Top 'What If' Questions from Wigan's Season
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Last week saw Wigan Athletic's eight-year reign in the EPL come to an end, but if certain factors had changed, would we still be looking at the same outcome?
There will always be games in a season when luck went against a team and decisions didn't go the right way. However, in Wigan's case, a few other factors could have led to their own downfall.
Toward the end of the season, the FA Cup winners obviously had to play more games than the teams around them.
Could this end-of-season fixture pile-up have had a detrimental effect on Latics' league form?
When Wigan beat Everton 3-0 in the quarterfinals, they had 10 league fixtures left, but also had two trips down to Wembley ahead of them.
Roberto Martinez didn't have the biggest squad to choose from and suffered with injuries to key players such as Ivan Ramis and Maynor Figueroa.
It was always going to be hard trying to find the balance between resting players and playing fringe players in the cup.
With the final in sight, no one can blame Wigan for going all out to win their first major trophy, and the triumph will forever be a momentous part of the club's history.
After reaching the final, Martinez certainly didn't think the distraction of the FA Cup was a negative. Via Manchester Evening News:
That gives you a positive feeling - around the town, around the fans and around the dressing room.
We are taking every game in the league with the importance it has. We all understand that is the priority.
But having an FA Cup final is a fantastic reward to fight for in the league.
From the players' point of view, that is what you are fighting for at the end of a game in the league.
That is going to help us perform as well as we can in the next four games in the league.
We shouldn't forget that the FA Cup run brought the likes of Callum McManaman, Joel Robles and Roger Espinoza into prominence, and they all performed well in the latter stages of the season.
However, Martinez's remarks came after the 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham, in a game were they conceded a late equaliser. After that match, Latics went on to lose to Swansea and Arsenal.
It's quite possible to see that the cup success was a hindrance, but Wigan's general play didn't suffer too much.
This leads us on to what was probably the biggest "what if" of the season, and if it had been different Wigan would most likely have remained an EPL side.
Defensive errors proved very costly. Although the team's performances were pretty consistent, if individual errors had been eradicated, Wigan surely would have got the extra four points that would have kept them up.
These errors were highlighted mostly in the 3-2 home defeat to Swansea, which was probably the last straw for Latics.
Twice in that game Wigan conceded a goal due to horrendous mistakes from defense. First, Gary Caldwell gave the ball away from the back and was made to pay, and then James McArthur and Shaun Maloney got in each other's way to gift Swansea the lead.
Against Spurs, keeper Joel Robles' lazy approach to clearing a back pass deflected off Gareth Bale's boot in what was another schoolboy error.
Looking at these mistakes alone, if Wigan had distributed the ball better or cleared their lines in danger, they could have been five points better off and safety would have been assured.
The final "what if" was arguably down to injuries. Yes, every team suffers throughout the season, but Wigan lost at least five defenders at varying points.
Spanish defender Ramis suffered a long-term knee injury in January which forced him out for the rest of the season.
This was a crucial loss, as his performances were strong, and a good partnership was being formed with Paraguayan center-back Antolin Alcaraz.
Fellow defender Adrian Lopez also missed a significant chunk of the season when he injured a hamstring in December.
Along with Figueroa missing the final few games, Wigan never had a settled back four for the majority of the season.
If at least Ramis and Alcaraz had been fit for the last two months of the season, there may have been fewer errors and the silly goals that were conceded may have been avoided.
Wigan will be hopeful that they can keep exiting players to a minimum if they are to gain promotion from the Championship next year.
They will also need to invest in a number of defenders and strikers, as the likes of Alcaraz, Figueroa and Franco di Santo are out of contract while Angelo Henriquez returns to Manchester United from his loan season.
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