Wigan Athletic’s Time in the Premier League Is Coming to an End

Wigan Athletic are in the bottom three, along with North West neighbours Bolton and Blackburn, after an abysmal run of six losses on the trot. They are much maligned for their poor attendances despite football being Wigan’s second sport behind rugby league and the club faces competition for fans from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. And after a poor start what’s next for Wigan this season?

Wigan narrowly avoided relegation last season with a Hugo Rodallega goal on the last day against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, which was enough to keep them up. However they lost star player Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa for a fee of £9,500,000 and their only really signings of note were goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who has looked impressive but due to the fragility of the defence has not been able to show his full potential, and Shaun Maloney. Wigan did not really bolster their squad well enough and already look to be paying the price with the solitary win coming against a QPR side, which hadn’t been on their shopping spree at the time. Their squad just doesn’t seem to be strong enough or has the depth for them to do well this season. And if injuries deplete the team Wigan could really struggle.

Defense has been a real problem for the Latics this season with teams being able to cut them apart with ease. Their defensive performance against fellow strugglers Bolton last week was truly atrocious. There were far too many individual errors and incidences of players giving the ball away in their own third. Steve Gohouri being an example of a player guilty of this.

Manager Roberto Martinez has got the team trying to play expansive football since his instalment as manager in 2009. It just doesn’t seem that they have any defensive cohesion so playing in the way they do does not work with Wigan. They constantly try to pass it out from back and as seen against Bolton it often leads to their downfall, with defenders looking for impossible passes and often giving the ball away to the opposition in dangerous areas, and of course in the Premier League they get punished for this. Sometimes for relegation threatened teams it is better to adopt a more defensive, physical style of play with Stoke doing this since their promotion in 2008. Stoke have now become an established mid-table team and as shown with Blackpool last season, attacking football without a good enough defence can’t keep you in the League.

As well as defensively, Wigan have been poor going forward with a meager six goals being scored in the first nine games. Three of these goals have come from former Chelsea player Franco Di Santo and they were all deflected efforts. The loss of N’Zogbia has meant they have lost valuable goals as he was their top goal scorer with ten goals last season and also provided a lot of service to the likes of Rodallega which they don’t have now.

This season is going to be very tough for Wigan. Owner Dave Whelan has said that he doesn’t want to sack Martinez which he should be applauded for but it is going to be tough for him in the future with the club largely reliant on his money, with less revenue gained due to their low attendances, an average of only 17,682 being the second lowest in the league ahead of QPR who are admittedly restricted by the size of their stadium. If Wigan get relegated this season, their crowd size will falter and they will lose a large majority of their squad meaning life in the Championship could be very tough especially with the large number of ex-Premier League teams in that division.

They have started poorly but in their next three games the Latics play Fulham, Wolves and Blackburn, all teams around them in the table. These three games could be crucial to their season. A low points total will lead to a lack of confidence and a real feeling that relegation is going to be tough to avoid but a good run could lead to them gaining momentum that could get them the points they need to stay in the league. It certainly looks like relegation is a really possibility for Wigan this season but of course as shown this weekend with Manchester City’s thrashing of Manchester United and QPR’s win against nine-man Chelsea, football is unpredictable so Wigan of course do have a chance of survival.

17 thoughts on “Wigan Athletic’s Time in the Premier League Is Coming to an End”

  1. I think Martinez is a fine manager (and a decent pundit, too!), but a small, relegation-threatened squad is not place for his style. If they get relegated, I think he’s gone too. He’d probably do well with an established mid-table side with decent talent. Spain may be more of his move, though.

  2. I consider myself a fan of Wigan, as I’ve been since 2006 when I first started following the BPL (EPL). I liked their up-and-comer/underdog status and felt I related better to a smaller team. They’ve played hard and managed to survive thus far, despite most every pundit predicting their downfall each year. Now a full six seasons on, I’ve never had so much pessimism so early in the season about their chances to stay up.

    They did virtually nothing of substance in the summer transfers but secure Al-Habsi and gain some bench players. Al-Habsi and N’Zogbia were almost solely responsible for 10-12 points last season and the squad is now weaker still.

    Really has little to do with the manager at this point. His style of play is so limited, I doubt seriously any changes he could make, given the squad he has, will produce the desired effect. If Whelan wants to spend big to stay afloat in the top level, he has only the January transfers and that will leave the squad with so little time to gel and gain points.

    Sitting on just 5 points currently, they’ve yet to play the likes of Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal, all of which come in December. Safe to say that 1 or 2 points in December is most likely an optimist’s view. Oct./Nov. are Fulham, at Wolves, Blackburn, at Sunderland.

    It is my firmest belief that the ONLY way Wigan has a prayer of staying up is with no less than 10 points in Oct./Nov. It IS possible, I believe, but sitting optimistically at the holiday break on 17 points is still a very tenuous position. Going into the holiday break at 15 or fewer will certainly spell doom regardless of any likely January spending.

    In short, it’s been a fun ride for me, but I see little way the nPower won’t be welcoming Wigan in May.

  3. You have written an odd piece which at best is an example of stating the bleeding obvious. Of course its going to be tough, every season defying the odds will be tough. Why not focus on the positive achievements. Blackpool won lots of friends but still went down. We have also been pretty positive in our previous 6 seasons and still not been relegated.

    And once again you fall into the ill-informed trap of referring to Wigan as a Rugby town. It certainly is not. Its a football town with Wigan Athletic just one of the football clubs supported by townsfolk. I’m not a RL basher by the way, its a fine sport and I am proud of my hometown club. That sport just adds a little more competition for paying spectators. I await the correspondent that highlights the near 25,000 that support both clubs across the two weeks, sometimes over the same weekend.

    Although your headline screams we are going down, you finish by saying we might just stay up. You might be right.

  4. I have to agree with the author. I think this will be Wigan’s final year as well. In the past, they always managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat with some diamonds they found through their scouting system or be dusting off some older players and a few smart loan deals. But not this year, I am afraid they are tapped out. But it is worth a look at some of the players that have gone through their club since arriving in the EPL- some real quality in the list

    Leighton Baines, Pascal Chimbonda, Jimmy Bullard, Graham Kavanagh, Lee McCulloch, Jason Roberts, Arjan de Zeeuw, Henri Camara, Stephane Hanchoz, Paul Scharner, Wilson Palacios, Ryan Taylor, Emile Heskey, Antonio Valencia, David Cattlemore, Amr Zaki, Titus Bramble, Charles N’Zogbia, Tom Cleverly….

  5. Hi Guzs,
    Thanks for the feedback, I wrote this article. In hindsight the title is too dramatic and maybe “is there time in the PL coming to an end?” would have been more acceptable.
    In terms of the rugby league town, I am a rugby league follower myself, being a Harlequins fan, and the point I was really trying to make was that in terms of Wigan and their team it is more a rugby league town, with regular sell-outs for the big games, and I respect what your saying about Wigan just being one of the teams supported in the area, which I do say at the beginning of the article.
    I honestly think it will be very hard for them to stay up, but of course as shown last season they might just do it. I’m by no means attacking Wigan, but I thought it was right to bring to light their problems and how this season it will probably be more difficult than recent years for the Latics to stay in the Division.

    1. Ally, no offence intended so pleased that you have responded. I cant let the rugby point go though…..the attendance point is a myth. Check the attendance for the Grand Final play off game at home….8000!!!

      Its a strange one because historically Wigan Athletic and Wigan RLFC have been very very well supported. Wigan Athletic were the big draw in the FA Cup as a non league side because of their fabulous support. Economics have played their part and the combined home attendances of both clubs is still decent, but the Wigan sporting public seem to have lost a bit of interest. Possibly the lack of homegrown talent, especially at the football club.

  6. The rugby team have never sold out a fixture in five years. You are ill-informed and ought to learn the difference between there, their and they’re.

  7. Very interesting point made by Stug, albeit a bit rough. I was just at Wikipedia for DW stadium and over the last few years the Latics have out drawn the Warriors in average attendance. That is a shock.

    Nonetheless the Latics are a compelling story. Despite the odds staked agin ’em, they have hung on and played some very entertaining football at times.

    1. At last, some facts around ataendances and also some credit being given towards the only true rags to riches story in Premier league history. Dave Whelan and Paul Jewell deserve were the architects but Chris Hutchings, Steve Bruce and now Roberto Martinez have all played their part. The story may still have a few chapters ………

  8. I vaguely caught Fox Soccer’s Bobby McMahon saying the Latics need to play two strikers up top, Rodallega is not doing the trick. Also, despite Roberto being a native Spaniard, if you check his history, he fully embraced the United Kingdom, I believe he played in all of England, Scotland and Wales and his wife is a Scot. He fully embraced the culture so in all likelihood, he’s not going anywhere and I believe he could have taken the Villa job. I tend to like Wigan and Roberto and would like to see them iron out their problems. For the past few years, I think one could have surmised they would be going down though I think this year does present problems in that Swansea and Norwich are good teams, the newly promoted clubs. So it does come down to the question that if Wigan or Bolton or Blackburn are not going down, then who is going to go down? And right now, these 3 are not playing well, especially Bolton. I do think Wigan played well on Saturday but could not finish.

  9. Great piece mate, really captured my thoughts. Have really enjoyed reading the last few articles you have written and look forward to seeing more in the future.

  10. Guzs,
    Thank you for giving feedback and arguing your point respectfully and with courtesy unlike some others. I can understand why now attendances are lower for both rugby and football because as you said there is a distinct lack of home grown talent, particuarly for the football team but I think prices come into it as well. Even though £20 is actually very cheap for a ticket to watch the latics, I believe the cheapest for an adult to watch football at the DW, compared to other football clubs, it is still fairly expensive and in a fairly small town it will take its toll.
    I understand why you can’t let the rugby point go, and the 8000 for that Catalans play off games was unexpectedly low, but then again I doubt the match ticket would’ve been included in the season ticket so people would’ve opted to want to go to the semi-final, which it was inevitable they were going to qualify for. I maybe shouldn’t have made those assumptions and shouldn’t have said it without full facts, but you do always here, as I now know to be untrue, that really Wigan is a rugby town from the likes of Sky Sports presenters. I want to thank you for the response and in future articles I will make sure I completely check all the stats.

    Lastly in response to Stug saying the rugby team have not had a sell out in 5 years, in 2009 against St Helens, admittedly their fierce local rivals, there was an attendance of 25004, which with the seats that won’t be taken due to segregation etc, in a stadium of capacity 25,138 is pretty much a sell out. And also I am not denying that Wigan’s story is a rag to riches one and I admire how they have managed to stay in the Premier League. I am not attacking them, just saying that due to this year’s squad and how they are performing this season it is going to be very tough for them.

  11. Assuming they do go down, I hope Martinez lands a spot with a club not battling relegation every year. He’s too good to be with Wigan anyway.

  12. Actually this is a good article, you can’t talk about the potentiality of a team being relegated and not rankle some nerves. Obviously, Wigan and those other 2 in the red zone right now, need to address some serious issues. Right or wrong, you are going to hear many people from that area say it is more of a Rugby town. The above counter argument though is valid as well.

    1. The truth is that there are a handful of points between 10 clubs or so. They all have similar issues, so its not at all reserved to the “red zone”. Wigan win at home to Fulham on Saturday and quite possibly they will be out of the bottom 3 – it wont be the end of their struggle in the same way that it wont be the beginning of the end for Fulham.
      And once again, for those who say it is a rugby town, its just not true and everytime it is raised, I and others will challenge it. It is undeniably a strong football town – its just that Wigan Athletic are not necessarily the first choice of many football supporters within the town – but given all of the competition across many sports, an average of 14,000 or so home supporters is not bad out of a c. 80,000 population.

  13. I would just say “Wigan COULD” be going down, only about 20%, okay, 23% of the season has been played but in some of their games, they’ve been dismal. “Some” games not all. I would almost contemplate if we might see managerial changes for any one of the teams at the foot of the table. I know that is not a pleasant subject, but I’d give it about 2 weeks and then consider it. But I’d definitely say Wigan “could” go down because it is not a sure thing. Man, Brum went down last year and they seem to be playing rather well in that European League and Championship league though they’ve played about 3 less games than the other teams, so they are down in the standings because of that.

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