After eight brave and successful seasons in the Premier League, Wigan’s stay in the top flight came to a shattering end on Tuesday night in driving rain at the Emirates Stadium. The 4-1 defeat at Arsenal finally confirmed the inevitable for Roberto Martinez’s side, as they haven’t been able to produce the regular end of season surge this time around to protect their status among the elite.
Wigan supporters have been through a rollercoaster of emotions over the last week. The club produced the biggest FA Cup final upset in 25 years at Wembley Stadium, when Ben Watson’s stoppage time header deservedly beat Manchester City.
Less than 72 hours later, the Latics were relegated. So, potentially, they could face the likes of Braga, Inter and FC Twente in the Europa League, yet then face domestic encounters with Ipswich, Doncaster and Huddersfield.
So, what has gone wrong for Wigan this season and why have they gone down?
Reason one is the home form. For any side struggling in the top flight, you need to make your home ground a fortress. Win the home matches, and the chances are that the targeted objective will be met. Wigan’s home record is appalling. They have won just four matches at the DW Stadium all season (Reading, Newcastle, Norwich and West Ham). Only QPR have a worse home record this campaign and it negates the decent away form.
Reason two has been Wigan’s inability to defend. The Lancastrians have leaked 71 goals and have the worst defensive record in the Premier League. They also have the worst goal difference at minus 26; something you would assume is unthinkable given Aston Villa’s Christmas mauling’s at the hands of Chelsea, Tottenham and Martinez’s men.
The defending has been schoolboy at times, and it is a big reason why they have been relegated. Errors have been made far too often on an individual basis and when goals are conceded like the one to Gareth Bale at home to Tottenham recently, it spells the inevitable.
And reason three is the lack of a prominent goalscorer. Whilst Arouna Kone has managed double figures with 11 goals, the Ivorian has never been fully prolific and hasn’t been backed up by efforts from the midfield or fellow attacker Franco di Santo. Wigan might have escaped from the drop if they had a scorer who could manage 15-20 goals, like Christian Benteke, Rickie Lambert and Dimitar Berbatov have achieved for their clubs this season.
Although there is a European campaign to look forward to next season, doubt will be thrown now on where the playing squad will be. It is unlikely that Kone will stay, and the club will face a battle to keep the likes of James McCarthy, Maynor Figueroa, Shaun Maloney and young prodigy Callum McManaman, who has just received junior international recognition from Stuart Pearce.
Silverware might be in the trophy cabinet, but an uncertain future waits for the current Wigan Athletic manager and the playing staff.
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