Caps Should Be Doffed To Roberto...Again

The soul-sapping chronicles of Terry Connor, Steve Kean and Alex McLeish have provided much woe. Once again, the neutrals among us love Roberto Martinez...

Last Updated: 10/05/12 at 13:52 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Luis Garcia On Liverpool's Title Challenge

8 comments

Liverpool cult hero Luis Garcia is returning to Anfield on Easter Monday to take part in the 'Celebration of the 96' charity match. Jon Holmes caught up with him...

Eye On The Experts: Niall Quinn

9 comments

You just can't sit and get angry at Niall Quinn, say Johnny and Al. Even if he's talking rubbish it stills seems quite nice rubbish coming out the mouth of a friendly, normal man...

All Articles

Let's be honest - we all knew Wigan would stay up. It's what they do. But despite its utter predictability, Roberto Martinez's latest successful survival bid has provided a much-needed uplifting narrative amidst a relegation saga that has often featured the relentlessly soul-sapping chronicles of Terry Connor, Steve Kean and Alex McLeish.

A club free (to my knowledge at least) of boozy captains, deluded chicken farmers and nightclub brawlers, Wigan's on-pitch exploits have been wholly gladdening for the neutrals among us, and the praise being lauded upon their manager is difficult to argue with. Given that their Premier League status will soon move into its eighth consecutive season, it is easy to forget (and apologies for the mixed metaphors) that simply by treading water, Wigan are punching well above their weight.

For a club whose average attendance lingers at just over 18,000, Wigan are second only to QPR in terms of the division's lowest gate receipts - and would indeed be rock bottom were it not for Loftus Road's limited capacity. Indeed, QPR spent as much transfer money in one day in January than Wigan have done over the past 12 months. They are based in a part of the world whose reputation is unlikely to conjure the sorts of glitzy images associated with the league's various footballing hotbeds, and the town itself 'boasts' a smaller population than the likes of Oldham and Rochdale. Prospective Premier League footballers, it is fair to say, are unlikely to go to bed at night dreaming of turning out at the humbly titled DW Stadium, and it's hard to imagine blue-and-white Caldwell shirts selling like hotcakes in Singapore.

And yet they remain, and deservedly so. Though he doesn't endear himself to everyone, credit should be given to Dave Whelan not only for modest but significant investment into the club, but also for resisting any urges of knee-jerkery and keeping faith in a manager of proven pedigree when Wigan seemed doomed only a couple of months ago. Such panicking, as Steve Morgan duly proved, rarely ends happily for anyone.

The majority of plaudits, though, should be reserved for Martinez himself. This season, he has once again demonstrated solid management of funds, some delightful tactical innovation, and the nerve, aura and articulacy of a man who belongs in the big time.

The summer sale of the club's crown jewel Charles N'Zogbia (and recouping £9.5million for him looks like some fine negotiating now), was presumably sanctioned with the expectation that the then rather undistinguished Victor Moses could step up and fill the chasm - judgement which has proven more than sound. Moses has taken his time bedding in at Wigan but, allowed to roam behind a central striker in the last few weeks, he has been a potent cocktail of pace, power and poise.

The confidence afforded to him is not an isolated example - Shaun Maloney has at times seemed like Jari Litmanen reborn in recent games, while Gary Caldwell has been transformed from an accident-in-waiting to a commanding, dominant leader of the resurgence. The likes of Antolin Alcaraz, James McArthur and Franco Di Santo have too been worthy survivors, though their roles more low-key. Keeping faith in staff, it seems, is something of a policy throughout the club, and one which has paid its dividends.

The manner of Wigan's success, though, is its most encouraging aspect. Martinez's mantra of tidy, possession-based football has never been compromised, and he has demonstrated that a side doesn't need the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso in order to work the ball neatly through their midfield. His instillation of a quite inspired 3-4-3 formation has also been something of a masterstroke, with his team managing to both swarm the midfield and break forward in numbers without jeopardising their back line (they've conceded only eight goals in their last ten games). Indeed, Martinez's role, along with fellow Iberian Paulo Sousa, in founding Swansea's flourishing long-term blueprint, should not be forgotten.

A key shortcoming of Martinez thus far is his club's continual need to rely upon their late-season form as a means of survival. As fine as Wigan have been recently, it can now be seen that they were significantly underperforming in the season's opening half, and likewise last term. In this regard, Martinez has displayed a somewhat Moyes-esque propensity for beginning the season poorly. Whether this betrays a limitation of himself as a manager of is merely the symptom of his limited resources, however, is difficult to tell. As a club who tend to see their better players leave each summer (N'Zogbia's sale was foreshadowed by those of Pascal Chimbonda, Wilson Palacios and Antonio Valencia in this respect), it could well be the case that it simply takes time to continually adapt and evolve. At a club with a lesser turnover of its top-end players, the problem could disappear.

Perhaps we will soon get a chance to find out. Though the decision of Martinez last summer to remain loyal to Whelan and Wigan was admirable, it is surely only a matter of time before he does opt to reward himself and fulfil his clear potential. Wigan's tale is a genuinely uplifting one, but the glass ceiling above the clubs falls low. Too low for someone of Martinez's calibre.

At 38, he is still a very young manager, and he should feel no great rush to move on, but the time for him to look onwards and upwards will surely arrive sooner rather than later. There should be no shortage of takers.

Alex Hess (@A_Hess)

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Sky Bet

    • Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Mike_Christie
Please Stop Telling Us What To Think

H

ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

TheWhiz
Wenger hails important win

I

s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

redbornandbred
De Gea's Europa League target

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: No Manchester City hangover, insists Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini insists Manchester City will keep fighting for the Premier League title, despite their week to forget.

Sherwood keen to keep Eriksen

Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood hopes the club can keep hold of Christian Eriksen in the summer.

Premier League: Roberto Martinez hails Everton players after win over Manchester United

Roberto Martinez saluted the focus and adaptability of his Everton squad after a 2-0 victory over Manchester United.

Mail Box

That's Why We Didn't Want Jose At United

There is plenty of reaction to Mourinho's antics (Isn't that exactly what he wanted?) plus thoughts on Connor Wickham, Fabio Borini, beach balls and Tim Sherwood...

Kieran's Not The Only One Keeping Notes

Another chap in the mailbox has been keeping notes on comments made by optimistic Man United fans. Plus, Garey Vance is offering a double-or-quits on his new tattoo...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property