The Premier League is starting to take shape, the marquee names can be found in the top seven and the perennial strugglers are already struggling.
Martinez is embarking on his third campaign with Wigan, having previously achieved a couple of 16th place finishes. If Wigan’s aim is to retain their Premier League status year on year, then mission accomplished. Wigan play attractive football with a young side and stick to their principles even when the odds are stacked against them, which is to be admired, but progress has been gradual at best and patience would have run out long ago at most other clubs. Long standing squad deficiencies remain while the absence of both Charles N’Zogbia and Tom Cleverley has also been keenly felt this term. The implementation of a plan B would be embraced by many and need not necessarily compromise Martinez’s attacking principles.
In his first season in charge, they suffered a 9-1 defeat at Tottenham and 8-0 at Chelsea, defeats that would have had most chairmen twitching, unsurprisingly ending the season with a goal difference of -42, the worst in the league. Last season, their heaviest defeat was a 4-0 loss at home to eventual champions Manchester United and their goal difference of -21 represented a significant improvement. In spite of this, it took back to back wins in the final two games of the season, the first time they had achieved the feat all season, to secure survival.
Whelan signed Martinez for Wigan as a player in 1995 and he spent six seasons at the club. When he returned to the club as manager in 2009, Whelan provided assurances that his job would be safe for the next three years. When Aston Villa approached Martinez in the summer, he was able to reward Whelan’s faith by declining the offer, an act that resulted in a new three year deal.
The fixture list was kind to Wigan with the three promoted sides making up their opening fixtures. A win and two draws was a reasonable return but they have not earned a point since. If they require 40 points to ensure an eighth consecutive season in the top flight then a run of fixtures against Wolves away, Blackburn home and Sunderland away, theoretically provided Wigan with the opportunity to ignite their season.
Five points worse off than at this stage last season ahead of Sunday’s clash with Wolves, Wigan were comfortably beaten 3-1 to further compound their predicament, with the Blackburn game taking on further significance in the process. Already five points from safety, Wigan may need to generate the spirit of Martinez’s first season in charge, where they defeated the traditional top four, to propel them up the table, otherwise it may prove to be a long winter, with or without managerial job security.
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