Writer: Pete Reece
Date:Sunday December 8 2013
With Uwe Rosler stepping into the manager position at the Latics, Vital member Pete Reece, aka Noel Wards Leg, raises one or two concerns, not about Rosler's qualities, his style of play or his potential, more about...well, I'd better let Pete explain:
You know when at the end of a match you say 'that was just fantastic'? When you've seen great goals, numerous chances, technique and skill beyond measure all encased in a performance of breathtaking speed from beginning to end? Do you know that feeling? There aren't many fans that can say that almost every game they see. I believe that from that point of view Borussia Dortmund fans are the luckiest fans alive. BVB may not be as successful as its southern German rival and certainly not compared to Barcelona over the last few years but both Bayern and Barca often slow games down and wear their opponents out by making them chase the ball for long periods. Dortmund, however, attack almost every opportunity they can.
What's the relevance to Wigan Athletic fans? Well, it's not just that we have appointed a German manager now, it's one who has expressed his dislike for the Spanish model, particularly in this country. In interviews, Uwe Rősler has said almost word for word the same as Jűrgen Klopp, the Dortmund manager - that kind of football bores them.
Pep Guardiola refers to Germany as 'Konterland' or the land of counter-attacking. So many German teams play in a similar way and it can be exhilarating to watch. The way they manage transitions from defence to attack and also vice-versa can be very entertaining. It relies on players running into space immediately a team is in possession and on the player with the ball releasing it as quickly as possible. There's more running with the ball rather than counting the number of passes. It's highly technical because you need players who can pass a ball accurately, at speed and under pressure and also players who can control a ball under the same conditions. You also need extremely fit players who are prepared to work very, very hard. Klopp's team often runs a combined 12km per match more than its opponents. When Dortmund lose the ball, they try to win it back within six seconds by harrying the opposition before retreating into their own half but again at speed. My only concern about this style is that, because there is so much running, without the proper sports science and medical input, it could lead to many more injuries. Also, there's no great skill to running and effort so the defensive aspects of this strategy are a natural model to follow when you've not got the right players. Pretty soon everyone will be doing it as part of the game and then where is your advantage?
If Wigan Athletic F.C. is to see this kind of football then there will have to be huge adjustments in our play. Clearly, we are not used to playing a high-pressing, very fast style of football. Our players tend to dwell on the ball and seeking space doesn't seem to come naturally to many of them. We clearly have players who can pass the ball well but can they do it within the context of a high speed game? Some players will not adapt and some will have to be moved on. Other players will need to come in. This is where my first concern for our club lies. We have had a huge turnover of playing personnel already and now with a new man in charge with a different approach to the game that looks set to continue. It means more disruption and uncertainty.
The other main issue is the players' levels of fitness. As things stand our players look a million miles away from being fit enough to play this kind of football. Building up their fitness will take time and with two games a week that is not going to be easy to achieve. The time factor is also relevant when it comes to introducing his playing philosophy. When is he going to be able to do it without a pre-season, playing match after match this month and possibly for the rest of the season?
It won't be an easy task for him to achieve Whelan's minimum aim of play-offs this year and promotion the next. Time is not on his side. I really like the idea of playing this kind of football but it is different from what we've had before and therefore there will need to be a period of adjustment. My concern is that the period of adjustment may be too long for Whelan and that soon we will be starting again. Perhaps from that point of view, someone who follows the Spanish model may have been a better appointment at this stage. I admire Swansea for the way they play but even more so because they have got a club philosophy and every manager has to fit into it. It leads to continuity and certainty among the players about what is expected of them. All the young players who are trained there will learn how to play that way. I think that is a fantastic thing to do for the long-term benefit of the club.
We had a manager who wanted to leave that kind of legacy. However we then appointed someone with a simplistic style and who was a poor choice to lead our team. Now we've appointed a potentially very good manager but with a different style. Personally, much as I like the idea of us becoming the Borussia Dortmund of the Championship, I'm not sure if that is in the best interests of the long-term future of the club and when Uwe Rősler leaves as he surely will, we can start all over again in finding the right manager amid a period of disruption, uncertainty and upheaval.
I will support the new manager whoever he is and I wish him every success. If I were given a choice of football to watch between the German and the Spanish styles I would plump for the German. My concerns are different though. They are about the consequences of not adopting a club-wide football philosophy and remaining with it. So please Uncle Dave, if you decide that Uwe's style is to become the Wigan Way, let's stick to it in the long-term and let's not throw the baby out with the bath water every time a manager leaves.
Date:Sunday December 8 2013
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Stats: Manchester City v Wigan Athletic (Sunday March 9 2014)
FA Cup Team News From The Etihad - City v Latics (Sunday March 9 2014)
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