Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Wigan Athletic's 2012-13 Season
Wigan Athletic dazzled at the end of last season, winning seven of its final nine matches to avoid relegation. If the team is forced into a similar situation this year, will Roberto Martinez be able to pull off another magical run?
The Latics have narrowly avoided relegation three times since joining the English Premier League in 2005-06. None of there escapes were more dramatic than in 2011-12, when they defeated Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle during the final seven weeks of the season.
But the team would do their supporters a favor if they would secure a spot in next year's Premiership a little earlier this season. Whether or not Wigan has the skill to accomplish this will be the subject of my next EPL preview.
Here is everything you need to know about the drama surrounding Wigan's latest quest for survival.
Transfers In, Transfers out
|Transfers In||Transfers Out|
|Fraser Fyvie||Hugo Rodallega|
|Mauro Boselli||Chris Kirkland|
|Ivan Ramis||Mohamed Diame|
The Ramis transfer saga was an ongoing story line for Wigan Athletic this offseason, and Spanish manager Roberto Martinez was able to steal his compatriot away from West Ham after a move to London seemed imminent.
The €5.5 million fee was a hefty price for the 27-year-old center back, but the Latics ended up with the player they had set their sights on. Ramis is experienced and his consistent play will be helpful along the back line.
Boselli has been with Wigan since 2010, but has spent the majority of his time away from Greater Manchester on loan. He first featured for Genoa before playing last season back in his native Argentina.
The 27-year-old is a pure striker who can be deadly when he gets possession in the penalty area. If he can finally make his mark on the Premier League, Wigan's attack will be potent.
Diame was not always a first-choice player for Martinez, but he played well last season when he was the pitch. The 25-year-old center midfielder is strong on the ball and a solid defensive contributor.
He moved to West Ham on a free transfer after several of England's biggest clubs showed interest, but subsequently backed off. He is certainly talented, but he did not play a vital role in the team's success last season and his absence will not cause a serious decline in the Latics' form.
Rodallega is another solid substitute who gave Wigan depth up front. He came on mostly as a center forward and was able to contribute two goals and four assists last season.
Boselli's return meant that Rodallega would no longer be as useful, and Martinez was wise to let him move to Fulham on a free transfer. He played decently for the Latics, but his departure in not a cause for serious concern.
Biggest Matches and Full Schedule
The full Wigan Athletic schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches.
Vs. Chelsea, Wednesday, August 19
The quest to remain in the Premiership will not be easy, and it will start off with an incredibly difficult match against the European Champions.
Wigan found a way to defeat the league's top teams at the end of last season, and if they can do so again at the beginning of this one, it will be an extremely positive sign. A win against Chelsea would confirm that the team can still win any match on any night.
This will also be an intriguing outing for Victor Moses, as it is not entirely clear which uniform he will be wearing when this date arrives.
Vs. West Ham, Saturday, October 27
These team's supporters are not fond of each other, and the lively crowd will give this match an exciting atmosphere.
Throw in the Ivan Ramis transfer battle, West Ham's return to the Premier League and the fact that point will likely be at a premium for both sides this season. This match should be a fierce battle.
Both these teams need to record victories against the league's lesser teams, and both will have this pegged as a must-win match. DW Stadium will be a wonderful place to be on this Saturday.
At Arsenal, Sunday, May 12
With their backs against the wall last season, the Latics played brilliant football. One of their incredible victories came at Emirates Stadium with just five league matches remaining.
This year, similar heroics may be required as Wigan could very likely find themselves desperate for points and on the road to London once again. If this is the case, the element of surprise will no longer be on their side, as the Gunners will certainly have last year's 2-1 scoreline fresh in their minds.
An inspired performance will likely be needed and the odds will certainly not be in Wigan's favor, although this is the situation when the team seems to thrive.
Moses' absence this season may have an even more drastic impact than his presence. The talented winger has been linked with a move to Chelsea for much of the summer, and Ben Smith of the BBC reports that the Latics are holding firm on their £8.5 million price tag.
The 21-year-old scored six goals in league matches last season and was able to terrorize teams by attacking from the touchline. His talent was on full display at the end of year when he scored two goals in two minutes to spark a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle.
His elite pace and skill give the Wigan attack an added dimension. If he leaves before the transfer window shuts, the team will not be able to replace him.
The Latics would not have survived last season if not for a number of spectacular saves from their goalkeeper.
Al-Habsi was superb down the stretch. The 30-year-old Oman international kept Wigan out of unsavory situations time and time again during their incredibly run to stave off relegation.
He displayed aggression, athleticism, poise and grace. Al-Habsi was everything a team could want in a goalkeeper last season and a similarly outstanding season will be required of him in this campaign.
Franco Di Santo
Mauro Boselli's arrival will take some of the pressure of his 23-year-old compatriot, but Di Santo will still have to shoulder the majority of the scoring load.
Boselli has not been consistent in the past, and it is all too likely that his form will disappoint once again. This leaves Di Santo to justify the No. 9 on the back of his jersey and increase his scoring output.
The young Argentine did lead the team is goals scored this past season with seven, but the entire team needs to find the back of the net more often and he must lead the charge.
Playing Under Pressure
When the chips are down, Wigan proved conclusively that it can pull through.
Roberto Martinez saved his most masterful coaching performances for the final two months of the of the season, and the players all responded by executing his plans to perfection. The team played nearly flawless football when everything was on the line.
Wigan won just eleven matches last season, and seven of those victories came in the final nine matches. When a team plays its best football in the most important matches, it is a testament the character of the players and coaches.
If the Latics are unable to avoid relegation this time around, they certainly will not go down without a fight.
Patience With the Ball
The Latics late-season form was not due to a manic surge in effort, but rather a calm execution of beautiful possession-based football.
Players in every position displayed a zen-like patience, letting the match come to them. The defenders stayed in their zones and kept the ball in front of the them, and the attackers made intelligent decisions with the ball and picked their opportunities wisely.
Wigan's average of 49.9 percent possession each match ranked eighth in the Premiership behind the seven big clubs and Swansea City. The team also tied for last in the league, averaging just one through ball per game, showing that the Latics rarely played overly ambitious passes.
This calmness showed a faith in Martinez' tactics, even when a monumental amount of pressure was on the team. If Wigan is equally as composed throughout this next season, the team will spare its supporters some stress as it will be well away from the bottom three spots.
Note: statistics courtesy of Whoscored.com.
Wigan was an entirely different team in the first seven months of the season than it was in the final two.
The team sunk all the way to the bottom of the league, struggling to score goals and managing to earn just four victories. But all of a sudden, the Latics experienced a drastic improvement in their form and started to shoot up the table, with a dramatic victory over none other than Manchester United proving to be the result that saw them free from the bottom three spots.
This was an extremely shocking result considering that the Latics had been run off the field in a 5-0 rout the last time they faced United. The two starkly different performances against the Premiership's most storied club show the incredible contrast between Wigan's top form and its lowest form.
The team must play more consistently this year as its finish last season will be nearly impossible to repeat.
Even with their improved play at the tail end of their campaign, the Latics still finished with a lackluster goal-scoring record.
The team put away just 42 goals, which was fourth-worst in the league. However, the team ranked 11th in the league in both shots attempted and shots on target.
Wigan is not an offensive juggernaut by any means and will not rank highly in goals scored, but the team should at least be in the middle of the pack. The team has talent up front and passes intelligently, but has lacked sharpness in front of the goal.
The strikers must take it upon themselves to convert more of their opportunities this season, or Wigan may be in for another relegation scare.
Note: statistics courtesy of Whoscored.com.
Prediction for 2012-13
Wigan's inspired performances and Roberto Martinez' amicable personality have made the Latics and likable side, but its Premier League run has come to an end.
The team's early form put them in a hole that was seemingly impossible to climb out of, and only a shocking run to finish the season kept them out of the relegation zone.
It took determination, focus, skill and a considerable amount of luck to keep the Latics in the Premiership and they will not be as fortunate this season. A streak similar to the one Wigan had to finish the year will likely not be witnessed for quite some time.
The team will be underwhelming to start the season and will not be able to display the same magic to stay in the top flight, and Wigan will finish at the very bottom of the league.