Wigan Athletic – Just how do they do it?
I think we all know the usual season routine in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic – be nailed on for relegation until in the final month; then suddenly beat every top six team, decide the title race with an inconceivable and wildly celebrated win and defy logic to stay up. Annually ridiculed and questioned at the start of every campaign, you start to question whether anyone really believes that Wigan are capable of becoming a stabilised top flight club, well I don’t, and this is why.
We’ll start with the manager. If there was an award for being the best manager at the worst club, I’m afraid Roberto Martinez would be a strong candidate. Questionable tactics, unruffled management style and an atypical formation riddled the club last season, albeit keeping them afloat – it is difficult to decipher how good of a manager Mr Martinez is. In terms of youth and exuberance, he is well up there; declining job offers from Liverpool and Aston Villa in the summer takes some bravery but you question whether he has missed the boat sailing towards notoriety and eminence in the big bad world of football management. One bad season for the Spaniard and that boat may never come again however I feel it may become an annual service, yearning Martinez to board.
So the manager is competent and proficient – what about the players? Crammed with dramatic personas who you query their worth on a public field on a Sunday morning in a local pub league never mind the greatest league on earth; yet time and time again, they flout these ridicules and somehow, somehow, linger just above the drop zone.
Albert Crusat, Jean Beausejour and Ronnie Stam are not quite names that would excite a crowd – maybe the reason for Wigan’s largely scarce fan base – but there are some lights in the darkness.
Despite his bizarre acquisition of the number two shirt, Arouna Kone looks a decent player, whether that’s because he is competing for a starting spot with the dire Mauro Boselli remains to be seen. There is the possibility that Kone and the emerging Franco di Santo replace the departed Hugo Rodellega although it would probably take the pair of them to emulate the Colombian. The Latics were the third lowest scorers last season; amassing just 42 goals, one for each supporter (sorry). Wigan will probably rely on Kone’s few goals and di Santo’s preposterous number of deflected efforts.
Another potential goal shy season beckons but surely the midfield could chip in? James McCarthy and James McArthur share another palpable fact other than their first name – a lack of goal threat. Between them, they have offered five years of Premier League football at the DW Stadium, accumulating in a meagre seven goals. Midfield partners Jordi Gomez and Shaun Maloney are on and off more times than a tap and although the loan deal for Ryo Miyaichi may bring some pace to proceedings, it may only speed up the wait for disappointment. Couple this with the loss of midfield stalwart Mohamed Diame, Wigan’s central armoury seems to be lacking somewhat.
Then we come to the defence. Guilty of conceding an alarming 62 goals last term, describing them as a sieve would probably be too harsh though a comparison with a leaky roof seems more suitable. With each day left unattended, its tendency to collapse completely becomes more feasible. It’s just crying out for that one handyman to renovate it, I qualm that Ivan Ramis is the answer.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover!” – But Ramis’ dismal debut, though against the European champions Chelsea, will not fill Wigan fans with hope ahead of a long season.
Joining Ramis in Martinez’s eccentric defence will most likely be club captain Gary Caldwell, partnered by either the extravagant Antolin Alcaraz or the incoherent Maynor Figueroa, putting a reasonable quantity of flesh between the ball and the goal guarded by Ali Al Habsi, who really has grasped that number 26 shirt with both hands.
To summarise, I do think Wigan will stay up – by a point. Their encounter with Arsenal on May 12th will probably decide the Champions League places at least then the following week an emblematic win over Aston Villa will ensure their survival. After Figueroa has conceded a penalty which was subsequently converted, a custom deflected di Santo strike will level the game and the often forgotten man, Maloney will pop up with a stunning winner.