequence of results.

The Bad

Wigan Today quotes Rosler as saying ““We gave up in the second half and I felt embarrassed. I’m not sure it meant as much to some of my players as it meant for our supporters and our chairman. In any competitive game of football, you never give up, you always fight to the end.  To give up at Bolton, in a derby game? It’s unforgivable.”

One wonders what might have happened if one of those Wigan chances in the first half had gone in. They could have gone on to win the game. But the reality was that they did not go in and the confidence drained out of Latics with Bolton’s first goal.

The fan forums and social media are awash with demands that the manager be sacked. Dave Whelan was at the game and would surely have been furious to see his highly paid professionals being taken apart by a team lying second from bottom.

Somehow the negative streak has to be reversed. The big question is whether Rosler is able to accomplish that change.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 5 – it was sad to see him beaten by Clayton’s shot. He has been Latics’ best performer this season.

James Perch: 5 –looked rusty, misplacing passes and not tacking with his usual verve.

Leon Barnett: 4 – fell apart in the second half, although he made some good interventions in the first.

Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor. Lacked the physical presence needed in a game of this type.

Maynor Figueroa: 5 – not at his best.

Adam Forshaw: 5 – started well but faded.

Roger Espinoza: 5 – lively in the first half but faded.

Emyr Huws: 4 –  poor. Substituted after 58 minutes.

Shaun Maloney: 5 – lively early on. Substituted after 58 minutes.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 7 – worked hard in the lone centre forward role.

Callum McManaman: 7 – not involved enough, but dangerous when he had the ball. His goal was superbly taken and he was unlucky in hitting the woodwork twice.

Substitutes

James McClean: – his cross led to Wigan’s goal.

Chris McCann: – it will take him time to get match fit.

William Kvist: – brought in from the cold. Why has he been left out over recent weeks?

What a Game! Wigan Athletic 3 Fulham 3

 

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.  Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.
Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

It was as entertaining as any game could be – with six goals and two red cards it kept us on our toes for 96 minutes.

Uwe Rosler shocked the fans by resisting his tinkering tendencies and naming an unchanged lineup from the one that started the previous game against Derby.

Latics started well, their pressing allowing Fulham no time on the ball. In the 9th minute Callum McManaman was tripped in the box for a penalty. Adam Forshaw stepped up and scored his first Latics goal, hitting through the middle as goalkeeper Bettinelli dove to his right. Latics continued to look bright but their incisive approach play did not produce another goal.

But by around the 20 minute mark Latics’ high pressing had practically evaporated as Fulham crowded out the midfield and started to dominate possession. It did not come as a big surprise when in the 30th minute Scott Parker put through a superb ball for Lasse Vigen to evade Leon Barnett and tuck the ball past Scott Carson. Then six minutes later Ross McCormack’s right footed punt from the left was easily chested home at the far post by Bryan Ruiz with the left side of Wigan’s defence caught sleeping. Fulham’s wide players had caused Latics’ defence constant problems and Hugo Rodallega was looking lively. The visitors went into half time with a 2-1 lead.

Latics came out in the second half showing renewed vigour and got the equalizer after 52 minutes. The ball came to Roger Espinoza some 25 yards out and he hit a fine volley past Bettinelli. The game became open with end to end play, neither defence looking comfortable. Callum McManaman had a good effort saved, then the dangerous young left winger George Williams crossed for McCormack to force a fine save from Carson. James McClean replaced an out of sorts Emyr Huws after 61 minutes, with Don Cowie moving into the centre of midfield. McCormack handed Latics the advantage after 74 minutes when he received his second yellow card after an altercation with McClean.

Shaun Maloney came on as substitute for McManaman and scored a well taken goal in the 82nd minute following an exchange of passes with Espinoza. It looked as if Latics were going to snatch a much wanted three points but it was not to be. In the 86th minute Kiernan’s inability to clear a lofted ball saw Rodallega running through on goal, to be cut down by Barnett. Barnett received a red card and Ruiz slotted home the penalty. Ivan Ramis came on for Espinoza as the game continued for another 10 minutes, until reaching its conclusion.

The Good

Latics extended their unbeaten run to six, albeit including five draws. Confidence is increasing and new partnerships on the field are being built.

Rosler’s pressing tactic worked well for the opening quarter. It helped Latics get off to a good start and they looked the better team at that stage, with good movement from the midfield.

Despite being behind at the interval they did not drop their heads and would probably have won the game if it weren’t for a defensive error.

Tavernier’s crossing was of high quality and he looks such a fine player going forward. Forshaw was involved throughout and is coming to terms with the physical side of play in the Championship division.

Espinoza was an inspiration. His passing was crisp and precise, he scored a cracking goal and made an assist for another.

Marc-Antoine Fortune once again was tireless in the target man role, his hold-up play being excellent.

The Bad

The back four were awful. Tavernier was repeatedly exposed by the 19 year old Williams and the centre backs did not mesh together. On the left Maynor Figueroa was useful going forward, but looked vulnerable in defence.

The ploy of playing Cowie in right midfield to allow Tavernier to attack did not work. On occasions when Tavernier was found wanting Cowie was not able to provide the support. Cowie looked one dimensional and short of pace on the right, but much better when moved into central midfield later in the game.

It appears that Cowie is heading the same way with the DW crowd as did Jordi Gomez in his early days at Wigan. Roberto Martinez always had faith in Gomez, despite the frustration he could cause among fans in passing the ball backwards or sideways. However, Gomez was never an automatic choice for Martinez, but Cowie has been so under Rosler.

After dominating the opening stages through their high pressing it was frustrating to see Latics drop back and allow Fulham to control the game. Was it something coming from the manager or were the players physically unable to keep up the pressing for longer than 20 minutes or so?

Tavernier is a talented young player, who will hopefully have a bright future at Wigan. In some ways he is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. Taylor joined Latics as a right back, but was not a success in that position. Taylor proved to be so invaluable from set pieces that Steve Bruce would find a position for him in the team. That might also become the case with Tavernier.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves, but was stranded for Fulham’s second goal.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – good in attack, vulnerable in defence.

Leon Barnett: 4.5 – good in the air but otherwise poor.

Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor.

Maynor Figueroa: 5.5 – not at his best.

Adam Forshaw: 7 – worked hard, rarely wasted the ball.

Emyr Huws: 5 – not as involved as usual. Is his ankle still troubling him? Taken off after 61 minutes.

Roger Espinoza: 9 – the best player on the pitch.

Don Cowie: 4 – poor.

Callum McManaman: 6 – heavily marked, but still posed a threat to Fulham’s defence. Fouled for the penalty. Lasted until the 81st minute.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 8 – clearly relishing his place in the lineup ahead of Delort and Riera.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – full of running, but unable to provide that final pass.

Shaun Maloney: – took his goal well.

Ivan Ramis: – came on 85 minutes too late. Why was he not in from the start?

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Not another false dawn for Latics

falsedawn

On August 30th Wigan Athletic destroyed Birmingham City 4-0. The performance was a revelation, far removed from the mediocrity of the displays that had preceded it. Moreover Andy Delort was introduced to the Latics faithful before the match started and within a couple of days Adam Forshaw and William Kvist were to be snapped up.

It was such a hopeful time. It looked like Latics were back on the promotion trail.

But the international break meant that the momentum was lost and Latics were to go eight games and eight weeks without a win. The buoyant optimism was replaced by sheer frustration on the part of so many fans. A manager who had enjoyed almost iconic status in early-August was now an object of derision among many. Slogans such as ‘In Uwe We Trust’ and ‘Vorsprung Durch Uwe’ had melted away and #RoslerOut was rearing its head on the social media.

There were some Latics fans who would not have been unhappy for their team to lose at Derby on Saturday, hoping it would precipitate Uwe Rosler’s demise. Most fans wanted them to win, but doubted that it would happen. Then there were the brave few who quoted tales of Latics showing their resilience in bygone times of adversity, boldly predicting an away win.

The display at Derby on Saturday was a throwback to those days last season when Latics were on a great run and Rosler was viewed as the saviour. It was not pretty to watch and Latics picked up five yellow cards compared with the home team’s one. Nevertheless the victory was well deserved. The players battled to get that result, something they had not done in the midweek game against Millwall, in which incidentally no Wigan player got a yellow card. Why was there such a different attitude from the players on Saturday?

It could be said that the inclusion of Roger Espinoza in midfield was the catalyst. Espinoza is not the most technically gifted player in the squad, but he is surely one of the most committed when he gets on the pitch. Playing in the more advanced midfield role he was a livewire in closing down opposition defenders and midfielders, then running at them when in possession.

Emyr Huws and Adam Forshaw close behind Espinoza played with that same kind of passion. Both have the technical ability to do great things in the future. But on Saturday they showed the necessary level of commitment to complement their abilities. Something that had been missing in midfield since James McArthur’s departure.

The conspiracy theorists will say that something changed at the club following that insipid display against Millwall. Perhaps the manager really did clear the air through a heart-to-heart discussion with his players. Or perhaps some of the senior pros helped stifle dissent within the squad. Are there really players who want to leave in January? All this may be speculation and hearsay. Football clubs are masters at keeping such things secret and as fans we can only surmise.

At this moment in time many people are wary of a false dawn. After the Birmingham game there was so much buoyant optimism but it was to be sunk in a tide of indifferent displays.  Four weeks ago against Nottingham Forest the players played with real commitment, which dissipated in the matches that followed. Will the same happen again?

The next three matches are against teams below Latics in the table. However, both Bolton and Fulham have responded to changes in manager and are  on their way up the table. Moreover Brighton, like Latics, have been punching well below their weight this season and will surely get better.

However, the positives from the win at Derby outweigh those from that victory against Birmingham. There was some lovely football in that 4-0 result, but three of the goals came in the first half and Latics went off the boil in the second. The display at Derby showed that the players now have the levels of fitness to play the high tempo, high pressing game that Rosler has wanted all along. Their legs did not go in the second half and they finished as strong as the home side. Moreover since the return of the powerhouse Leon Barnett to the starting lineup Latics have had three shutouts in four games.

Another big plus on Saturday was seeing James McClean getting in there where it hurts to score two opportunist goals. The 4-4-2 system saw first Callum McManaman, then McClean, partner the centre forward upfront. Although McManaman was largely shackled by the Derby defence he thrives on the licence provided by the support striker role. McClean is more used to playing as an orthodox left winger, but he too has the potential to make a success of that role. He is fast and strong, with a powerful left foot, good qualities for that position.

Despite some colourless displays in recent weeks, Latics’ defence has tightened up, conceding only three goals in the last five matches. The absence of James Perch for domestic reasons has meant that James Tavernier has been given three straight starts and he will benefit from the experience. He has the best delivery of crosses and set pieces in the club. He and Perch are different types of players, but having the two available to play at right back gives Rosler good options.

The midfield situation is suddenly looking much rosier. Forshaw and Huws will surely form the midfield for years to come providing they stay injury-free and are not snapped up by bigger clubs. Espinoza’s comeback may be short-lived, given Rosler’s previous reluctance to include him, but his enthusiasm will surely rub off on those around him while he remains. The eventual return of Chris McCann and Ben Watson will add further competition for midfield places.

There are still players in the squad who have not yet hit form. They include not only the ‘new boys’ such as Andy Delort and Oriel Riera, but also such as Shaun Maloney. Part of Rosler’s problem is that his squad is too big and he is going to continue to face difficulties in keeping a happy ship.

The results over the next few games may well be patchy, but if Latics can get to a mid-table position by Christmas they will be within striking distance of the playoffs. With more time the newer acquisitions will become more settled in and we will see them perform closer to their best.

The Birmingham display proved to be a false dawn, but the performance at Derby could set the tone for the rest of the season. If Latics can maintain that level of passion and determination they will quickly rise up the table.

Playing at that level of intensity can be draining for players. However, Rosler has a strong and well balanced squad at his disposal. Squad rotation will continue to be his policy, of necessity.

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