Ahead of all expectations the Latics enter their eight consecutive season in the top-flight, Roberto Martinez’s side continued to the trend of having a poor early season only to finish the season aplomb – winning seven of their last nine games to finish in 15th place, five points ahead of Aston Villa and seven points above the drop zone. Before the run-in, Wigan had only one four games all season. So, can Roberto Martinez take the club to the next level this season?
Martinez continues to be coveted by a number of clubs, the most recent being Aston Villa, whom he declined, and Spurs. Chairman, and frequent loud-mouth, Dave Whelan admits that Martinez will eventually move on to a bigger club, and Wigan will not stand in his way if such an offer comes. For now, the Spaniard remains in charge at the DW Stadium and will be looking to start the way Wigan finished last season, when Martinez stumbled upon a 3-4-3 that brought results and led the manager to predict: “In a year’s time, there will be a lot of teams playing 3-4-3, believe me.”
Chris Kirkland, Mohamed Diame, Steve Gohuri, Hendry Thomas and Hugo Rodellega were all released at the end of last season. On the other hand, Martinez has brought in two young players and two experience players – Fraser Fyvie has come down from the SPL from Aberdeen, while Ryo Miyaichi has arrived on loan from Arsenal. Defender Ivan Ramis and striker Arouna Kone have both joined from La Liga sides, Mallorca and Levante respectively. Martinez will be hoping that Kone can bring some much needed firepower to the club, having scored 15 goals last season (Di Santo was Wigan’s highest scorer with seven).
Many will feel that the Latics have overstayed their welcome in the Premier League and to stay up for seven consecutive seasons has been an achievement in itself. However, the club needs to show more this season. Martinez has worked wonders on a budget but showed that he could beat the best teams last season, there were victories over Arsenal, Liverpool, a very first win over Manchester United and a fine 4-0 victory over Newcastle. There was also that unlucky defeat to Chelsea, where the Latics were undone by poor refereeing decisions.
Again, this season, a tough season lies in store for Wigan. Martinez faces a real test this season more so than ever, as this marks his fourth season in charge. After showing glimpses of brilliance and the right formation at the end of last season, it is imperative the Latics get off to a strong start this season.
Opening five fixtures: Chelsea (H), Southampton (A), Stoke (H), Manchester United (A) and Fulham (H)