Will Wigan beat the drop...again?
Wigan have once again found themselves in a relegation scrap this season, after heroically avoiding the drop at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.
This time round, the Latics find themselves in 18th place in the Premier League table, level with 19th Aston Villa on 30 points. Martinez’s men have several tough fixtures against Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal still to come and the club’s top flight future looks unclear.
Alongside this, the club now have the potential distraction of an FA Cup semi-final fixture versus Championship Millwall, however the players insist they are fully focused on Premier League survival.
Last season Wigan spent most of the campaign in the bottom three, but the players saved their best form till the end of the season as they successfully avoided relegation within the last 10 matches of the season.
After Saturday’s fixtures, the club have climbed out of the relegation zone, but remain far from safe. Arouna Kone’s late goal versus Norwich secured three points for and a much needed win for the Latics.
This win follows a well-earned victory against Newcastle just before the international break. Similar to last season, the club look to be reaching top gear right at the end of the season.
Roberto Martinez is confident he has the ability in his squad to stay in England’s top-flight.
“This campaign the fight to avoid relegation is harder than ever,” he told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show. “It’s more open than people think though.
“I believe all three teams that are in the relegation zone at the moment are capable of getting out. That means that the fight goes higher up the table than people think, anyone that hasn’t got 38 points is going to be fighting against relegation.
“I expect this one to be the hardest than the last four years.”
Obviously when compared to all the clubs at the foot of the Premier League table, Wigan have the most experience in surviving the drop. Therefore, having been in this situation before. The Wigan players know what to expect. Several old heads in the changing room know how to handle the pressure, this will keep the faith amongst the players – they know they have enough quality in the squad to stay up.
Furthermore, the team spirit at Wigan will prove a huge bonus. The manager isn’t under any pressure and the team will know that. In addition, all the other relegation-threatened teams have changed their manager within the last year – continuity could prove key.
In my opinion, the clubs FA Cup run will only motivate the side. Plenty of pundits have claimed involvement may harm the club’s chances of staying up, however I disagree! The up-coming semi-final should give the squad that extra motivation needed to avoid relegation at the end of the campaign.
Finally, Roberto Martinez is a quality manager. He is a great tactician and strongly believes in his players. This will be a big positive as the relegation battle nears its finale.
Will Wigan stay up? It’s very hard to call. With a tough run of fixtures to play, survival will prove difficult. However, I believe past experience will see Martinez’s men into safety come May 19th.