Since their arrival in the Premier League, Wigan have been branded as ‘relegation fodder’ at the start of every season, having stayed up by the skin of their teeth last year and losing Charles N’Zogbia from an already inexperienced side it seems that the tag is warranted once again.
Manager Roberto Martinez has been talking up his sides chances of a top-half finish over the break but such talk seems foolish when his side is severely lacking in key areas.
Only the relegated Birmingham scored fewer goals at home than the Spaniard’s side last season and with a stable of strikers consisting of Franco DiSanto, Collum McManaman, Hugo Rodallega and Conor Sammon it is unlikely that there will be too many in the ‘goals for’ column this year either.
Up front and throughout the side is packed with young, hungry and skilful players but the dressing room is bereft of grit and experience.
Henry Thomas, Gary Caldwell, Mohamed Diamé will be joined by David Jones from Wolves as the club’s resident hard men but they will hardly leave many sides quaking in their boots at the prospect of a trip to the DW Stadium.
Wigan has developed a reputation for polishing rough gems in recent years with Leighton Baines, Wilson Palacios, Nuno Valencia and more recently Charles N’Zogbia having attended the Wigan finishing school.
This year too there are a host of players who could stake their claim as Premier League stars.
Rodallega’s relegation-saving late winner on the last day would have ensured him status as a fans’ favourite if Wigan had any fans and the Colombian striker looks likely to be their biggest threat this season.
Martinez preferred to play him on the left wing last year but with no striker arriving it looks like Rodallega will be able to add to his tally as Wigan’s all time leading goalscorer in the Premiership.
On again/off again Republic of Ireland international James McCarthy is perhaps the brightest player at the club and if he can begin to fulfil his potential this year he may help overcome last year’s poor scoring record as he supplies the front lines with plenty of ammunition.
Victor Moses has turned 20 and will be hoping to mature his game to the level where he can pin down a regular starting place under Martinez, though likely to be deployed on the left wing the young Nigerian is capable in front of goal and should enjoy playing under Martinez’s tutelage.
Like Wigan as a whole, Ben Watson showed great improvement in the second half of last season and displayed a confidence and assuredness on the ball that will be vital to the success Wigan’s possession style if he can continue to develop.
Former UCD and Derry City man Conor Sammon will be looking to build on the reputation afforded to him after last season’s vital goal against West Ham.
Martinez clearly likes the look of the Dubliner so if he can make the most of his opportunities it is not beyond reason that Sammon can become the club’s secondary striker with only DiSanto and McManaman to fight off.
The strengths of Martinez’s side clearly lie in their attacking potency and the former Swansea manager has developed a reputation as the romantic’s favourite, playing attractive possession football despite the odds being so heavily stacked against him.
Despite being in the relegation zone for the majority of last season, the late flourish means that the Martinez project can be viewed as a qualified success so far and if Wigan can continue that momentum and add some consistency they may enjoy a more comfortable end to this season.
The opening three games against Norwich, Martinez’s bitter ex Swansea and QPR will set the pace for the remainder of the year and show that they have the mental strength to capitalise on their undoubted ability.
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