Out of time, out of ideas, out of favour, out of fashion, out of his mind, out of this world, out of luck…
There are plenty of things Uwe Rosler could be out of but as I started to type this yesterday morning, popular opinion (i.e. internet rumours) has him out of a job following a summit (i.e. His regular Monday meeting) with Dave Whelan later in the day. As a measure of how seriously you should treat that, the Internet also had The Jam reformed and supporting The Libertines the night before. That never happened, and I’d be surprised if we were about to see a vacancy in the Latics dugout either.
We have a problem though, we’re nine games in and we’ve only got the same number points as we did out of the games we played last season. That sounds like something to get really upset about, doesn’t it? After all we only nearly got promoted last time.
Still, before I accuse others of double standards, I should probably lay my cards on the table. This time last year, I was one of a group of people laying into Owen Coyle for his (lack of) tactics and the way he set his team up. I wasn’t calling for his head but I’d have been as happy as Larry if he’d gone and I’d have happily learned to drive, just to take him as far away from Latics as I could get him.
I got a right (virtual) kicking for this article, I wasn’t giving him time, I wasn’t giving him a chance to bed things in. I’ll wager that many of those same people are now calling for Rosler’s head, without any irony. After all, apart from an FA Cup run, a playoff spot, turning the atmosphere at the club around, making us feel better about the football we watch and making us believe, what has the German ever done for Wigan Athletic?
I’ll offer no apologies for coming over all ‘people’s front of Springfield’ there, but the current managerial bloodlust is fairly farcical, not least because things are totally different now than they were this time last season.
Getting the obvious out of the way first, Coyle’s results were better, but that was a happy accident. Coyle had a core group of players with Premier League class and Premier League experience but had no plan how to use them or how to keep them fit and preferred ping pong and headers & volleys for cans of pop and doughnuts to practising things like passing, positioning or playing football, for… I don’t know, professional pride maybe. This time last year, McLean was being slated for tweeting from Nandos with the sun barely over the yardarm, now he’s being held up as some kind of freedom fighter against the (STEREOTYPE KLAXON) German tyranny that’s killing the dressing room.
(As an aside, I love the constant talk of dressing room rifts, training ground bust ups and various other conspiracies that accompanies any run of bad results these days. There has to be an agenda, an underlying narrative, it can never be as simple as your team is playing crap or they’ve been playing better teams. You’re all a media mogul’s dream audience, if only someone could take advantage of i…. Oh)
In contrast to Coyle, Rosler has a group of players shorn of that Premier League core, who are largely still getting to know each other. The more marked contrast is that he’s got plans, plans coming out of his ears, more plans than he knows what to do with. Where I once accused Coyle as not having a plan A, Uwe might benefit from selecting just one of his tactical variations , finding the best team to go with it and building from there. Plenty of people will disagree with his selection, but that’s got to be better than constant tinkering that mean everyone gets the chance to disagree with him.
These are the key decisions I think Uwe needs to make:
Keep it up – Al Habsi or Carson?
Sorry, I haven’t kept my joke quota up over the last couple of paragraphs so I thought I’d slip that one in. Carson’s all round game is far better than Ali’s, Al Habsi is a marginally better shot-stopper. The choice is a no-brainer for me.
All at threes and fours
Building from a solid defence is probably the most true of football truisms. Looking at the squad, we’ve got plenty of ability in this department, but we’re shipping goals so there has to be something to improve on. For me, Uwe has to balance off two key elements of his defensive players 1) he’s got some good attacking fullbacks, but that’s not the same as having good wingbacks and 2) as much potential as he may have, Rob Kiernan, the poster boy of Rosler’s reign, isn’t reliable enough to play in a back four at the moment.
This decision is more important than just stopping conceding goals though. The use of Perch and Taylor has, stifled our attacking options. With the best will in the world, neither is Jean Beausejour and, whether through design or not, tend to focus on the ‘back’ rather than the ‘wing’ aspect of the role. At best we get extra bodies in midfield which doesn’t help us creatively, in fact evidence suggests it’s been getting in the way.
I’ve an in-built bias towards back-fours, but really I do think that’s what our current squad lends itself to. If that means Kiernan and Boyce have to make way for someone more robust then so be it. Kiernan’s time will come and maybe it’s time to admit that Emmo’s legs aren’t up to being the first name on the team-sheet anymore.
Testing one, two, three
I’m not going to start a debate about whether a particular forward line has a single striker and two midfielders or three forwards in it, but we’ve not seen much of either this season. Playing three at the back and sticking with three central midfielders has left no choice but to play with two “up top”. Ok, one of those has been McMananman and it would be hard to say he’s played “up top” but he’s still been playing as one of two forwards.
The modern consensus is that two forwards are easy to contain and the evidence certainly supports that.
Rosler came with a stated preference for an “attacking 4-3-3” formation and the personnel he has at his disposal certainly supports that principle. In McLean, McManaman, Waghorn and (although not his strongest position) Maloney, we have players who can play those wing roles and, numerically at least we’re more blessed with strikers than we’ve been for years. Playing with a forward two means you’re only getting one or maybe none of our most attack minded players in the team, with the inevitable outcome.
Now, a three man defence and a three man forward line aren’t mutually exclusive, after-all we did quite well playing 3-4-3 a couple of years back, but that worked, primarily because we had Beausejour in the team so I think Rosler’s, Latics, immediate future might come down to a simple decision between the two.
More likely though, it will come down to how much Uwe is prepared to stick by his principles. We know the team has ability, we know the manager has got a plan, we’ve seen them both. Rosler came with a promise of attacking football, but his team have slipped into a cautious shadow of the promise we saw last year. The defence is leaky and lacks confidence, the midfield functional and reactive and, a lot of the time we needn’t bother with an attack at all.
The one realistic expectation we’ve picked up from our Premier League tenure is that Latics teams should play with belief and without fear, at the moment they’re not even close on both counts. They may only be hashtags to some people but the real test of the manager’s mettle will be how quickly he can instil the two tenets of the Martinez era into his squad…
Until next time #sinmiedo and #believe
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