Season Preview: Wigan Athletic
August 8, 2012 in Premier League
In 1995, a Division Three club found themselves in the money after a local millionaire took over. He immediately set out his vision of the small North-Western club playing top-flight football, drawing ridicule from all quarters of the footballing world.
Ten years later, they made it.
Seven years after that, they’re still there.
Not all that much has changed though; the antics of Dave Whelan during the Liverpool saga point to his penchant for unintentional entertainment, but I digress.
How Wigan have managed to stay in the Premier League, I’m not sure. I know what they do – string together results in the second-half of the season to stampede to safety, the charge led by a man in form. But come March this year, there was no charge, no real stand-out performer and an impending six pointer against an in-form Bolton.
So Roberto Martinez dug out his old Swansea playbook.
What resulted was an asymmetric 3-4-3 that worked wonders. I won’t go into the nuances here, but they essentially baffled their opponents into submission, resulting in a terrific run that saw them finish 16th, well above what was projected. So, their safety assured, what have Wigan done to consolidate their Premier League position and make the step up from relegation dogfighters into mid-table mediocrity?
There’s not much they can do, to be fair. Mr Whelan has always made it clear they’re a club with limited cash, and an average attendance of 18,633 last season (the DW’s capacity is 25,138) mean they don’t really have enough exploitable fans to change that. Losing Mohammed Diame on a free to West Ham won’t have helped matters, either. They have made two signings in Fraser Fyvie and Ivan Ramis, but one is a 19-year old Scottish midfielder and the other was a defender that Sam Allardyce liked the look of.
Not signings that set the world alight.
The best thing Wigan can hope for is to keep their squad together and use their momentum to drive further up the table. But, much like their playing season, they have had a few near misses: Roberto Martinez being seriously considered to be the latest man fed to the Kop, and Chelsea coming in for a man who has potential of biblical proportions.
He may split opinions like the Red Sea, but at his best, Victor Moses is quick, strong with an eye for goal and bucketloads of flair (that scoop turn against Arsenal still gives me shudders). And if he stays (like he should) rather than leaving Wigan to wander the wilderness, he could lead them to the promised land.
Key Man: Roberto Martinez. Seriously. Whatever he does to get his players to perform at the right time should be bottled and sold as energy drink. If they lose him, they’re down.
Prediction: 17th. Again.