Kvist – the best of Rosler’s signings

 

He is among the most eloquent of footballers, a real professional and an inspiration in Wigan Athletic’s fight against relegation. William Kvist finally got the recognition he deserved on Saturday, when he was named captain of the team that lined up against league leaders Bournemouth.

But why did it take so long for Kvist to get a regular place in the starting lineup? What was in the minds of managers Uwe Rosler and Malky Mackay in leaving him out for so long? The Denmark captain has played in the Bundesliga and the Premier League, let alone making 53 appearances for his country over the past eight years.

The cynics might say that Mackay has brought the Dane in from the cold mainly because of his ability to launch long throws. But Kvist is much more than that. He brings stability to a midfield that had struggled to maintain possession. You will invariably see him as the last man in front of the back four, strong in the tackle and his reading of the game allowing him to make important interceptions. Kvist is not the kind of player who will play box-to-box and it is rare that he scores a goal. He keeps things simple, organizing the midfield from behind, rarely wasting the ball.

Kvist has been part of the rollercoaster ride that has characterized Wigan Athletic’s season. His signing at the end of the summer transfer window was overshadowed by those of Andy Delort and Adam Forshaw, plus the announcement of Emyr Huws being signed on a permanent basis. However, it looked like Rosler had done a good job in the transfer market and hopes of promotion were once again on the table.

Five months on and Latics are in a dire situation. Second from bottom and seven points adrift of safety. Many fans blame Rosler’s signings for what has happened. After all, last season’s team was good enough to reach the FA Cup semi-final and the Championship playoffs. Surely it was the arrival of Rosler’s new men that brought the club down?

There may well be some truth in their assertion. Rosler had inherited players from the Martinez and Coyle eras, who had adopted his “high pressing” philosophy to some degree. Latics took a lot of teams by surprise last season by that tactic, even if they weren’t able to hold it for more than the first thirty minutes in most games. It was often enough to get ahead in the first half and hold on to that lead by the skin of their teeth. But it produced results, at least until the other teams got wise to it.

Ironically Rosler brought in ten players of his own, but neither they nor the others seemed willing to buy into the high pressing approach. In the absence of high pressing there was little else remaining as Latics were then lacking a consistency in approach. Bouts of nervy defenders playing the ball across the back were interceded by hoofs from the goalkeeper to the lone front man.

Sadly Rosler’s new men did not appear to be supporting him on the field. Many of those from previous managerial regimes at Wigan certainly weren’t.

Many of those fans who blame Latics’ current demise on Rosler’s signings will say that most of them simply were not good enough. Delort, Forshaw, Oriol Riera and James Tavernier have all gone, having been unable to establish themselves in the starting lineup. Huws is out injured for the rest of the season. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair has been injured for some time and it looks like he is now way down on the totem pole with the arrival of Gaetan Bong. Martyn Waghorn has been only on the fringes, despite having made a good impression last season.

But Andrew Taylor has started in 25 of the 29 league matches this season, and Don Cowie in 21. The cynics will say that the two are automatic choices for Mackay, having played under him at Cardiff and Watford. Neither has a high popularity rating with the DW crowd.

That is not the case with William Kvist. His recent all-action performances, together with his leadership skills and positivity about Latics getting out of their current predicament, are making him into the kind of player that fans really appreciate.

If Latics do avoid relegation then they would do well in securing a contract extension for the Dane, who clearly has much to offer.

At this point in time he looks like the best of Rosler’s signings.

 

Other Amigos articles on William Kvist:

Kvist is back – but for how long?

A Danish fan’s view of William Kvist

 

Can Malky’s new players gel in time?

embers

The flames of Malky’s fire sale have now subsided. Only the embers remain of the most successful era in Wigan Athletic history.

Is there method in this apparent madness in selling off the family silver? Does Mackay know what he is doing? In what direction is the club heading?

Malky Mackay may well be the least popular manager in Wigan Athletic’s history. But perhaps only someone with ratings so low would be willing to withstand the ire of the fans by selling off the club’s most talented players. Did Dave Whelan bring him in as the axe man, ready to chop away the dead wood, so that new and stronger roots could start up? Is that why he has seemed relatively unconcerned about the awful results during his tenure? Is he at Wigan for the long haul, come what may?

The club is at its lowest ebb for decades. There is no doubt that we will be seeing a new reality over the next couple of years. Gone are the glory days of entertaining the rich and famous clubs of English football. Moreover it looks like we can also forget about attacking football. Mackay’s teams have been built on defence and resilience, unattractive but effective. But even that would be an improvement on what we have seen these past months.

Over the transfer window Latics lost ten players, four of whom played in the FA Cup Final. Only one of those heroes now remains – the 35 year old Emmerson Boyce. Mackay was not fully able to stick with his plan of recruiting “hungry British players”. He did manage to get Leon Clarke, Billy McKay, Sheyi Ojo, Jason Pearce and Liam Ridgewell. But he also signed Cameroonian Gaetan Bong and Australian Chris Herd, with Korean Kim Bo-Kyung seemingly about to become the eighth new player.

One of the concerns under Uwe Rosler was that a squad of 30+ players was too big. Most of us expected a considerable slim down in squad size. In fact with Juan Carlos Garcia coming back from an unsuccessful loan period at CD Tenerife the squad has not shrunk much at all. Granted Latics have shed many of their highest wage earners, but the current squad certainly looks much lower on quality, if not in quantity.

Some fans would say that Uwe Rosler made appalling signings and put Latics into the situation they are in at the moment. Others would say that the players he signed had genuine potential, but they could not adapt quickly enough and never reached the levels expected. Then again, it could be argued that they were not well handled and that led to their demise.

Typical of football managers, Rosler wanted to bring in his own men. He went on to sign ten on permanent contracts. That made the squad large, with inevitable problems. His demise was precipitated by those players not gelling in the squad.

To be fair on Rosler, he had taken over players who had been recruited by managers whose preferred style of play was diametrically opposed. He did well last season to keep some kind of harmony between the ex-Premier League players of the Martinez era and the mish-mash of quality players and journeymen brought in by Owen Coyle. But bringing in his own men added an extra dimension of complication that eventually was to become insurmountable.

Now Mackay is trying to do the same.

However, unpopular though he might be, Mackay has had the blessing of the majority of fans in making major changes in the playing staff. Put simply, players on fat contracts just had not performed as they should. It has given him carte blanche to cull the legends of the Martinez era, something Coyle was unable to do.

The acid test remains for Mackay.

There are 18 matches remaining for Latics to salvage a season where promotion was once a realistic possibility. Relegation looms.

Fans will back Mackay in bringing in new men, “refreshing the squad”, in his vernacular. Given the woeful lack of commitment by the players over the course of the season, it has been looked on as necessary.

However, in the process he has lost most of the creative talent that was there. However, he could say that those players were not being effective and his new charges may be less talented, but can achieve more.

Frankly speaking, some of the players brought in by Mackay during this transfer window would not have been signed in previous eras. Expectations have been lowered.

However, he now faces the problem that Rosler had. That is “bedding in” of his new players. With only 18 games left that is a major issue.

 

Tavernier exit sounds the alarm bells

He came with rave reviews from Rotherham. Uwe Rosler was excited about his new signing saying that:

“…… he is still learning and, at just 22, I feel that we can provide the right sort of environment for him to grow and develop into a really important player for this club.”

Can James Tavernier still become a really important player for Latics or is the writing on the wall that he will not be returning?

Tavernier has been sent on loan to Bristol City until the end of the season. It leaves Latics with James Perch and Emmerson Boyce to share the right back/wing back positions. Perch is superb defensively but despite scoring some key goals over the past year he can hardly be labelled a skilful attacking wing back. Boyce was indeed that when playing in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez, but the years have crept up on him. At 35 he just does not have the pace he used to.

Has Malky Mackay already written off the Bradford lad? Or is he sending him to “the right sort of environment” where he can further develop his game?

Tavernier showed a lot of promise in the pre-season where he was used in midfield. He put in some great crosses and scored a stunning goal at Rochdale. He made his competitive debut in the first match of the season, the 2-2 home draw with Reading, as a 72nd minute substitute. Although he made the starting lineup in the next match at Burton in the League Cup, Rosler continued to use him as a substitute in the league.

However, Perch’s unavailability led to Tavernier being at right back against Brentford in mid-October. The young player had a run of four more games, but after an indifferent performance at Brighton he lost his place. It was another six weeks before Tavernier made his return as a wing back in the 2-0 win at Leeds, continuing in that position against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton.

After making seven starts and four appearances off the bench, Tavernier is joining a Bristol city side currently second in League 1. The environment there will certainly be brighter for him than the current case of Wigan, where morale is approaching rock bottom. After playing for a struggling side Tavernier’s confidence could use a boost.

However, the value in sending Tavernier back to League 1 is questionable. He has already more than proved himself in that division and a loan to a Championship side would have been preferable.

It would be fair to say that Tavernier’s performances at Wigan have been disappointing. He lacks the pace and tackling ability necessary to be a successful full back in the Championship. Wing back is a more natural position for him, but his displays in that position were marred by poor distribution. Right midfield in a 4-4-2 formation would probably suit him best, but it is a shape that neither Rosler nor Mackay have favoured. With his exceptional ability to cross the ball and shoot he could have been well employed as an impact substitute and it is hard to understand why Mackay would want to lose someone with such an ability to change the flow of a game.

Rosler was building for the future signing a handful of younger players in the last transfer window. Andy Delort, Adam Forshaw, Emyr Huws, Aaron Taylor- Sinclair and Tavernier were brought in. All were stars at their clubs last season and they are still good players. Sadly they have been dragged into a situation where even experienced and capable pros, such as Ivan Ramis, Shaun Maloney and Leon Barnett, have been struggling to impose themselves on the field of play. Sadly those young players have been seriously mismanaged, first by Rosler now by Mackay.

Tavernier knows what it is like to go on loan. Whilst at Newcastle he was on loan at Gateshead, Carlisle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Milton Keynes Dons, Shrewsbury Town and Rotherham United. However, this is a backwards move for him as he has been trying to establish himself as a Championship-level player. The likelihood is that he will not be returning to Wigan, unless they too are in the Championship next season, heaven forbid!

Supporters of Mackay will say he is doing the right thing in sending Tavernier to Bristol where he will be in a more positive environment away from the relegation pressure at Wigan.

His detractors will say that he is trying to get shut of as many players as he can over the transfer window to make room for his own men. However, he will surely have already found out that players are reluctant to join a team in a relegation mire. He is unable to offer the Premier League style salaries that players like Danny Graham demand, so he will have to find his preferred “hungry UK players” either in the lower leagues in England or from Scotland. The likelihood is that those he might bring in will have no more quality than those already at the club.

Only time will tell if Mackay was right to release Tavernier. But it is a sad state of affairs when a talented young player is sent away on loan less than six months of being signed.

The alarm bells continue to ring at Wigan Athletic.

Playing for Malky

Will Mackay's appointment  prove to be worth the baggage that came with it?

Will Mackay’s appointment prove to be worth the baggage that came with it?

Despite the emotional and divisive effect Mackay’s candidacy and then appointment had amongst club’s supporters, there seemed to be a general feeling among backers and protesters, and even the media, that his arrival would probably still give the team the “new manager” boost on the pitch.

What is surprising to me is that although there has been plenty written about dressing room trouble, which we knew plenty about well before Mackay’s arrival, few have written or spoken about how much further damage his appointment might have inflicted it in a young, multicultural squad. (No matter what forced public statements of support the captains GC/EB gave at the time). If one of the biggest problems under Uwe was dressing room unity, he was surely the most ill-suited appointment possible, given how divisive his own public debacle was and continues to be.

Many of the stronger voices of dissent on #wafc forums and social media were those of younger supporters, some foreign. Your average footballer might not be the most involved with social or political issues, and yes, the language on the training ground and “in football” is far from “politically correct” and therefore it is unlikely many of the players were shocked at the content of Mackay’s texts. But their generation is far more likely than previous ones to want no part in what his texts, and his appointment, represent.

Many of the more experienced influential players – Al-Habsi, Maloney, Boyce, Watson, Espinoza, Ramis – were brought in at a time when the club had a very strong ethos of family values and doing things the right way. It was a source of pride, was my sense, for players and supporters alike.

I’ll always be grateful to Whelan for all that he has done, and personally hope he acts to put things right. But this mistake looks costly on just about every front other than the actual money spent, which was probably DW’s priority. Mackay is hardly Mourinho. Just not worth the risk. Someone else could have gotten us out of the bottom three. And even if still Mackay does, and there is plenty of time for him to do so, would it really be worth the baggage?

Carson’s kicking – asset or liability?

carson4

In the 1960s Latics signed a promising goalkeeper called Gerry Barrett from Fareham Town. According to the Lancashire Evening Post (as it was called then) the young man was renowned in the Hampshire League for his prodigious kicking of a football.

His reputation proved to be justified. Springfield Park had a big pitch but Barrett’s punts would regularly threaten the opposition penalty area. It was an attacking weapon that Latics used to effect.

Sadly Barrett’s other goalkeeping skills did not match up to his kicking. He was unable to firmly establish himself at the club and his career did not take off as was hoped.

Decades later Latics have another ‘keeper who is a powerful kicker of a football. The 29 year old Scott Carson is a highly experienced and capable goalkeeper, with four England caps under his belt.

As a teenager brought up in Whitehaven, Carson was a promising rugby league player, but chose to follow career in football. A Leeds United scout saw him playing for Workington in the FA Youth Cup and Carson was recruited to the Leeds academy. Although only 18 years old and still not having made his debut for the first team, Carson was called into the England under-21 squad. After a couple of years at Leeds he was transferred to Liverpool for of £750,000.

Last year when Latics played at Charlton the big Cumbrian was given a warm round of applause by the home supporters when he came out for the pre-match warm-up. He had been on loan to the London club in 2006-07, putting in a string of fine performances. Sadly on his return to The Valley as he slipped and injured himself in the warm-up, with Lee Nicholls stepping up in his place.

Carson never quite managed to establish himself at Liverpool and that loan at Charlton was squeezed between a previous spell at Sheffield Wednesday, followed by another at Aston Villa. However, he made his England debut against Austria in November 2007, with a clean sheet. A week later he made an error in a crucial European Championship match against Croatia, allowing a long shot from Nico Krancjar to bounce in front of him, then parrying it into the net. England lost 3-2 and manager Steve McClaren resigned the next day.

In January 2008 he joined West Bromwich Albion for a fee of around £3.3m. During a three and a half year stay at the Hawthorns, Carson made 110 appearances for his club and two more for England. In July 2011 he was transferred to Bursaspor for £2m, who were to finish in 8th place in the Turkish league, conceding only 35 goals in 34 games. The following season Carson made 29 appearances as Bursaspor finished 4th and qualified for the Europa League.

With Ali Al-Habsi out with a long term shoulder injury, Owen Coyle signed Carson from Bursaspor for £700,000 in July 2013. Since then Carson has established himself as the first choice goalkeeper, despite competition from Al-Habsi and Lee Nicholls. Few would argue that Carson has not been Wigan’s best player so far this season, even if his form has dipped over the past month like his teammates.

Carson’s supporters would say that he is Latics’ number one goalkeeper and one of the best in the Championship division. His outstanding saves have kept them in the game on so many occasions. His critics would say that he should have stopped the goals scored from narrow angles by Max Clayton of Bolton and Troy Deeney of Watford and should have been in better positions to prevent headed goals by Craig Davies for Bolton and Alex Revell of Rotherham. They will also say that he seems clueless on penalty kicks.

Like Barrett, so many decades before him, Carson has a very powerful kick. Years ago playing in the Cheshire League Latics would use Barrett’s kicks to attack the opposition defence. It was non-league football and the ball was often in the air. Compared with many of the teams they faced Latics played quite sophisticated football and their supporters would brand the styles of the opposing teams as “big boot” or “kick and rush”. But on the sticky pitches of the time a long ball game was often essential and Barrett’s kicking was a real asset.

These days Latics are playing at a much higher level and the pitches they are playing on are far superior. Moreover possession of the ball has become paramount in the upper echelons of English football. Nevertheless the long ball has come back into play following the exit of Roberto Martinez.

With Owen Coyle in charge, Carson would regularly spear long balls up front. Even Uwe Rosler, whose preferred football style was opposed to the tactic, allowed or encouraged Carson to do the same. Usually Marc-Antoine Fortune was the target, but James McClean too would be expected to head the ball from the touchline. Fortune is not the best of centre forwards in terms of goalscoring, but he found a place in Rosler’s teams through his ability to make something out of Carson’s long clearances.

Sadly Carson’s long balls have become a feature of Malky Mackay’s tactics. So often defenders who have been unable or unwilling to play the ball out of defence have passed the ball back to the big ‘keeper. The end result has been the central defenders of the opposition having a field day. The corpulent centre halves of the Championship are ill at ease with forwards who run at them, but long balls are their bread and butter.

Is Mackay encouraging Carson to make those long kicks? Is it part of his footballing philosophy?

Having said that he is the third Latics manager for whom the goalkeeper has performed in that way.

In the days of Martinez that kind of distribution from a goalkeeper was anathema. His goalkeepers were expected to conserve possession. A short or long throw from the goalkeeper was the norm. Defenders were encouraged to play the ball out of defence, even if on occasions things went awry.

The football currently played by Wigan Athletic under Mackay is close to that which was played under Coyle. The difference was that Coyle had flair players like Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Nick Powell who made the difference.

Carson is a fine goalkeeper, but his distribution is dire. Rarely does he make a long throw to find an unmarked teammate. So often he launches the long ball that rarely proves successful in moving the team forward.

However, a goalkeeper is dependent on players moving into good positions in order for him to find them accurately with a pass. In a struggling side that is often not the case.

Mackay’s sides have not been known for their flowing, attacking football. However, that does not mean to say that he encourages a route one approach.

Central strikers like Andy Delort and Oriol Riera have struggled with the service they have received since joining the club. It has consisted mostly of long hooves from either the back four or the goalkeeper. One wonders if they would ever have joined the club if they had known that was going to be the norm.

Scott Carson is a quality goalkeeper. However, his distribution of the ball needs to be seriously addressed. So does the low quality distribution he all too often receives from defenders who find it all too easy to pass the ball backwards rather than take the responsibility of building up from the back. Moreover there needs to be more off the ball movement from players willing to accept the burden of possession from a goalkeeper’s pass.

Let’s not put the clock back to Gerry Barrett’s day when Latics were a non-league team. There is no excuse for an excessive use of the long ball in high level football in this day and age.

Malky Mackay please note.