Wigan Athletic get arrogant in their quest to beat the drop
In March, Wigan Athletic lost 2-0 at home against Swansea, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, without a home win since August, it was also a result that got mild-mannered owner Dave Whelan’s goat. “That was our worst performance in four or five years and I will be having a meeting with Roberto on Monday to ask him some questions about the performance and selection,” the BBC quoted Whelan as saying.
Such protestations would have most managers quaking in their boots but the Monday meeting came and went with Whelan declaring that he was “very satisfied” and that Martinez was “absolutely right” in his selection, the BBC also reported. Business as usual.
There are plenty of reasons to admire Wigan. The civil and dignified relationship between the manager and owner is a breath of fresh air, as is the football they play. Utilising a 3-4-3 formation, after struggling earlier in the season with a standard back four, Wigan are committed to a passing game that has been their undoing at times, but is a joy to behold when they are on song. They provided a blistering first-half display at the weekend in taking a 4-0 half-time lead against high-flying Newcastle, recording a fifth win in the last seven games.
Having won at Anfield, Wigan outplayed Manchester United and beat Arsenal at the Emirates, losing only three of their last 12 fixtures. For a club that lost eight games in a row in the autumn, things appear to have clicked in to place at exactly the right time. The change in formation was instrumental, but arrogance has been the buzzword of late. Where Wigan have been too timid at times this season, they are beginning to impose themselves and develop a swagger that has transformed their fortunes.
“Since early February we had good levels of performance and played really well but you need to take your chances.” Martinez revealed to the BBC after the comprehensive Newcastle win. “Today we had belief, arrogance, call it what you like. Our finishing was outstanding. The first-half display was as good as against Manchester United. The team showed great maturity.”
Having navigated ‘the biggest month in their history’, according to Martinez, Wigan find themselves three points clear of the bottom three with two games remaining. They travel to Ewood Park on Monday with Blackburn Rovers needing a win to maintain any chance of avoiding relegation to the Championship.
A victory for Wigan would more or less guarantee survival, with the visit of already-relegated Wolves on the final day providing their final obstacle. Having needed to win both their final two games to stay up last term, this season’s finale may prove to be rather bland in comparison.
Should Wigan survive once again, a rebuilding job on a shoestring budget awaits, with speculation surrounding the future of Victor Moses and the likes of Hugo Rodallega, Mohamed Diame and Maynor Figueroa out of contact in a few weeks. Interest in Martinez is also likely to intensify as his reputation continues to exceed his achievements. He spurned the advances of Aston Villa last summer, cementing his reputation as one of the nicest men in football and as it stands, Martinez remains, in the words of Whelan, “glued” to Wigan. Long may it continue.
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