Since Roberto Martinez took over the reins at Wigan Athletic in 2009, there has always been one stand-out performer who leads from the front, keeps the team up and consequently leaves for a bigger club.
Before Roberto Martinez’s new side kicked a ball, he had to find a man to replace the hugely influential Antonio Valencia who joined Manchester United for around £16 million, after rejecting the chance to join Real Madrid in January. The stature of the clubs interested in Valencia showed how impressive he must have been, and filling his boots would not be easy.
Nevertheless, Martinez found his man in Hugo Rodallega who finished the season as the club’s top goalscorer with 10, including a spectacular volley against Aston Villa on the opening day which set them up for a 2-0 win.
The following season was much more dramatic and Wigan’s survival was due to mainly one man — Charles N’Zogbia. I remember listening to BBC Radio 5 Live when Wigan were hosting West Ham in what would decide the club’s fate. The game had run deep into stoppage time with the score at 2-2. Then suddenly N’Zogbia emerged from the right, cut in on his left foot and drilled a shot into the corner to give his side the victory. He ended the season with nine league goals and earned himself a £9.5 million move to Aston Villa.
Last year was the emergence of Victor Moses, a pacy winger who loved to attack defenders and proved to be a vital part of the team as the season went on. He replaced N’Zogbia on the wing and at first struggled as his side went on an eight match losing streak. However his fortune changed as he grabbed his first goal for the club in the 2-1 victory over West Brom, but he really began to shine in the final months of the season when Wigan won 7 of their last 9 games to survive comfortably in the end and finish 15th. He played in every Premier League game and finished the season with 6 goals, leading to a summer move to Chelsea.
This brings us to the question, who will save Wigan this year?
I believe there are a few candidates, but I’ll select three.
The man with the job to replace Hugo Rodallega who in his time at the club had become their highest Premier League scorer in history. So far, Kone has scored 6 league goals and contributed 5 assists, but it is his sheer power and strength that impresses me. He is a very direct footballer, only looking one way — forward. And he loves challenging defenders with his strength and pace. He’s a good all-round striker with quality, shown by his 38 international appearances for the Ivory Coast where he is up for places against the likes of Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Seydou Doumbia. There is no doubt in my mind that the outcome of Wigan’s season will rely heavily on how Kone performs.