Rosler is the man to take Latics forward

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What a difference results make. A couple of weeks ago Uwe Rosler was the flavour of the month and had almost universal support from the Latics faithful. But now after three disappointing performances dissent is becoming rife.

This is not unusual at a football club in England or any other part of the world. The manager is only as good as the team’s next performance and his time in the job is finite. If the results do not improve, he goes, as was the case with Owen Coyle at Wigan last year. But there are exceptions.

The long-term reigns of such as Ferguson and Wenger and their triumphs are well documented. You can add to that the likes of the unsung Dario Gradi and the miracles he worked at humble Crewe.  All three had enough support from their chairmen to be undeterred by the naysayers and snipers who would undermine most managers at football clubs.

So it was with Roberto Martinez at Wigan. Martinez had to shield all kinds of criticism from a hostile minority who were uncomfortable with him as manager. The criticism came forth in his early days as in charge and continued for four years. It was based on the team’s style of play, but if the results had been better would there have been so much dissatisfaction?

Martinez was courageous and strong in his beliefs about the way football should be played. He never let the naysayers sway him, although it must have been tough for him. He had taken over at a time of austerity within the club after Steve Bruce had done a fine job at stabilizing Latics’ position in the Premier League, but at a financial cost. His achievement in winning the FA Cup will be hard for any future Latics manager to emulate.

It was Dave Whelan’s spoken and unspoken support that gave Martinez the backing to go ahead and continue to do what he considered right. Martinez not only won the cup, but kept Latics in the elite league until a cruel injury situation proved his undoing and led to him moving on from the club.

Dave Whelan has made Wigan Athletic into a dream come true. Who could have dreamed twenty years ago that Latics would have a superb stadium and compete with teams that were household names? Whelan’s success has been through appointing the right man at the right time and giving him support. Without Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez where would Latics be now?

But then again, Whelan also appointed Chris Hutchings and Owen Coyle, both of whom he dispatched when he realized he had made the wrong decision.

So what of Rosler? Will he get the support from Whelan that Jewell and Martinez enjoyed?

Rosler maintains the support of the majority of fans who are not fazed by indifferent early season results. He did a remarkable job last season, lifting a team that was drifting down towards the lower layers of the league table. To go into extra time in an FA Cup Semi Final and reach a playoff spot would have beggared belief months before.

Like Martinez, Rosler has a clear view how football should be played. If he had been appointed to take over from the Spaniard the changeover might have been easier to handle. In appointing Coyle, Whelan damaged much of the legacy left by Martinez in one fell swoop. Football at Wigan took a nosedive and it still has not fully recovered.

At the risk of repeating myself from a previous article, it took Martinez some two and a half seasons to get his players to fully respond to his ideas. Fans will remember those wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United for years to come, as they will Ben Watson’s header at Wembley. But it is not just the results, but the style in which Latics gained those victories.

Injuries in the pre-season have severely hampered Rosler’s plans. Critics will say the players were “overtrained”, leading to niggling injuries for too many. But only time will tell if Chris Haslam’s routines pay dividends over the coming weeks, with Latics physically outperforming the opposition.

The loss of free agents Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez over summer was a body blow for the German. Both were able to provide a certain poise that has been lacking since their departure. The lack of creativity in midfield is a cause for concern, although a fit Shaun Maloney would go a long way to solving those problems. It remains to be seen whether the Adam Forshaw saga will be resolved, but the Brentford player would also add creativity if Rosler could get him.

Rosler continues to scour the market for central strikers to add a third to his squad. Marc-Antoine Fortune remains an option in attack despite his poor goalscoring record. Oriel Riera just could not get into the game in the first half at Charlton, where there was a disconnect between midfield and the big forwards. One hopes he will not go the way of Mauro Boselli who was starved of service with Charles N’Zogbia on the right flank and Hugo Rodallega on the left, both of whom were going to go for goal themselves, rather than supply the central striker. Boselli’s demise is a chilling reminder of what can happen to central strikers at Wigan.

Rosler’s new signings will take time to settle in. Andrew Taylor was troubled by injury in pre-season and is clearly not at his best. Don Cowie made a useful contribution at Charlton and with time he will become an important player. Despite having a good technique, Cowie keeps things simple, harrying the opposition, tacking, intercepting, and making sure his passes reach his teammates. Emyr Huws has already made a positive impression. Strong in the tackle, with a cultured left foot, he is playing in the Chris McCann position. The young full backs, James Tavernier and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair will be gradually eased in, more often used as wing backs where the defensive duties are less onerous.

Rosler will continue to demand that his players embrace his high tempo, high pressing game. It has been unrealistic to expect a team that has been palpably unfit up to this point to perform at that level of intensity. The end result has too often been hoofing the ball out of defence, although football returned to their play at The Valley.  The team was clearly playing under orders to play the ball out of defence and build up through midfield. With two new players in the middle of the park it is going to take time to develop the mutual understanding that will make the midfield tick like a well-oiled machine. Cutting out the hoofing is the important step.

Only two teams in the division – Bournemouth and Millwall – have won both of their opening league games. There are four teams who are pointless. Latics have not made the worst start, but expectations are high and they have disappointed so far. But there are another 44 matches to go.

Like any manager Rosler will be judged on results. With the signing of another creative midfielder and another central striker he will have a squad that will be the envy of most other clubs in the division. As the squad gets fitter and his key players raise their levels of performance the results will surely come.

For the moment Rosler needs the continued support of the fans and the owner. Latics are lucky to have such a talented and bright manager.

Despite the poor start, promotion remains a distinct possibility. Uwe Rosler is the man to lead Latics back into the Premier League.

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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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Latics’ midfield – the key to promotion

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McArthur and Maloney – key players for a promotion push.

“Before the World Cup started there were a few rumours about McArthur and Maloney, but I have spoken to them and they know they are two of the cornerstones of the team. Both players will be massively important in my plans going forward and I made that very clear to both of them.”

It was heartening to hear Uwe Rosler this week dismiss transfer speculation regarding the two.

New signings apart, it is to be hoped that Latics will be able to resist approaches from other clubs for quality players such as Maloney and McArthur. Maloney was sadly missed last season and can play a key role, whether playing in “the hole” or in a wide role. Maybe we expected too much of him at the end of the season after a long layoff through injury.

Rosler will be hoping that Ben Watson and Chris McCann will be back in action following a double leg fracture and a damaged knee cap. Rosler clearly had faith in the midfield trio of McArthur, McCann and Watson. He had already lost Watson, when he lost McCann in the FA Cup win at Manchester City. It was McCann’s injury that proved to be the turning point and from then on results fell significantly.

One continues to ponder the future of Roger Espinoza, one of Honduras’ best performers in an albeit disappointing World Cup campaign. Despite being a fan-favourite Espinoza has failed to establish himself under three managers during his time at Wigan. He was played at left midfield for Honduras and looked effective in that position. Having been in the shop window during the World Cup it is possible that other clubs will bid for him. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Rosler continues to impress as Wigan Athletic manager. He has analysed the weaknesses in his squad and already made four signings, all of whom look like they can fit into the system the German likes to employ. They are already in training at the Latics camp in Germany.

Left back was a problem area last season, with wing back Jean Beausejour often having to play in that position, excellent when going forward, but sometimes unconvincing in defence. Stephen Crainey struggled to cope initially, but thrived when Rosler took some defensive responsibility away from him, allowing him to play at wing back. However, at 32 and on a one year contract it was unlikely the Scot would be staying. In their place Rosler has brought in Andrew Taylor and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. Taylor is an experienced and very capable left back, who can also play left midfield. Taylor-Sinclair is clearly a bright young talent from Partick Thistle who might well follow in the paths of James McCarthy and James McArthur, who came from a similar type of background at Hamilton.

The signing of James Tavernier from Newcastle gives Rosler more options at right back. James Perch is an excellent defensively and over the course of last season he improved greatly in his attacking. His goals at the Etihad and Loftus Road showed his willingness to thrust himself forward. When Ryan Shotton left in the New Year Latics were short of options at right back, Emmerson Boyce having been drafted into the centre of defence. Perch continued to be the consummate team player, sometimes playing when he was not 100% fit. In Tavernier, Rosler has a more attacking option and the young player certainly has some flair.

Oriel Riera might well prove to be an inspired signing. Although he has spent most of his career in the lower leagues in Spain he proved himself last season in the La Liga first division at Osasuna. There was speculation among supporters that Dave Whelan was going to get out his cheque book and spend big money on a couple of quality strikers. However, Whelan was unlikely to undermine the wage structure that was in place and he is unwilling to pay over-inflated transfer fees for English-born strikers. Riera fits the bill. Another foreign-based striker remains on the cards.

There is a strong likelihood that more of the players remaining from the Premier League days will leave over the coming weeks. Jordi Gomez has already gone and Jean Beausejour will move soon. Ivan Ramis is Latics’ best centre back, but his high salary and questions over his fitness lead us to believe he will be on his way. One of the goalkeepers too is likely to depart. There has been no statement from the club regarding a new contract for Gary Caldwell. The Scot has his detractors, but if fully fit, he could be a force in the Championship.

A lot could happen over the coming weeks, but Rosler clearly has a plan forward. Under his astute management, promotion is a distinct possibility.

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