Monday, 20 January 2014

Uwe’s Revolution

I had a slightly different article in mind before Saturday’s disappointing 3-0 defeat at Doncaster, but  
one game doesn’t make a season, as Uwe Rosler continues his attempts at rescuing ours. From what we’ve seen since he was appointed, how we performed in the Doncaster game wasn’t typical of a Uwe team. We seemed sluggish, poor defensively and devoid of any creativity. Yes we can make excuses - we still have 3 centre-backs out injured, we’ve played a lot of games already and Grant Holt wasn’t there to offer any encouragement from the bench (and to eat most of the biscuits) but excuses don’t put points on the board. Plus Doncaster were by far the better team and one of my bugbears is not seeing the winning team given any credit, so fair play to them. Let’s put the defeat down as an inevitable slip - as fans, I think we shouldn’t have got over-confident at beating Bournemouth 3-0 last week and similarly we shouldn’t get too downhearted by a defeat at Doncaster - it’s just one game in a season of many. Prior to that, we had gone 8 unbeaten and if we want to get in that top 6, we must get back to stringing those results together as soon as possible and use this game as a lesson.
Prior to the weekend, things have looked great. Uwe came in and installed his straight-talking, no-nonsense pressing style of play and the players responded. We’re scoring goals now, something that Owen Coyle couldn’t get us to do, and we’re actually setting up with a game plan in mind. The recent win at Derby saw us change the way we play in order to ‘do something different’ and surprise the opposition. The last time we saw a team surprised with a debilitate game plan was when Derby hit us with high-tempo and 3 goals in the first half at the DW a month beforehand. We’re no longer setting up and playing the same tactics week-in week-out, which was one part of Coyle’s downfall. The main question Wigan fans have been asking though is: What if Uwe was appointed in the summer, would we be in the same position? With the desire and professionalism shown from the players since his appointment (apart from Saturday!), I’d say not.

I genuinely believe the players, the majority of whom have come from the Premier League, have found it difficult to adapt to The Championship. There’s been many a moaning about a refereeing performance, as we’ve seen other sides getting away with challenges that would be worth a yellow in the Premier League, and it’s just got me thinking that perhaps the players we have, lack that Championship knowhow and struggle to control games. We were a team in the Premier league who had to absorb pressure and hit teams on the counter attack, in this division, we have to attack and take the game to the opposition. Maybe that’s the problem? Maybe it’ll take a new squad a couple of years to adapt to that role? You’ve seen the qualities of Leicester, who have been knocking around the top 6 for the last few years, but are now leading the way. Cardiff, another team who spent a couple of years just missing out, finally got promotion last year. What we need is stability, under a competent regime, one that can get the team playing good football; and after barely 10 games, Uwe already looks like the man who can provide it.

We’ve already done some business in the transfer window, the biscuit stealer has gone to Aston Villa for the season and this release in wages has seen us bring in young defender, Ty Browning on loan from Everton and Nicky Maynard from Cardiff. Browning is a promising defender, but Maynard is the experienced Championship one. Hopefully he can be the fit Nicky Maynard that was scoring the odd goal at Bristol City, rather than the injured one at West Ham and Cardiff. Speaking of the transfer window - I’ve been thinking back to the summer and to be fair to Owen Coyle, he brought in some decent players, Leon Barnett and Nick Powell have been superb. Then there’s the others. Even though I was happy at the time to sign such a revered Football League goalscorer like Grant Holt, I was mystified as to why he was offered a 3-year contract. He’s 32, doesn’t have the best fitness record and presumably on a massive wage. It’s not the Wigan way of doing things (not since Paul Jewell started the strategy of signing ‘up and coming’ players and getting rid of the expensive ‘has-beens’ that we collected during the early part of Dave Whelan’s reign at the club) Maybe that’s another reason why Coyle left? Perhaps he persuaded the club to go for Holt and said that the deal was worth it? 2 goals, one deflected off his thigh, the other a penalty, suggest different. Whatever the reasons, the new manager has only been left with the option of pursuing loan deals, in order to keep the club’s profits intact, which makes a mockery of people’s arguments that ex-Premier League sides spend parachute payments like Holty does on greyhounds. Unlike his predecessor though, you get the feeling that Uwe relies on his own judgement (rather than on ‘contacts’), knows the Football League and what we need to progress, so it should be interesting to see where we are after the January Window.

Reaching the playoffs is the target and up until the weekend, I was confident of doing that. I’m more cautious now, but we have 21 games left, so still plenty of points to play for.  I AM confident though that Uwe is the man to lead the charge again next year. Unless he falls out with everyone and signs players that are less fit than me, on huge contracts.

First published on Football League fansite 'We Are Going Up' on  20th January 2014