Rosler impressing at Wigan
Nick Miller takes a look at Uwe Rosler's start as Wigan manager in the latest edition of his Sky Bet Football League column.
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Of the three teams that came down from the Premier League last season, Wigan looked the safest bet to pop straight back up again.
Reading's squad seemed slightly suspect and despite the money spent on their team anything could happen at QPR, whereas Wigan were a little more stable.
They had just won the FA Cup and the legacy left by Roberto Martinez meant that even though a few of their better players left after relegation, they would still be capable of playing excellent football.
However, under Martinez's replacement Owen Coyle the start of the season didn't go to plan for the Latics and a 3-1 home defeat to Derby - that left them in 14th place and floundering - did for Coyle, leaving by 'mutual consent' just six months after he arrived.
Quite apart from results, it was hardly a surprise with reports that Coyle had clashed with some players and discontent among the supporters, as well as chairman Dave Whelan publicly questioning his team selection, meaning he was unlikely to be a long-term success at the DW Stadium.
Ian Holloway, who had recently left Crystal Palace, was immediately installed as the favourite to take over, but Dave Whelan made a slightly surprising choice in appointing Brentford boss Uwe Rosler, a man with no experience above League One in England, to turn their season around.
It may have been a gamble, but it is one that appears to be paying off thus far.
Wigan have lost just two of the 16 league games Rosler has been in charge for, and have won the last six, cementing their place in the Championship top six, lying fifth with two games in hand on many of the teams around them - something that looked like a pipe dream at Christmas.
As well as turning their league season around, Rosler has casually chucked one of the more surprising FA Cup defences in recent times into the bargain as well, after their win over Manchester City put them into the semi-finals.
It's going pretty well, all told.
Rosler's performance has been all the more impressive given some of the injury problems Wigan have had to deal with.
Ben Watson (the midfielder described by Rosler as their 'talisman') broke his leg against Barnsley in February, while Chris McCann and Roger Espinoza have spent time out and Leon Barnett was forced out of their win over Ipswich on Saturday.
Their side is something of a patchwork affair too, largely relying on loans like Nicky Maynard and Martyn Waghorn for their forward options, after big summer signing Grant Holt was shipped off to Aston Villa having scored just twice in a blue shirt.
Of course, they do have some very talented players left from the Premier League years, notably Jordi Gomez, Callum McManaman and James McArthur, but Coyle had left Rosler with quite a mess to mop up and he has thus far done so admirably.
What's most impressive about Rosler has been his adaptability, from using different formations when required to simply making do and competing with sides around them that have sought to spend their way out of trouble, rather than using the resources already available to them.
The top two spots are all but decided, with Leicester and Burnley 17 and 10 points clear of third place respectively, but of the four teams currently in the play-off spots, Wigan currently look in the best shape to join them in the Premier League.
Derby, QPR and Nottingham Forest have all suffered with form ranging from inconsistent to just plain dreadful, while Wigan's run seems to have been timed very nicely.
Of course, the popular theory about the team with the momentum being the ones to go up is rather flawed.
Last season for example, Crystal Palace's form fell through the floor in the closing weeks, with one win in the last 10 games taking them from automatic promotion contention to being in slight danger of not even not even making the play-offs, but they still recovered to beat Brighton then Watford to go up.
The previous two years saw the teams that narrowly missed out on automatic promotion (West Ham and Swansea) go up, all of which suggests that the Championship's play-offs are just as illogical as the rest of the division.
"Even if Rosler doesn't manage to take Wigan up this season, his impact on the club has been hugely impressive and you can bet on them taking further strides next season."
Even if Rosler doesn't manage to take Wigan up this season, his impact on the club has been hugely impressive and you can bet on them taking further strides next season.
Rosler's previous club was in action at the weekend, in probably the biggest game in the country on Saturday.
Brentford travelled the short distance across London to face Leyton Orient, as second and third in the division duked it out for one of the two automatic promotion spots.
And it was, to say the least, quite a spicy affair, with robust tackles aplenty and seven bookings handed out in total, two of them to Brentford's James Tarkowski.
Being down to 10 men didn't seem to hamper the Bees too much though, as they held on to win 1-0, Marcelo Trotta scoring the only goal to put them in second place with a couple of games in hand on their rivals.
"I hope we have blown any thoughts of Brentford blowing it on the big occasion out of the water now," said manager Mark Warburton after the game.
"We do that with the players - print off any negative comments we see about it being the same old Brentford and post them around the dressing room. One of the Sky guys also gave my team talk for me when he said we would be happy to take a point from the game."
Without wishing to diminish the role of Warburton, who has continued to steer Brentford in the right direction, it would be quite a season if both of the sides he has managed achieved promotion in the same campaign.
If Brentford do go up, joining them will be Wolves, for whom Kenny Jackett has done a superb job at righting that particular ship, a ship that was rusty, full of holes but inexplicably expensive when he arrived.
Jackett's task when he arrived at Molineux last summer was huge, with a team who had suffered back-to-back relegations in a complete mess, with overpaid and under-performing players at odds with the fans, the management and often each other.
With the quiet efficiency that has characterised his managerial career, Jackett set about rebuilding the team, freezing out the divisive Jamie O'Hara and Roger Johnson, offloading Karl Henry, Stephen Ward, Wayne Hennessey and Kevin Doyle, and placing an emphasis on youth, with the likes of Nouha Dicko, Jack Price and Michael Jacobs central to this new Wolves.
"Our side looks in a good place," Jackett said recently. "It's settled and we're playing good football. We pass to score and win games - we don't pass for vanity. We're really trying to keep those two things combined."
While Jackett's changes took a little while to take hold, in recent weeks Wolves have been rampant.
The draw against Shrewsbury on Saturday was the first time they have dropped points in two months, the previous run of nine straight wins coming while conceding just two goals.
They're top of the league and with two games in hand on third-placed Orient, so promotion looks close. However, it's perhaps not merely the potential elevation that should excite Wolves fans but the manner of it, and that's all down to Jackett.