So here we are again. With just nine games to go before the end of the season Wigan Athletic Football Club find themselves in yet another relegation scrap. Sound familiar?
The Latics currently sit 18th in the league table on 27 poins, four above Reading and QPR and just three points away from safety . To say the least it is very close down the bottom and with the Premier League title almost certainly heading to Old Trafford all eyes will be on this relegation scrap with all the teams down the bottom separated by the smallest of margins.
Wigan have lost 55.17% of their games this season winning just 24.14%. They have scored 35 goals, nine of them coming from their top goal scorer in the league, Arouna Koné, who arrived at the DW stadium at the beginning of this season from Levante for a reported fee of £3 million.
Last season Wigan finished 15th in the Barclays Premier League with a total of 43 points and in order to survive relegation last season 17th place QPR finished with a total of 37 points. Wigan still need ten more points from their remaining nine games if the table is to play out in a similar fashion to last year but with just six points separating 13th and 18th place this year the total of points needed may be less due to the tightness of the scrap at the foot of the table.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has said this years relegation fight will be the toughest that he has faced in his four years at the DW and after keeping just four clean sheets all season it is easy to see why: “The teams in the bottom three I don’t think are going to stay there: there will be other teams involved and it will go down to the final day once more,” Martinez said.
“Year after year that fight becomes harder because teams are more prepared and stronger to cope with the demands in that final push.
“I do see it as the strongest fight out of the last four I’ve been involved.”
Roberto Martinez has been applauded by many for the way he manages to keep Wigan safe from relegation every year despite the little money he has to survive and also the style of football that Wigan try to play. However many have argued that if Martinez is such a ‘great’ manager why do Wigan find themselves in this position every year? Martinez has a 28.66% win record at Wigan in all competitions, winning 47 games out of 164. Wigan have never finished higher than 15th in the league since Roberto Martinez took over in the summer of 2009, could this year be the year they use the tightness of the league to their own advantage and sneak higher up the table than ever before?
Wigan are 13th in the English Premier League form table picking up eight points from the 18 available. Last weekend Wigan picked up a moral boosting victory against Newcastle United with Koné leaving it late and scoring the winner on the 89th minute securing a vital three points. The game was not without it’s controversy after Callum McManaman’s horror tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara went unnoticed by the referee in what was a certain red card, which would have left Wigan with ten men, maybe changing the face of the game. This is the kind of luck that Wigan need at the moment if they are going to avoid the drop. Against Newcastle Wigan had 49.8% of the possession in what was a close game, 78% passing accuracy and beat Newcastle on chances to score in open play eight to six.
It is difficult to predict where Wigan will finish this season and if they will survive another relegation dogfight. It has been suggested that the manager and players have been in this situation so many times before that they know how to handle the circumstances and pressure that comes with such an occasion.
This one is too tight to call and could go down to the last day, whatever happens it is sure to be one hell of a battle.