Since their promotion in 2005, Wigan Athletic have survived in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth on a regular basis. From the days of Paul Jewell, through the era of Steve Bruce to the current day manager Roberto Martinez they always find a way to move away from the drop zone at the right time.
This season looks to be taking the same pattern based on recent form. Wigan seem to be picking up wins whilst certain teams above them, such as Aston Villa, Sunderland, Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle, struggle to find a way to win important games. This has allowed the Latics to catch up to their rivals thus creating a sense of panic in each of these clubs camps. Sunderland even sacked their manager due to the fear of being relegated. Wigan have a history of sticking by their managers and this could once again pay off as they look to continue this astonishing run of avoiding relegation comparable to that of Southampton and Coventry in the 1990s.
Let’s take a look at some reasons that could be key to Wigan’s survival plans, including a closer look at some of the key players in their system.
If Wigan are to stay up then they will have to retain possession in order to build a sufficient number of attacks. This is vital in a relegation battle as chances don’t come at a premium when you are at that end of the table. Their main man who can provide this ball retention is James McCarthy. This season he has a brilliant pass completion percentage of 88% with 57.9% of these passes going forward. This is even more impressive when you take into account that he has attempted a total of 1736 passes this season. Other players who can do this job include James McArthur and Jordi Gomez. Gomez also provides a good attacking threat from midfield when he plays too.
Wigan will also need to create a decent amount of chances if they are to have a chance of scoring enough goals to stay up. Their key man in this area is definitely Shaun Maloney. When Maloney hasn’t played this season, Wigan have lost each game. Not only does he boast a brilliant passing percentage of 90% but he has also created the second most chances at the club with 43 chances created. This is even more impressive when you look at the number of chances he has created in the final third of the pitch. Jean Beausejour is the only man to create more chances than Maloney for Wigan; he is a constant outlet when they attack down the left. He provides great balance and has a licence to maraud forwards more than most full backs due to Wigan system of three centre backs.
Every team fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table needs a goal scorer, in Wigan’s case it is Ivorian Arouna Kone. He has proven a huge success this season, scoring double the amount of goals anyone else has at the club with 10 goals. His explosive pace and poaching abilities have seen him become a key man in the Latics’ team since joining the club from Levante last summer. He is one of more clinical strikers in the league as he doesn’t have as many chances as a lot of the strikers at bigger clubs but he still gets his fair share of goals.
If Wigan are to survive not only will these three men will have to continue their excellent form but they will have to stop conceding so many goals as they have conceded a mighty 56 goals already this season. One of their best defenders, Ivan Ramis is injured but Antolin Alcaraz has recently returned from a lay off and the timing couldn’t be better for the club as they were starting to run out of options in that area. There is no doubt if they can stop leaking goals, they will have a fantastic chance of staying up due to the clinical fire power they possess in their attack.
Their last two results suggest they are hitting their top form at the right time as they seem to do every season. There are teams just above them in free fall and Wigan look as though they can win the important games at key stages of the season. Their experience of relegation battles and their ability to stand by a manager could be pivotal in their survival bid.
Let me know what you think! Can Wigan survive in the Premier League yet again? Who do you think will get relegated this season?