Champions League holders Chelsea begin their pursuit of the Premier League title this season with an away trip to Wigan Athletic. The Latics are relegation candidates and will be looking to stave off the threat of the dreaded drop for a third successive season.
Wigan’s achievements in recent seasons have been astonishing, considering that the Latics were in the fourth tier only 15 years ago. Towards the back end of the last campaign, Wigan pulled off the great escape by picking up seven wins in their last nine games. Those included wins over Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as a 4-0 victory over Newcastle United. Roberto Martinez was once again in the headlights of another club, namely Liverpool, but refused the move to stay at the DW Stadium under ever-supportive chairman Dave Whelan.
The biggest summer signing for Martinez came in Ivan Ramis for £4m from Real Mallorca, a move that pipped West Ham United to the signature. Wigan have also signed Fraser Fyvie from Aberdeen, Arouna Kone from Levante and Arsenal’s young winger Ryo Miyaichi has moved on loan after a successful spell with Bolton last season. Martinez will be most pleased with being able to hold onto Victor Moses, despite the three bids Chelsea have made for the Nigerian winger.
Even though Chelsea have lost out on signing Moses, they have still done sizeable business in the summer transfer window. Eden Hazard is the main transfer from Roberto di Matteo, forking out £32m to Lille to bring the talented Belgian forward to Stamford Bridge. Attacking improvement has been the focus of the Italian’s moves and Oscar from Internacional, as well as Marko Marin, have also joined the Blues. The biggest loss saw Didier Drogba refuse to sign a new deal and move to China to play alongside former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua.
It is a case of out with the old, in with the new for Di Matteo as he looks to improve on a disappointing league campaign last season. The main damage came during Andre Villas-Boas’ time in the first half of the season and Di Matteo did well to resurrect the dressing room and come out with Champions League football due to their nail-biting penalty shootout victory in Munich. With Drogba’s absence comes added responsibility to Fernando Torres and he seems to be in good goalscoring form, scoring in the Community Shield curtain-raiser with Manchester City last weekend.