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Following their glorious treble winning season, Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola has been hailed by almost every pundit for what he achieved at the Nou Camp in just one season. As Spain produce playmakers and thinkers like Guardiola, Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi, this could be the season where Roberto Martinez establishes himself as the up-and-coming manager in European football in a similar mould to the Barcelona coach.
Martinez set the lower leagues alight with Swansea, his experience of English football should stand him in good stead. And whilst his smart brown shoes and suits will bring comparisons with Jose Mourinho, it is the Spaniard’s acumen in the transfer market that was so crucial for the Swans, and has seen him likened to Arsene Wenger.
Promotion from League One to the Championship was achieved by Martinez in his first full season in Wales and last season Swansea finished eighth, just missing out on a play-off spot. The football played under Martinez was some of the best seen anywhere in Britain, and if he can bring the same momentum to the Latics a top half-finish is very possible.
The dapper 36-year-old’s best signing could well be Jordi Lopez, signed from Espanyol after a season on loan with Martinez at Swansea. A fee of 1.7 million pounds was ludicrous after Lopez established himself as the finest playmaker in the Championship last season. Lopez will be key to make Wigan tick and there is no doubt he has the necessary quality.
Another former Swansea player also looks like a fine signing. Jason Scotland has consistently scored goals and, either alongside Hugo Rodallega or coming off the bench, his physical presence and goal scoring ability will make an impact on the Premier League. Martinez also used his contacts in Scotland to pluck wonder kid James McCarthy from Hamilton, the Republic of Ireland youngster has drawn comparisons with Steven Gerrard and is a potential star of the future.
Scott Sinclair is another young midfielder who could relish playing under Martinez following his loan move from Chelsea, and reports in Spain suggest Martinez is also closing in on another young starlet in French defensive midfielder Mohamed Diame from Rayo Vallecano. Throughout his spell at Swansea, Martinez proved that he has an exceptional knowledge of Spanish football, don’t be surprised when the likes of Lopez and Diame (if he signs) turn out to be two major players for Wigan next season.
To add to the feeling that Wigan should be contenders for a mid-table place and will not be fighting relegation as many think, is that there are a number of well-drilled Premier League players already in place at the newly-named DW Stadium.
Chris Kirkland, Paul Scharner, Emmerson Boyce, Titus Bramble, Mario Melchiot and Maynor Figueroa bring a solidity at the back. Seemingly every Premier League team now wants to sign Lee Cattermole and it would be no surprise if Charles N’Zogbia also improved under the tutelage of Martinez. Striker Rodallega should also benefit from picking up Premier League experience during the second half of last season.
Steve Bruce laid some fine foundations at Wigan, his buying and selling of players has allowed the Latics to become a consistent Premier League force as they proved by finishing 11th last season. But, David Whelan might have made the signing of the decade in bringing Martinez back to the club. The Spaniard is a genius and this will likely be confirmed when Wigan’s free-flowing exciting brand of football brings the fans flocking in to the DW Stadium.
The full Premier League finishing odds can be seen here.