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

 

Kvist is back – but for how long?

 

His last appearance for Latics had been as a substitute at Derby in late October. Despite that William Kvist made a successful return, playing the full 94 minutes against Blackburn Rovers yesterday.

Why had the Denmark captain been left out in the cold for so long? Can he become a regular component of Malky Mackay’s team?

Kvist is by no means an exciting player to watch. His preferred role is to sit in front of the back four, making tackles and interceptions, using the ball economically. However, given the fragility of the Wigan Athletic defence the shielding that Kvist can provide could be invaluable.

Kvist was signed at the end of the summer transfer window and has now made seven starts for Latics, with three appearances off the bench. Strangely enough until yesterday he had made as many starts for Denmark this season as he had for Latics.

The Dane arrived at Wigan with a reputation for long throw-ins. Uwe Rosler did not utilize that part of his game. However, given Malky Mackay’s focus on set plays we are likely to see him use Kvist in that way, providing he is included in the team. But will Kvist still be at Wigan two weeks from now?

There were rumours that Kvist (and Thomas Rogne) were looking to move in January. Despite the midfield functioning as badly as it has over the past weeks Mackay has stuck with long term injury returnees Chris McCann and Ben Watson. McCann has started in all ten games since Mackay arrived, being substituted only twice in the closing minutes. Although still not back to his form of last season the Irishman has done well to get back his match fitness. Watson too has been an ever-present under Mackay, although his appearance against Birmingham was off the bench. Following two long spells out following leg breaks, Watson has shown his resilience, although the standard of his play has been disappointing. Given such injuries one wonders how comfortable he is coping with the physicality of Championship teams’ midfields.

The departure of Roger Espinoza and the indifferent form of Watson surely precipitated Kvist’s return. However, the conspiracy theorists will say that his reappearance against Blackburn was an effort by Mackay to put him in the shop window, with an imminent departure a possibility. But Kvist has never let Latics down and surely deserves the opportunity to stake a claim for a regular place.

Yesterday also saw the return of the 21 year old Welshman, Emyr Huws. The ankle injury that was hampering his fight for a regular place in the starting lineup under Rosler was to put him out of action for weeks. When fully fit Huws will be a big asset. He is strong, energetic and tough in the tackle. The opposition know his skills are a threat, as indicated by the 29 fouls he has suffered, compared with the 16 he has committed.

Andy Delort continues to bide his time but at least was given more of a chance yesterday, coming on after 72 minutes, rather than the dying moments. Mackay clearly does not rate him, but Delort will want to prove him wrong. Delort’s main problem under Rosler was being played as a lone centre forward, which he is not. However, Mackay has been playing two upfront as of late and if he will give the young Frenchman a run in the team we will finally get to know whether he is capable of becoming a top striker in the Championship.

The futures of such as Kvist and Delort at Wigan are in the balance. It may well depend on which other players are offloaded. So far Espinoza, Oriol Riera and James Tavernier have been offloaded, with Liam Ridgewell coming in on a short term loan.

It looked like Shaun Maloney might go to Leicester, but the Foxes did not offer him the length of contract that he was seeking. The alternative is for him to wait until the end of the season and be in a strong negotiating position as a free agent, with Celtic and Chicago Fire both reportedly interested.

Mackay will be keen to get in funds to help him seek his own transfer preferences. If money does not come in for Maloney the departure of Callum McManaman could be hastened.

The family silver is to be sold and by the end of the season the squad could be stripped bare of quality players. If Latics stay up and Mackay is still here in August we will be seeing a different brand of football, but hopefully one with commitment from the players.

Skill alone does not suffice, particularly in the harsh world of the Championship division.

Blackburn 3 Wigan Athletic 1 – Opportunist goals stun unfit Latics

Ramis2

Ivan Ramis was surprisingly given a penalty kick to take.

Playing a strong Blackburn side at Ewood Park was always going to be a tough match. It needed Latics not only to play with intensity, but to do so for 90 minutes. In the event they did so for 51 minutes, gaining the lead. But within a space of five minutes Blackburn got two opportunist goals that knocked the stuffing out of Wigan. A further well taken goal in the 81st minute for the home team did not come as a surprise.

Guessing Rosler’s starting lineup is never easy to do. He was to make two changes from the team that beat Birmingham. The inclusion of William Kvist, who had made two appearances for Denmark in the past 10 days, was quite logical. Adam Forshaw has not played for weeks, but took a place on the bench. Kvist moved into the midfield space vacated by James McArthur. Kvist and Don Cowie took the holding midfield roles, with Emyr Huws pushed further forward. The surprise was the inclusion of Andy Delort, with Oriel Riera left out on the bench.

In the first half, Latics’ high pressing was unsettling the home team and Wigan were looking comfortable. In the 39th minute Callum McManaman won a penalty at the expense of Alex Baptiste. But without regular penalty takers Gomez, Maloney or Watson in the team, who was going to take it? Surely it would be Delort, who had scored penalties for Tours? It turned out to be Ivan Ramis, who kicked it over the bar.

Despite the penalty miss Latics continued to cause problems for the Blackburn defence. James Perch skillfully set up Delort, who blasted wide. McManaman had a good effort saved. Then in the final minute of the first half McManaman put in a beautifully weighted cross but Emmerson Boyce somehow headed over the bar.

Latics started the second half positively. In the 51st minute Huws showed his silky skills, making a great run into the box before the ball fell for Perch to hit the net with a daisy cutter from outside the area. It was his first league goal for Latics.

But a couple of minutes later Ben Marshall latched on to a loose ball outside the box and hit a shot that bounced ahead of Carson’s dive. Two minutes later Jordan Rhodes headed a long free kick into the net via the ground, as he evaded Wigan’s three central defenders.

The two goals in such a short space of time clearly stunned Latics who were to lose their thread. The substitution of Kvist for Shaun Maloney after 63 minutes appeared an attacking move, but the midfield was to lose the dominance it had enjoyed earlier in the game. The high pressing that had been effective in the first half had disappeared and Latics could not raise their intensity. A telling sign was the return to the long hooves by goalkeeper Scott Carson, which achieved little.

Huws went off injured after 80 minutes to be substituted by Adam Forshaw, with Martyn Waghorn coming on for McManaman. Marshall scored his second goal a minute later, with another beautifully taken effort. In the last minute Andrew Taylor found himself inside the six yard box, but he skewed the ball wide.

The stats show that Blackburn had 15 shots and Latics 13. However, the home team had 8 of those on target and Latics only 2. Blackburn had 51% of the possession.

The result was decided on finishing. Ramis, Delort and Boyce all had clear cut chances to score in the first half, Taylor in the second. Perch scored an opportunist goal for Latics, but Blackburn opportunely scored three.

The Good

The intensity was there for 51 minutes and Latics looked good value for their lead. Delort somehow got through 90 minutes despite his lack of match practice. Kvist came in and looked comfortable on his debut. The Dane is clearly not a replacement for McArthur, his role being primarily defensive. However, he and Don Cowie managed to get a foothold in the centre of midfield during the first part of the match.

McManaman looked dangerous, winning a penalty in the process. A pity he did not receive more of the ball.

It was a game of what might have been. Had Latics taken their chances in the first half the result could have been sealed. They were good enough to beat Blackburn, but once they fell behind their confidence dipped.

The Bad

Not for the first time this season Latics looked lethargic in the second half. Fitness remains an issue within the squad as a whole, especially with the new signings coming in. Moreover there had been a development squad fixture in midweek that would have given Delort, Forshaw and Kvist some playing time, but they were not involved.

Delort is to be commended for completing the 90 minutes, but could hardly be expected to perform at his best after not playing for so many weeks. Putting him in there straight away and leaving Riera on the bench was puzzling.

Kvist had played international football recently, but went off after 63 minutes. Fraser Fyvie had more time on the pitch in pre-season than anybody else and has done well with the development squad, but continues to be left out in the cold. Once again there was no sign of Roger Espinoza.

Forshaw was given his debut in the closing minutes, but it is going to take some time before he gets match fit.

Playing the first half with intensity and not being able to maintain it in the second has been a common occurrence this season. Having played a consistent lineup over the past few games, it looked like some cohesion was developing. However, putting two new signings into the starting lineup was not going to help.

Missing the penalty probably did not help Ivan Ramis’ game, but Rosler’s explanation that the Spaniard impresses with the spot-kick in training hardly holds water. Both Delort and Riera took penalties for their clubs last season and are the obvious candidates.

With Blackburn having two big central strikers who are strong in the air they was always going to be a threat from crosses. However, Wigan’s two best headers of the ball from defence – Leon Barnett and Thomas Rogne – did not make the starting lineup. Moreover the back three of Boyce, Ramis and Kiernan seemed to lack cohesion. Boyce is well below his form of last season and Ramis did not look his usual composed self at times. Kiernan is a fine young prospect, but is still learning the game at this level. Barnett was an outstanding player for Latics last season until he suffered a hamstring injury at Ipswich. Since then he has not commanded a regular place. Rogne seems to have disappeared off the radar.

Player Ratings:

Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves. A class goalkeeper, but too prone to making long hopeful punts upfield.

James Perch: 7 – looked lively, particularly in the first half. Scored an opportunist goal and made a good pass that Delort might have converted in the first half.

Emmerson Boyce: 5.5 – just not at his best.

Ivan Ramis: 6 – made a number of good interceptions and quality passes, but not at his best.

Rob Kiernan: 5.5 – not at his best.

Andrew Taylor: 5.5 – did not attack as much as usual due to the threat on the Blackburn right side. Scored a cracker against Birmingham but missed a much easier one in this match.

William Kvist: 6 – a decent debut from the Danish tackler. Substituted after 63 minutes.

Don Cowie: 6 – worked hard throughout the 90 minutes. Much of Cowie’s work is unheralded. He covers a lot of ground and is a real team player. Better in a defensive midfield role than going forward.

Emyr Huws: 6.5 – the most creative outlet, but like most young players he lacks consistency. Needs time. Went off injured after 80 minutes.

Callum McManaman: 8 – easily Latics’ best player. He would be even more dangerous if he could get more of the ball.

Andy Delort: 5.5 – gave his all, but it was not his day. Lacks match fitness.

Substitutes:

Shaun Maloney: – came on for Kvist after 63 minutes and played in the centre of midfield. What will his role be in Rosler’s system?

Martyn Waghorn: – unable to create an impression in the last 10 minutes other than receiving a yellow card.

Adam Forshaw: – made his debut in the last 10 minutes in right midfield. How long will it take him to get match fit?

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A Danish fan’s view of William Kvist

 

William Kvist in action against Armenia.

William Kvist in action against Armenia.

William Kvist is a highly experienced defensive midfield player who Latics have signed on a one year contract following his release from VfB Stuttgart. The 6 foot tall Dane is 29 years old and appears to be the right sort of player to play in front of the Latics defence. Kvist made 8 appearances on loan at Fulham in the second half of last season.

After signing Kvist commented on the Wigan Athletic club web site:

“I love to protect the back four, stay compact, I’m hard-working and a team player – I look to protect the balance of the team as a defensive midfielder. I make interceptions and then try to play the ball as quickly as possible to the players who can make things happen offensively. I didn’t score a goal in Germany and I would expect too much in that regard but defensively I love to defend for the team and make good, quick passes to the attacking players.”

Kvist started his career in Copenhagen where he won five Superliga trophies and was Danish Footballer of the Year in 2010 and 2011. After having considerable experience in the Champions League with FC Copenhagen he joined VfB Stuttgart in 2011, playing in the Bundesliga for three years.

In order to find out more about William Kvist we reached out to Mark Bjerremand through Twitter (@mfbjerremand). Mark is an avid Danish football fan.

Here’s over to Mark:

I’m just a fan of football and I’m Danish so I obviously follow Danish football. What I am writing about is my knowledge and impressions of William Kvist. If anything I am more interested in the person behind – the human being – more than the player.

 It says something about the faith that Denmark coach Morten Olsen has in Kvist, that he was named captain of the Danish team that beat Armenia on Sunday in the European Championship. Kvist has played almost 50 games for Denmark. Kvist has been in the starting eleven for the national team for the past four years.

 William Kvist played his first game for FC Copenhagen in 2005. He played in a variety of positions. He worked very hard to get into the Copenhagen team to begin with. He was played as a fullback and did really well (also for the national team). However, he wanted to play as a central midfielder and slowly he worked his way into the starting eleven and became captain for the Copenhagen team back before he left for Stuttgart in 2011. 

 His real breakthrough for Copenhagen was in a playoff match for the Champions League against Ajax Amsterdam – his shot rebounding off a defender for the winning goal. He had been very much involved as a very young player at the time, playing fullback. It was a huge surprise that Copenhagen beat Ajax – they were down 1-0 on aggregate (from their home match).

Kvist is an intelligent guy. – he studied business economics when he played for FC Copenhagen. And he is also alternative in his approach to football. He’s got his own personal coach and he uses hypnosis and is conscious about nutrition. For the European competition in 2012 he brought his own juice presser to press his own beetroot juice.

 Kvist made 68 appearances in Stuttgart from 2011-14. His time there was not easy, mainly due to changes in manager.

He is very much a team player, with a high workrate. When he played for Copenhagen he participated more in the attacking play. Now he is a largely defensive midfield player. I tweeted about William recently because the Danish press has been negative about his latest performances for our national team. They say that he just plays the ball backwards and to the side, which is true to some degree. But he is playing the’ balancing player’ role, in front of the defence, very much the link between the defense and midfield.

You could say that Kvist is professional about his job and also a bit dull – maybe he is typically Danish! (Bendtner is the exception).

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Rosler builds a formidable squad


Wigan Athletic fans are buzzing again.

Despondency had crept in with the impending departure of that great Latics servant and FA Cup winner, James McArthur. It looked like Rosler was not going to get the extra striker he desperately needed with the Andy Delort situation continuing to be uncertain. Moreover difficulties over dealing with Everton’s role in the transfer process made the Forshaw saga drag on. The creative midfielder was clearly within Rosler’s sights, but was it going to happen?

But then on Saturday Delort was presented to the crowd at the DW. A ray of hope indeed. Latics went on to give a fine performance in the 4-0 rout of Birmingham City, who had been unbeaten in the league.

Then on Monday we found out that Dave Whelan had splashed the cash after all. Leicester City had dropped out of the race to sign James McArthur, but Crystal Palace had moved in and made the acquisition. There had been rumours that Ivan Ramis was leaving too, but that did not materialize. Instead we had the confirmation of the Delort and Forshaw transfers, plus the surprise signing of experienced midfield enforcer William Kvist from VfB Stuttgart.

The three signings signaled a statement of intent from Whelan and Rosler that they really wanted to finalise a squad capable of achieving promotion. But there was another signing that was unexpected – that of Emyr Huws on a permanent contract.

The capture of Huws was arguably even more significant. The young Welshman is an outstanding young talent and the type of player Latics are not usually able to sign. A price tag of around £3m would appear to be a lot for a team in the Championship without the TV revenue that it got in the Premier League. But in terms of getting a bargain for the future, Rosler has done a great job. Huws is only 20 and makes the kinds of mistakes one can expect from young players. However, with his cultured left foot, his determination in the tackle and ability to score from distance, he is going to be a top player.

More than anything the Huws signing is a statement about the longer term. Rosler and Whelan are clearly looking at a future that must surely be in the Premier League.

This season could be the turning point for Wigan Athletic’s future. Can Latics keep defying the odds and continue to punch above their weight? Without Whelan pumping big money in can Latics compete with clubs who have bigger fan bases and commercial backing? If they get back into the Premier League can they survive? If they don’t get promotion what would happen next? Would it be a slide down into the lower divisions?

A week ago Rosler’s squad was not complete. It lacked another central striker and a creative midfielder. Moreover the returns from injury of Chris McCann and Ben Watson were weeks ahead and there was a need for more cover in holding midfield.

Rosler has built a formidable squad, with at least two players competing for every position. Even if injuries strike, as they have done so cruelly for Wigan Athletic over recent years, there are very capable players in reserve.

Promotion seems a much closer possibility than it did a week ago. Other alternatives are not open to consideration as the promotion push starts.

With Dave Whelan and Uwe Rosler at the helm Latics are the envy of most clubs. They make a formidable pair. The future will be rosy if they stay together.

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