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.