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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Latics legs go again in defeat at Charlton

Despite the defeat there were plenty of positives to be taken from Latics’ display at The Valley yesterday. But when it looked as though Wigan had battled through for a deserved point they were robbed by a wickedly deflected shot on goal during time added on.

Uwe Rosler largely stuck with the lineup he had put out in the previous league game against Reading. But with Emmerson Boyce injured he brought in Ivan Ramis at centre back. Marc-Antoine Fortune was brought in for Martyn Waghorn. In Boyce’s absence, James Perch was surprisingly nominated as captain ahead of James McArthur.

Latics started in a positive manner, playing the kind of football reminiscent of the days of Roberto Martinez. But despite having dominated the possession they fell behind in the 8th minute when their right-footed left winger Jordan Cousins cut inside Perch and blasted the ball home with his natural foot. Latics soon got back to their possession football, with Callum McManaman looking lively on the right. In the 21st minute a glorious long pass from James McArthur eluded left back Rhoys Wiggins for McManaman to control the ball and hit it with his left foot past goalkeeper Stephen Henderson from a narrow angle.

Latics continued to dominate possession, building up patiently out of defence. It was good to see Scott Carson looking to throw the ball, rather than give it his habitual hoof. Oriel Riera and Fortune were alternating between the centre forward and left wing positions, but moves were fizzling out with the two forwards and the midfield seemingly not on the same wavelength. Perch continued to have problems with Cousins, who looked dangerous.

Shaun Maloney came on for Riera at half time, playing on the left wing. Charlton had started to gain more possession, but the Latics midfield trio of Cowie, Huws and McArthur were still lively. Martyn Waghorn replaced Fortune in the centre forward position after 69 minutes. Huws was taking all the set pieces for Wigan but they were not threatening a steady Charlton defence with Ben Haim and Bikey-Amagou in top form.

With both teams resisting the long ball it was a fascinating contest and looked to be heading towards a draw. However, the substitution of Don Cowie after 75 minutes saw Wigan’s energy levels fading and the home side were looking the more lively. Latics’ crosses into the box were invariably cut out by the central defenders or the dominant substitute goalkeeper Nick Pope, who had come on after 67 minutes.

In the final ten minutes, which included five minutes of added-on time, Latics were all at sea. The left hand side of defence had all but folded and Perch and Ramis really had their work cut out holding things together. The midfield was unable to provide the protection it had given earlier. Vetokole broke through for a one on one with Carson but the keeper made a fine save. Perch made an excellent block from Gudmundsson. But even Ramis, who had been excellent up to that point, was looking ragged.

It had looked like a goal was on the cards for Charlton in added time, but it was to come when a shot from Moussa from outside the area was deflected by Kiernan, giving Carson no chance.

The stats showed that Latics enjoyed 55% of the possession with six corners to Charlton’s three. But more revealing was that Charlton had five shots on target to Latics’ one. In fact Wigan only mustered four shots in the whole game.

The Good

The good news is that football has returned to Latics’ play. In fact there was hardly a hoof all afternoon. Until they tired, Ramis and Kiernan were excellent in the centre of defence, reading the play and using the ball effectively.

The midfield trio of Cowie-McArthur-Huws at times looked like a carbon copy of last season’s favoured formation of Watson-McArthur-McCann. Cowie looked comfortable in the Watson role in the centre of the park, in front of the back four. Huws is a fine young player who will get better and better. McArthur was his usual lively self.

McManaman had a good first half, taking his goal superbly, but was heavily marked in the second.

The Bad

Once again Latics could not compete physically for the full 90 minutes. Those final ten minutes were agony as they just did not have the legs to compete on equal footing with the home team.

Despite having the majority of the possession Latics were not creating chances. Maloney came on in the second half but he too was unable to provide that spark that was missing.

It was surprising to see Huws take the set pieces with players like Maloney and Waghorn on the field.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – did all that was asked of him. Distribution much improved.

James Perch: 6 – just did not look himself in the first half but showed the kind of grittiness and determination in the second half that typifies his normal play.

Ivan Ramis: 7.5 – excellent until the closing minutes.

Rob Kiernan: 6 – clearly not match fit. Played well until the final quarter of the match.

Andrew Taylor: 5 – looked out of touch. Is he fully fit?

Don Cowie: 7 – worked hard, strong in the tackle, rarely wasted the ball.

James McArthur: 7 – a battling performance.

Emyr Huws: 7 – strong in the tackle, with a cultured left foot.

Callum McManaman: 7 – did all he could offensively, but left Perch exposed at times.

Oriel Riera: 5 – made no impact. Taken off at half time.

Marc -Antoine Fortune: 5 – ineffective.

Substitutes:

Shaun Maloney: – ineffective.

Martyn Waghorn: – made no impact.

Roger Espinoza: – not his usual energetic self.

 

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Rosler’s promotion winning team at Wigan

They are the fittest team in the division and their high pressing unnerves opposition defenders into giving the ball away. They have a rock solid defence and are not averse to grinding out results. The team has genuine pace up front and that enables them to make deadly counterattacks. They are well disciplined and every player gives one hundred percent effort. They are dangerous from set pieces, with players who have the skill to curve the ball round defensive walls and score or create opportunities. Goal scoring is deemed as a collective responsibility and players in all outfield positions make a significant contribution over the course of the season.

Could this be a description of Uwe Rosler’s promotion-winning Wigan Athletic side, 2014-15?

These are early days still. Rosler’s squad building is not yet complete, with three weeks of the transfer window remaining. However, the squad already looks strong, especially in defence. Rosler will be hoping to offload the hapless Grant Holt, to reduce the wage bill and be able to bring in another central striker. In Adam Forshaw he is seeking another creative midfielder to complement Shaun Maloney. Media reports also suggest he is interested in Aston Villa winger, Alexander Tonev. More loan players are also likely to be brought in, with George Saville of Chelsea a clear target. If Rosler spends money on Forshaw and a central striker he is likely to have to offset the costs by pulling in transfer money by letting at least one of his current squad go.

Last season’s promotion push stumbled at the playoffs. By then Latics had played an awful lot of games in a short space of time. Despite their tiredness they pushed Queens Park Rangers into extra time of the second match, although in reality they had all but lost their best chance of going t through being unable to find a way past Harry Redknapp’s parked bus at the DW Stadium. That match called for a moment of magic from the likes of Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman or Nick Powell. Powell’s game had gone off the boil after a mid-season injury and he did not get into the squad for the playoff games. McManaman had had a frustrating season, mired by niggling injuries, and Maloney had not got back to his best after a long spell out through injury.

There was little to choose between Latics and QPR last season, but it was the Londoners who went up. Lots of teams came to park their buses at the DW last season and it is likely to be the same scenario this year. However, McManaman is now approaching full fitness and is likely to terrorise Championship team defences in a way that he was infrequently able to do last season. Rosler has carefully nurtured the invaluable Maloney through the pre-season and although he has had no competitive playing time so far he might well appear on the bench against Reading.

Rosler will continue to use his preferred 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 systems, switching seamlessly between the two. Although the former appears to be his preferred system, he has a large reservoir of fine central defenders he can call on to operate with three at the back. With the 3-5-2 system players like McManaman and James McClean are pushed further inside, as second strikers alongside the centre forward. Rosler likens McClean to a ‘wild horse’, although he clearly has faith in the Irishman. It is to be hoped that Rosler can break-in the wild horse, having him lift his head and look up when going on his marauding runs. McClean and McManaman are players who can cause panic when they run at defences, particularly on the counterattack.

Rosler will be confident that his side can mount a strong challenge for promotion this year. He might not have strikers who can score 20 goals a season, but he has a very strong defence, a combative but skilful midfield and exciting forwards.

Providing his flair players stay fit, Rosler might well be a Premier League manager in 2015.

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Profiles from the archives: Part 3 – Callum McManaman and James McClean

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 to bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Click here for our previous player profile on  Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

Click here for our previous player profile on James McArthur and Ben Watson.

 

Callum for Wembley – first published April 9, 2014

Manchester City v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup Final Being ‘Man of the Match’ in an FA Cup Final can be hard to live up to. Callum McManaman knows that all too well.

Just eleven months ago McManaman was the toast of the town as he led Gael Clichy and the Manchester City defence a merry dance at Wembley. He had not only been the star of the Final, but also of the whole FA Cup tournament. He had started in all of Latics’ seven matches in that cup run, scoring three goals and making two assists. His free running in the final trapped Pablo Zabaleta into a red card, turning the momentum of the game. His superbly taken goal from Jordi Gomez’s exquisite pass had sealed the semi-final win over Millwall.

Who could have known that just three days later he would get an ankle injury that would not only put him on crutches, but seriously knock back his career prospects in the process. A burgeoning young talent had been coming through, with managers of the rich and famous clubs casting an eye in his direction. The injury put everything on hold.

Many Latics supporters had viewed McManaman’s injury as a kind of blessing in disguise. If it had not happened the young player would most likely have been whisked away to a big club rather than helping Latics get back to the Premier League. Moreover the excellent Shaun Maloney remained at the club following the large turnover of players in the summer. Latics had a new manager in Owen Coyle and he would have at his disposal two players who could tear the hearts out of the defences of Championship sides.

Those hopes were soon quashed as Maloney’s injury In September put him out of action long term. Moreover McManaman was dealing with illness and niggling injuries that hampered his return to full fitness. When Coyle left in December, McManaman had made hardly any impact up to that point. Fans were hoping that new manager Uwe Rosler could get the best out of the exciting young forward.

At this point of the season McManaman has started in only 14 of the 41 league matches played, scoring one goal and making one assist. Moreover he has rarely played the full ninety minutes. However, he has started in four of the five FA Cup matches Latics have played, scoring in the home tie with MK Dons.

It has been a disappointing season so far for Callum McManaman, but there is still time for him to make a major impact. He has clearly enjoyed playing at Wembley, judging by his performances against Millwall and Manchester City, maybe less so than in his appearance as a 60th minute substitute in the Community Shield.

Rosler will surely take McManaman into strong consideration for lining up in the semi-final against Arsenal at the weekend. Coincidentally it was against the Gunners that his career took that set-back last season. Saturday’s game will be one in which he will be keen to impress, showing a big audience that he still has that talent that has been hiding under the surface for so long this season.

If he is given the chance McManaman can get his career back on fast-track with a star performance against the Gunners. At his best there are few more exciting players to watch in English football.

 

James McClean can become a Latics legend -first published January 3, 2014

McClean and Smalling compete for the ball

McClean and Smalling compete for the ball

Latics at Wembley, a goal behind to Manchester United in the Community Shield.

Stephen Crainey launches a ball over the Reds’ defence. Chris Smalling makes a hash of it and James McClean is through with what is to be Latics’ best chance in the match. But instead of looking for Grant Holt coming up on his inside the Irishman hits a cross shot that goes astray.

It was McClean’s debut for Wigan Athletic, only three days after being signed from Sunderland.  He had looked lively that afternoon at Wembley, clearly keen to make an impression on the match. The 24 year old had been so keen to come to Wigan that he had taken a pay cut to drop down a division in his move from the north east.

It is his enthusiastic approach and his willingness to run at defenders that endears McClean to so many Wigan Athletic fans. Often referred to in fan forums by his first name – an accolade rare among Latics fans – ‘James’ has already become a player with the potential to be a legend at the club. At 5’11” he is physically strong and is never afraid to take on defenders.  He has a great left foot and genuine pace. So why is he not playing in the Premier League?

During his time at Sunderland some of their more extreme fans dubbed him ‘a headless chicken’ , through his lack of awareness when on the ball. Mathew Wear of the Mackems  fan site ‘A Love Supreme’ provided us with a more balanced view of McClean’s time at Sunderland in the article we posted in August.

McClean had a hard time at Sunderland over the ‘poppy issue’, which made him unpopular with many fans. Facing probing media questions about McClean’s absence at the same time this season Owen Coyle stated that the player was injured.

Moreover McClean has had various off the field problems with his club and national team managers through his activity on ‘Twitter’.

McClean had a ‘Man of the Match’ performance in Martin O’Neill’s ’ first game as Republic of Ireland manager in November .However, he was soon to get himself in hot water once again with the manager following another rant on Twitter. He had similar problems with both O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland and with Giovanni Trappatoni for Ireland.

Up to this point in the season  James McClean has started 14 games and come on as a substitute in 11. He was unfortunate in having his first goal for the club chalked off as the match with Sheffield Wednesday was abandoned.

Under Coyle, McClean was used a winger, on both flanks. Although less comfortable on the right he has a powerful shot and can be employed in the same way Latics that Roberto Martinez effectively used Charles N’Zogbia. However, since Uwe Rosler’s arrival McClean has added energy and vigour when played in a striking role. If Rosler decides to play with wing backs this will be McClean’s role.

On his appointment Rosler was asked about Callum McManaman and James McLean. He described each as exciting, fast and direct players that would fit his system, while reserving a diplomatic word about room for improvement in McLean’s final pass. Rosler is already getting much more out of McManaman and he has clearly had an influence on McClean.

Rosler can help McClean to become a top player. As an ex-striker the German has a good insight as to what is required.  McClean has spent most of his career as a left winger. He is likely to have to play a variety of roles under Rosler, which will make him into a better player.

McClean has been left on the bench for Latics’ last two games against Burnley and Derby, despite approaching his best form in previous matches. However, he has recently become a father for the first time and this might have impacted upon Rosler’s decisions.

James McClean is an enigma, both on the field and off it. He could be Uwe Rosler’s greatest challenge.

Were Rosler to be successful in unlocking the Irishman’s potential it would make a huge difference in Latics’ quest for a return to the top flight.

McClean has the ability to become a top quality forward.

He has the support of the majority of Latics fans who will be willing him to succeed.

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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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