Garcia ready to step in for Latics

Juan Carlos Garcia (left) ready to step in for Latics.

When Juan Carlos Garcia was signed last summer it looked like he was going to be the natural successor for Maynor Figueroa.

Like ‘Figgy’ he was an experienced Honduran international, in his mid-twenties, who had come from Honduras’ top club – Olimpia of Tegucigalpa – with the ambition of being successful in England. He was to be another in the line of Honduran footballers at Wigan following in the steps of Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas, Figueroa and Roger Espinoza. Garcia got himself known on a world stage in February 2013 through a spectacular goal for his country in a World Cup qualifier against the USA, assisted by Figueroa.

Like Figueroa, Garcia is a left back who can also play in the centre of defence. The left back position has been problematic for Latics this season. Stephen Crainey played there at the beginning of the season, to be replaced by James Perch. That gave Latics more defensive solidity, but Perch was limited in attacking skills, playing on his ‘wrong side’. At times Owen Coyle would draft in Jean Beausejour at left back. The arrival of Uwe Rosler saw the Chilean being used more in that position, with Crainey rotated in as a wing back when Latics played with a line of three central defenders.

After six years at Blackpool, Crainey struggled to adapt to his new playing environment in the first half of the season. Being played at wing back relieved some of the defensive pressure on him and he started to grow in confidence.

Beausejour’s preferred position is wing back. Ironically when Latics have played with three central defenders it has been, more often than not, Crainey who has been played at left wing back. Apart from the occasional game on the left wing Beausejour has been played largely at left back, not his best position.

In the last two games the left hand side of Latics defence has looked vulnerable. At Burnley it was Crainey partnering Leon Barnett on the left, then it was Beausejour against Blackpool.

Rosler might well choose to revert to a 3-5-2 formation for the remaining two league games, bringing in Rob Kiernan as an extra centre back. However, if he opts to go for a flat back four he could do worse than put in Garcia at left back.

Figueroa made 148 appearances over five seasons for Latics and has been badly missed this season at left back. However, when he first arrived in January 2008 he had to wait months before making his debut as a substitute three months later. His first start was in the last match of the 2007-08 season facing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Garcia did not have to wait quite so long, making his debut in Latics’ 5-0 League Cup debacle at Manchester City in late September. Coyle played him in a wide position in left midfield. Since then he has had some injury problems, but has overcome them, making regular appearances for the development squad.

Will Garcia get his second chance before the season ends?

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From the Archives: Fan views of Latics players – Part 1 – Roger Espinoza and James McClean

The first posting on our Amigos site was made by Ned on August 11, 2011. It received less than 10 views that first day. But by the end of the month the site had received over 700 views.

Our readership has continued to steadily grow. In this current month of April the site has already received more than ten times the number of views than in that inaugural month, from viewers in more than fifty countries. The growth has been particularly significant in recent months.

Given that we now have a wider readership we plan to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen. We ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Our site stats have shown that our readership has been particularly interested in perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs. Thanks to contributions made by bloggers on the fan sites of those clubs for these articles from our archives.

Let’s start with fan views on Roger Espinoza and James McClean.

 

A Sporting Kansas City fan’s view of Roger Espinoza.

Espinoza

Written by: James Starritt, who writes and speaks about Sporting on the web and local radio, on sportingtimes.net and kicktheball.us

Published: December 6, 2012

 

 

A frenzy of crunching tackling and combative running

Roger is a fantastic player who has shown enormous capacity to grow over the last few years. As is typical for MLS he was played out of position for a while — on the flanks early — before being converted to full-back. He didn’t do well, and was a fairly average presence until Honduras popped him into central midfield, and he immediately carved out some fantastic performances. An injury crisis in the middle in 2011 forced a similar move shortly afterwards from Sporting Kansas City, and in his first game he simply dominated the entire midfield, scoring a goal, and breaking up opposition possession in what I can only describe as a frenzy of crunching tackling and combative running. He has never looked back.

If you watched Paul Ince, David Batty or Roy Keane back the days, he is cut from that mold. He is passionate and dominant when he is on his game, and he leaves everything he has on the field. He thrives on the competition, and seems to get stronger as games go onwards. He is very, very consistent. If he can play … he is on.

He is very dangerous around either area, breaking up possession in front of his defense and winning it back around the top of the opponents box. He is ideal sitting right between a defensive midfielder and an attacking/creative one — at least at this level. He can drop back into defensive midfield comfortably, however. He is not terribly dynamic going forward but he does create chances for other players to play around him simply by winning the ball and pressuring people into mistakes, he won’t make goals, you’ll still need players to capitalize on the possession he wins for that. If he can raise his game to BPL levels, Wigan should see more of the ball just having him out there. He is a decent passer, he won’t score many goals, but I think he will only improve with better players around him.

The transfer will go through, goodbyes have been said – I see no reason that he will not pass the medical. He may be a little beaten up after a long season but nothing stands out as problematic long-term that should prevent this going through. Pay will not be an issue either as he is on less than £80,000 currently … annually. The only question is whether he can handle the step up in level … what you get with Roger is a guy who will die trying. He is 26 now but players start later in MLS (they go to college/university and then play…) he is still learning and growing and doesn’t have 8 years of time on his legs. He’ll earn his share of yellows and reds… it is just the nature of his play, he isn’t malicious or dirty but if he dives in, he is going all in. You’ll get no histrionics, no diving – he goes down and bounces right up and gets right back into the game, not much complaining, no drama off the field, and he is a nice guy to talk to – he won’t have problems fitting in with the squad unless he struggles to feel at home within Wigan itself.

If he can handle the BPL I think he has the capacity to be a bit of a fan favorite, maybe not a huge star but a good solid pro who you’ll miss when he isn’t out there. We certainly will.”

A Sunderland fan’s view of James McClean

mcclean

 

Written by: Matthew Wear of Sunderland fan site “A Love Supreme”.

Published: August 19, 2013

In his time with Sunderland, there was a lot of side-taking for the Irish International. He was a little like marmite, either you love him or you hate him. He signed for us for a mere £300,000 from League of Ireland side Derry City, and under Steve Bruce it was seemingly a signing for the future.

However, due to his impressive performances in the reserve side he was placed on the bench but didn’t appear till Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge, which wasn’t until December, and many credited McClean for changing the game around in our favour.

For the rest of the 2011-12 season, McClean was in fantastic form as it seemed he had no fear taking on defenders from the top teams in the land and not being put off by them. Many SAFC fans believed we had unearthed a gem in McClean who would shine for us for years to come.

 In his first half-season he played 29 games, scoring 6 goals and putting in some fantastic displays. With a great season behind him McClean was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012 but only making a substitute appearance against champions Spain. Many fans criticised Giovanni Trapattoni as they felt McClean warranted more game time than what he actually got during the tournament.

As the 2012-13 season rolled about fans were expecting as good as, if not better performances from McClean. But throughout the season, his off-field antics overshadowed his time on the pitch. The controversy surrounding the poppy situation lead to death threats from many fans across the country as he refused to wear the Sunderland shirt with a poppy sewn into the kit and instead chose not to. A lot of our fans then turned their backs on the Irishman, which subsequently lead to a loss of confidence on the pitch.

However it was later revealed that 6 people from the estate he grew up on, were shot by the British Military in 1972. But despite this he was unable to shrug off the booing, which despite what he has done, wasn’t warranted in my opinion.

This all culminated with a very, very poor season by the whole of the SAFC  team, but the majority of the blame fell onto McClean as he was in the middle of the controversy with the poppy. However, his form did drop dramatically in comparison to his debut season as he was labelled a ‘one trick pony’ by many fans and in 41 games he scored 5 goals. Lots of SAFC fans believed he had been found out and his success in the previous season was only because no one knew who he was or how to defend against him.

But despite all this, personally I wish all the best to the lad as I feel that in a new club like Wigan, who themselves still have some quality players who have played in the Premiership, he will thrive and possibly help them push for a place back in the top flight.

 

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Wigan Athletic 1 SV Zulte Waregem 2 – late stunner downs brave Latics

Leon Barnett celebrates his goal

Leon Barnett celebrates his goal

A superb 88th minute shot from Bernard Malanda broke Wigan hearts .

It had been a rollercoaster evening for Latics – who had blown hot and cold – but the game looked to be heading for a draw until the 19 year old Malanda struck.

Wigan knew they were going to be in for a tough match, given the Belgian team’s recent form.  The stark fact was that a team standing mid-table in the second tier of English football needed to beat a team currently second in the Belgian Jupiler League.

But then again Latics fans have become accustomed to giant killing, so maybe in some cases it was taken for granted that Wigan would win.

However, Latics started well.  Owen Coyle had put out a well-balanced starting lineup, omitting his two out-of-form central strikers and playing Nick Powell upfront. Callum McMananan and James McClean were on the wings and Jordi Gomez in his natural advanced midfield role.

The four were to link up very well at times in the first half, showing the kind of movement and mutual understanding that had been sadly lacking for big chunks of the Brighton game.

Coyle had brought back the tall Thomas Rogne at centre back who was to dominate the aerial game in defence. Stephen Crainey was brought in at left back and offered good support to McClean on the left, even getting to the byline himself to put over useful crosses.

Surprisingly for the neutral, Roger Espinoza was once again left on the bench for Chris McCann to continue in midfield, this time paired with James McArthur.

In the opening minutes Wigan’s wingers were looking lively and there was much more chemistry in the attack than we have seen for months. It was therefore no surprise when McManaman made a great run to the byline in the 7th minute to pull back for Gomez who fluffed his shot, but Leon Barnett stepped in and volleyed home with aplomb.

Latics continued to use the wings, with Gomez and Powell the catalysts in the middle.

But the Belgian team gradually clawed back control. They  had not seriously troubled the Latics defence until a  37th minute breakaway saw the excellent Thorgen Hazard hit a shot from the right that Lee Nicholls made a complete hash of, pushing the ball into his own net.

Coyle made no changes at half time. Gomez had a bad start to the second half, with poor deliveries from set pieces followed by the crowd voicing their frustration with him after being caught unawares as an opponent robbed him of the ball.  He was to be substituted after 64 minutes for Marc-Antoine Fortune.

Nicholls’ error had proved the turning point. Latics confidence had visibly wilted and it was an uphill battle from then on. However, they hung in there and gradually clawed their way back into the match. There were times when Latics looked thoroughly abject, but they showed resolve.

In the end Latics had held their own against a strong side. They had played good football at times and created more chances than the visitors.

The result was a huge disappointment after hopes had been so high.

However, against technically superior opposition Latics had done enough to win.  The margin proved to be due to a goalkeeping error and a spectacular finish that would have been good enough to decide the result of any match.

The Good

Coyle made a bold move by leaving out both of his experienced central strikers, putting Powell up front. The young player was excellent in the centre forward role, linking up well with the wingers and Gomez.  It was hard to understand why later in the game, Powell – who was the main threat to the Belgian team’s defence – was pushed out to the right wing.

It was refreshing to see the wing play of both McManaman and McClean in the first half. Both played with energy and commitment and no mean level of skill. Crainey at left back also gave support to the attack in a much improved performance by him.

If it had not been for the error after 37 minutes who knows what might have happened? Latics had been playing well and Coyle’s tactical plan seemed to be working. The movement that had been sadly lacking in the Brighton match was plain to see in that first half.

The Bad

There was a moment in the second half when Nicholls had the ball and there were at least seven Latics players static not far outside their own penalty area. It was a manifestation of how tired and dispirited Latics had looked at times.

Questions remain as to the level of fitness of the players. So often this season we have seen severe dips in their athletic performance during a match. Critics would say that this was something that occurred to Coyle’s teams at Bolton and that he is too easy on players during training. Others would criticize the conditioning staff.

In this case it might well have been mental rather than physical. That first goal had an enormous impact on the morale of a team that is brittle in terms of self-confidence. Despite Coyle’s utterings that morale is good it does not manifest itself on the field of play.

Once again the midfield was looking one-paced and sluggish in the second half, crying out for an injection of pace and energy. The player who could have provided that – Roger Espinoza – was left on the bench until the 83rd minute.

This is not to suggest that Espinoza is a better player than McArthur and McCann, but the blend was wrong. It was a similar situation to the Brighton game when the pairing of McCann and Ben Watson had looked one-paced.

Once again the defence was unable to pass the ball effectively.

According to Squawka  “A no-nonsense attitude at the back for Wigan also gave rise to 50 clearances, something which allowed Zulte to rather consistently regain possession in order to launch new attacks, and at two crucial moments in the last few minutes of each half the Wigan defence was caught.”

When the centre backs get the ball they will play it across to each other or the full backs. More often than not it is returned to them and they either hoof the ball forward or pass it back to the goalkeeper for a long clearance. Nine times out of ten the end result is the other team getting possession.

Player Ratings

Lee Nicholls: 5 – a learning experience for the young player.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 – solid, but just not the player at full back that he was at wing back under Martinez.

Leon Barnett: 6 – took his goal really well and was solid in defence. Poor in his distribution.

Thomas Rogne: 6 – ruled the air in the centre of defence. What a pity such a potentially good young player has not been coached into using the ball more effectively.

Stephen Crainey: 6 – a much improved performance. Made some good overlapping runs.

James McArthur: 6 – although he played with his usual commitment and got through a lot of work he seems a pale shadow of his former self. Some might say he misses his old partner, James McCarthy, but Coyle just does not seem to be getting the best out of this Latics stalwart.

Chris McCann: 6 – once again did a lot of work behind the scenes, supporting the defence.

Jordi Gomez: 6 – although he made mistakes at times he was a key link player in the first half. Taking him off after the crowd got on his case is not going to help the player’s level of confidence. He needed a better level of support from a manager who had put him in the starting lineup.

Callum McManaman: 6 – looked like his old self in the first half but looked tired and dispirited in the second. Taken off after 83 minutes.

Nick Powell: 8 – looked the part as the centre forward, full of endeavour and showed his skill.

James McClean: 7 – the best game I have seen him play for Latics. Full of drive and energy and showed a level of skill that we have not seen before.

Substitutes

Marc-Antoine Fortune: – came on after 64 minutes. Poor.

Roger Espinoza: – clearly not one of Coyle’s  favourite players, being brought on after 83 minutes.

Grant Holt: – brought on for the long balls in the 90th minute.

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What will January bring for Roberto?

Just over a year ago, on New Year’s Eve,  Wigan Athletic drew 2-2 at Stoke. The  point they gained kept them in 18th place in the Premier League. They had 15 points from 19 games. Jordi Gomez and Ronnie Stam had been in good form and Latics had survived an horrendous run of fixtures with their pride relatively intact. Despite their low league position there was just one new signing in the January transfer window and they went on to lose all four league games in January, plus an ignominious defeat in the FA Cup at Swindon of League 2. Fortunately their new signing, Jean Beausejour, was to later prove himself to be a key player in the fight to avoid relegation.

This season things are going a little better. Wigan already have 15 points from 16 games, but face a home tie with Arsenal and away games at Norwich, Everton and Aston Villa before the 2012 calendar year ends. Interestingly enough, Roberto Martinez speaks of strengthening his squad during the January transfer window. Free agent, Roger Espinoza, is already lined up and he promises to add a touch of steel to midfield – a second Hendry Thomas maybe? The American/Honduran is coming from a Kansas City side that topped the standings in the Eastern Conference of the MLS. Like other players coming from leagues that are not as competitive as the Premier League it will probably take him some time to adapt to the technical and athletic demands that will be placed upon him. One for the future probably.

We heard this week that ex-Swansea  midfield player, Ferrie Bodde, is being given a trial at Wigan. Bodde has had an horrendous past four years with serious knee injuries, being released by Swansea in summer after completing his contract. Bodde has never played in the Premier League. He has played only four first team games at Swansea since 2008.

Given the financial constraints that Roberto Martinez works under he is unlikely to be able to add any “ready-made” Premier League players to his squad in the transfer window. During Steve Bruce’s era at Wigan he was able to call on a backbone of highly experienced Premier League players – Emile Heskey, Mario Melchiot and Michael Brown, for example. The salaries paid to such players would not be sanctioned under the current financial regime at the club. Martinez is therefore more likely to be scouting around places like Scotland, Spain and Latin America for any January signings. La Liga is likely to be one of Martinez’ main markets since it is one of Europe’s strongest leagues and bargains can be found. Both Arouna Kone and Ivan Ramis have adapted quickly to the Premier League after coming from Levante and Mallorca, although one feels that the best is yet to come from them.

Speaking of Kone, his absence for the African Nations Cup in January is a concern. His country, Ivory Coast, have a difficult group, being drawn with Algeria, Togo and Tunisia. If his team qualifies for the knockout phase it will mean Kone being absent well into the month of February. Kone has become an important player for Wigan, with his ability to hold on to the ball and intelligent passing. His natural replacement would be Mauro Boselli, but he has been left out in the cold so often this season. Once again on Saturday, Martinez chose to bring him off the bench with only a handful of minutes remaining. There is a possibility that Martinez will give Boselli an extended run during Kone’s absence, but one cannot rule out his departure from Wigan in January. More likely that Martinez is looking for another central striker in the January transfer window.

So a midfield player is definitely lined up and there is a need for another striker. What other positions will Martinez be looking to supplement during the transfer window? The current squad remains the best Wigan have ever had, with competition for places in all positions. The position of most concern is that of goalkeeper. If Ali Al Habsi were to get injured then the choice would be between the 40 year old Mike Pollitt and youngster Lee Nicholls. Martinez might well be on the lookout for another goalkeeper who could provide the same kind of competition to Al-Habsi that players in other positions at the club are facing.

Let’s hope that January 2013 will be a successful month for Wigan Athletic, both in their league and cup performances and in their recruitment of new players. If any of the new signings in January makes the kind of difference that  Beausejour made, then Latics will be in a much better position to avoid getting drawn into the relegation mire. Whatever happens on the playing side there surely has to be an  an improvement on the results and performances of January 2012.