Premier League preview - Wigan
Premier League: 15th
FA Cup: Third round
League Cup: Second round
Wigan Athletic head into their opening Premier League game against Chelsea with an air of optimism following their form at the end of the last campaign. They finished the 2011-12 season with an exceptional run of results that saw them play some impressive football on the way to taking 21 out of the final 27 available points.
The attacking style of Roberto Martinez' side was highly praised, and the run included victories over Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal as well as a 4-0 demolition of Newcastle. It bodes well for the Latics that the manager has stayed at the DW Stadium despite being heavily linked over the course of the summer with managerial vacancies at Liverpool and Aston Villa.
Still being linked away from the club is forward Victor Moses, who has been the subject of interest from Chelsea. Chairman Dave Whelan has invited the West London outfit to come to a decision on his star player, who was signed for £2.5m two years ago. A rumoured profit of £7.5m would represent good business for Wigan, but only if there is time to reinvest some of that into the team before the transfer window closes.
It remains to be seen whether Moses will be getting ready to kick off his season in the home or away dressing room on Sunday, but Latics supporters will be hoping that new signing Arouna Kone can bring an impetus to their attack following his move from Spanish side Levante. The Ivory Coast international must replace the sometimes-erratic Hugo Rodallega, who left the North West for Fulham on a free transfer. The Columbian was not always reliable for Wigan, only managing two goals for the Latics last time round, but he always represented a handful when he was on form.
Kone will be joined by another new signing, central defender Ivan Ramis. The capture from Mallorca will be needed to help address Wigan’s goal difference of minus 20 last season. Martinez will be hoping that his 27-year-old compatriot can settle quickly into life in the Premier League, especially if he is selected against the reigning Champions League winners on the opening day of the season.
Fellow recruit Ryo Miyaichi, a loan signing from Arsenal, already has experience of top flight English football, having spent the second half of last season on loan at Bolton. The Japanese midfielder possesses a nice touch and eye for a pass, which could fit very well into Wigan's style of play that eventually clicked into place at the end of the last campaign.
Wigan must start the season in a much better fashion than last time around in order to avoid the requirement of another great escape. After the Chelsea game, they will look to their following home games against Stoke, Fulham, Everton, West Ham, West Brom and Reading to put some decent points on the board.
Manager - Roberto Martinez: Remains at the DW Stadium following a summer of speculation, which included meeting Liverpool's owners in the United States. Enjoys his side expressing themselves with the flowing football that came to the fore at the end of last season. Must not sacrifice defensive discipline for flair going forward.
Key signing - Arouna Kone: The Ivorian struggled at Sevilla but impressed on loan last season at Levante, helping his side to an impressive sixth place finish in La Liga. He scored 15 goals in his 34 games, which would be a marked improvement over the man he is replacing in the front line, Rodallega.
Key sale - Mohamed Diamé: The Senegal midfielder departed for West Ham on a free transfer following the expiration of his Latics contract. His combative style will be missed in Wigan's engine room, where the powerful Diamé made 26 appearances last year.
Keep an eye out for…:Victor Moses’ future. While Martinez may welcome the injection of cash if he is permitted to use it should Moses be sold to Chelsea, the manager would surely prefer to keep hold of the talented youngster. The 21-year-old Nigerian is quick and skilful, and would be difficult to replace.