12th Man: Deep Trouble

Deep Trouble

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If people didn’t realise the trouble Wigan Athletic were in before the trip to Hillsborough they certainly do now. A 2-1 defeat to a side without a win in eleven games leaves Latics firmly entrenched in the relegation zone and most definitely in a relegation battle. I think Saturday showed that our problems go a lot deeper than Uwe Rosler and his departure won’t simply lead to Latics climbing the table and fighting for promotion.

It was the same old story on Saturday as Latics dominated a game in terms of possession and chances created but as with the side under Uwe Rosler they just couldn’t convert that superiority to goals. Marc Antoine Fortune works hard but looks so isolated on his own up front. I’m not advocating a return to 442 but he certainly needs more support up front, the support should be coming from Callum McManaman and James McClean on the wings but so often on Saturday Fortune would drop deep leaving no one in the box to convert those chances.

Mackay has had a good couple of weeks to work with his players now and with no midweek games in that time hopefully there has been plenty of time on the training ground to put his ideas across. Not having Shaun Maloney available on Saturday would have been a big blow after his virtuoso performance against Middlesbrough the previous week. But there were encouraging signs from Mackay earlier this week about whether the Scotsman can get himself fit and if he can he will surely feature against Norwich on Saturday.

Despite the controversy surrounding his appointment players have been queuing up to praise Mackay and his methods so far, if he can galvanise that support in the squad and get the players reaching their optimum on a more consistent basis Latics will hopefully start to climb the table and we can improve on what has been a truly terrible season so far.

            Andy Delort got himself on the score sheet again for the Development squad in midweek and along with Oriol Riera he must be due a call up for the first team very soon. Both are proven goal scorers and although they haven’t shown their best so far both players are surely worth a go. The same should be said for Martyn Waghorn who after such an impressive four months with Latics last season seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

Like Rosler before him Mackay has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, how he manages to keep all the players happy and hit on a winning formula at the same time will be the key test of his management skills.

SEAN LIVESEY

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 5th December 2014

12th Man: Ideal opportunity

James McClean scores against Sheffield Wednesday in last year's abandoned match at Hillsborough

James McClean scores against Sheffield Wednesday in last year’s abandoned match at Hillsborough

There’s been a dark cloud hanging over Wigan Athletic for the last week, the appointment of Malky Mackay has caused never before seen controversy for the club. This was compounded on Thursday and Friday as Dave Whelan’s unfortunate interview saw him accused of using racist and anti-semitic language – if these are the last days of Dave Whelan’s reign it will be a terribly tragic way for his twenty years in charge of Wigan Athletic to end.

Sadly all of that is out of our hands and it is now up to the FA as to whether or not they charge him, the club needs to as quickly as possible get back to what it does best and that is impressing on the pitch. With the sideshow clouding the build up to the game on Saturday many could have been forgiven for forgetting there was a football game taking place at the DW on Saturday.

Mackay’s return to the dugout was low key as was the result but it could yet be the turning point in our season. A point was probably a fair result but Latics will feel disappointed that they couldn’t hold on for all three points, especially when you consider the amount of chances we had in the second half. Mackay’s team selection was interesting as Uwe did when he first came in he fell back on to the players that have been the bedrock of the team for the last three seasons.

Ivan Ramis, Roger Espinoza, Callum McManaman Emmerson Boyce and Shaun Maloney all started with Uwe Rosler’s signings such as Emyur Huws and Oriol Riera on the bench. The performance was impressive with decent football throughout and the defence looked a lot stronger with Ivan Ramis and Leon Barnett back at the heart of it whilst Shaun Maloney looked to be something close to his old self. Mackay has stated that all of the squad will be given a chance to impress and if media reports are to be believed that also stretches out to the much maligned Grant Holt currently impressing on loan at Huddersfield.

Next up for Latics is a trip to Hillsborough to face a Sheffield Wednesday side without a win in ten games, a side with a similar run of form to ourselves. With the atmosphere around the club at the moment and relegation still a distinct possibility it’s imperative that we start to pick up wins to climb the table. The longer we spend at the bottom the more difficult it will be for us to climb the table. A trip to a struggling Sheffield Wednesday is the ideal opportunity to do just that, last season when Uwe first came in both trips to Hillsborough the abandoned match in December and the rearranged fixture in the New Year were two of the most impressive performances of Uwe’s year in charge. Let’s see if we can do the same again this Saturday and finally get this season up and running.

As a side note I celebrated my wedding over the weekend and my wife Jayne being the kind understanding Soul she is arranged for me and ten of my friends to watch the game in a box before our wedding reception in Manchester on Saturday evening. The treatment I and our party received from the club on Saturday was fantastic – from a presentation of a signed shirt on the pitch pre match to their outstanding service through the day. It was an example of our club doing what it does best, not what had been represented through the press in the last week.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 28th November 2014

12th Man: Singing in the rain

When Uwe Rosler arrived at Wigan Athletic he promised it wouldn’t be dull under his leadership and he’s been true to his word so far. As I write this it’s been seven days since Uwe took charge of his first game and the changes we’ve seen in that time have been un-mistakable.

Uwe Rosler

First of all let’s take a look at the trip to Slovenia; everyone present in Maribor knows that isn’t a game Latics deserved to lose. At the very least they were worthy a point but as the manager pointed out if the game had stayed eleven versus eleven as it should have Latics would have been victorious and through to the knockout stages of the competition.

But let’s be honest it wasn’t the Maribor game where the damage had been done, that damage was done in the home game against Zulte Waregem. But there’s no point crying over spilt milk and as difficult as it was to be knocked out on Thursday night it could well be a blessing in disguise for Uwe as he can concentrate solely on our Championship campaign.

As first home games go there aren’t many more difficult than a local derby at home to your closest rivals. To get a win and one where Latics dominated so much in the opening exchanges makes it that much better. The style of play in the game against Maribor was again evident at home to Bolton, all that’s lacking at the minute is fitness and as we’ve seen in recent weeks that lack of fitness can have serious consequences in the second half of games

In recent weeks a succession of people have come out to voice their surprise at our lack of fitness, it was something that hampered Owen Coyle’s time at Bolton and seemingly again his time with Wigan. It couldn’t have been easy balancing the amount of games with training and keeping the squad fit but to see players like Callum McManaman and Grant Holt so unfit was concerning. It’s good to see that. That will be something that Uwe and his backroom staff will have identified those issues and are looking to rectify it as soon as possible.

It could well have been two wins in a row for Uwe and if we’re being totally honest Latics were well in control at Hillsborough on Wednesday night. The first half was as impressive a performance I’ve seen this season and that includes the 4-0 demolition of Barnsley. James McClean and Nick Powell were in fantastic form whilst the midfield three of Ben Watson, James McArthur and Jordi Gomez revelled in the new style of play they’ve been asked to play.

As the rain continued to pour at Hillsborough I wondered how much longer the referee would allow play to continue and I think all of the stadium knew that the game couldn’t continue once Nick Powell’s one on one rolled wide due to the amount of water on the pitch.

It will be doubly disappointing for the management that the side had put so much effort in to a game which ultimately left us with nothing. The hope has to be that the side can recover in enough time to go again against Reading on Saturday.

As the games come thick and fast over the Festive period we need to make the most of this run of games and get points on the board, although we left Yorkshire without any points the performance has once again convinced me that Uwe Rosler is the right man to leader us forward.

Let’s hope we can do the same in the coming weeks.

 Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 20 – December