Since Steve Bruce left his Wigan post for pastures new at Sunderland, Roberto Martinez took over the reigns of the small fledgling club last summer. Wigan has been an interesting side over the last couple of seasons. Since their meteoric rise through the lower leagues, Paul Jewell guided them into the Premier League triumphantly and since then they have been an ever present, luring Bruce – a decent manager, it must be said – from Birmingham to help them improve within the top tier ranks.
Unfortunately the lure of Sunderland was too much, and Bruce moved on. Now Wigan are under a young but talented manager in Martinez, who has been applauded for his persistence with neat, fast flowing football rather than park-the-bus style tactics other small clubs have been known for. Wigan is also interesting in the fact it has attracted and developed some fine talent from South and Central America, and it must be handed to the scouting team within the club for their tremendous work abroad. In Wilson Palacios, Wigan sold on a formidable holding midfield player for over £10million, having plucked him out of obscurity just two seasons earlier. Hugo Rodallega and Maynor Figueroa are two other success stories out of a long line of foreign “nobodies” developed into good Premier League players.
Wigan fans have reason to be excited this season. With the inaugural first season of a new manager over and done it, Martinez can get down to business and work on last season’s sixteenth placed finish. He’s also brought with him a possible star in the making, Argentinian striker Mauro Boselli. The striker has been raved about recently, and if early signs are to go by he could be one of the signings of the summer.
Can Wigan improve on last season? It’s very plausible. They have a decent squad, albeit weak in numbers, with some standout players that can help them go behind the bottom five. It’s a young squad that needs gluing together, and if that can happen Wigan will have a good season. Defence may be an issue at times, but an exciting attack with a strong and lively midfield should set them apart from others around them who lack such luxuries.
Last Season: 16th
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Ins: Mauro Boselli (£6.5m from Estudiantes), Antolin Alcaraz (free from Club Brugge), James McArthur (undisclosed from Hamilton), Ronnie Stam (undisclosed from FC Twente).
Outs: Tomasz Cywka (free to Derby), Mario Melchiot (free to Umm Salal), Titus Bramble (undisclosed to Sunderland).
The most eye catching of Wigan’s arrivals this summer is the £6.5million fee paid to Estudiantes for Mauro Boselli. The striker has appeared under the rader this summer, but this week in particular has been caught on by a number of fans. The 25-year-old only has two Argentinian caps to his name, but is being talked about as a possible goalscoring machine at Wigan if things go well for him.
Also arriving at the DW Stadium is Paraguayan international Antolin Alcaraz from Club Brugge, who will further solidify the defence. James McArthur follows in the footsteps of the similarly names James McCarthy by crossing the Scottish divide from the Hamilton Accies club to football in Wigan. They’re joined by Dutch full back Ronnie Stam, fresh after winning the Eredivisie title with FC Twente while under Steve McClaren.
Leaving the club includes Mario Malchiot, who has joined Umm Salal on a bosman, and Titus Bramble interestingly enough, who joins Sunderland for an undisclosed fee.
Tactics: Roberto Martinez has always been an advocate of 4-2-3-1, so it’s hard to see him changing vastly from the formation he persisted with last season. The arrival of Boselli could deem it a more 4-4-2 set-up, but Hugo Rodallega is fantastic playing from deep so it’s possible to consider a 4-2-3-1, with McCarthy and Diame holding and Victor Moses and Charles N’Zogbia on each wing (or Jordi Gomes, if N’Zogbia’s wish to leave is granted). McCarthy is equally adaptable to left midfield, meaning Thomas Henry would come in to sure up the midfield. An alternative to all of this could see Hugo Rodallega on the wing, and Jordi Gomes playing off Boselli.
Key Player: Many uninformed people would have scoffed in your face if you had mentioned Titus Bramble, but sadly that can’t be done in this situation so I’ll go for young James McCarthy in the centre of midfield. The Irish international impressed last season and could turn out to be another star centre midfielder of the Premier League. He’s been described as a box-to-box type of player, but his assured nature on the ball and ability to break up play and pick out a pass will make him very important to Wigan’s side.
Fixtures: It’s a nice start for Wigan, at home to Blackpool, and the perfect game to get confidence up and maybe even some goals on the board. It’s the DW again a week later, this time against Chelsea – but they did win this fixture last season. Their first away game of the season is at White Hart Lane, before hosting Sunderland at home again and then Manchester City a week later.
Where will they finish? A strong attack with some decent flair player could mean goals for Wigan, but a suspect defence and poor strength in depth could be their downfall over a long season. An entertaining team to watch, with a bright young manager – expect nice things from Wigan over the next few seasons if they can keep their big players and bring in more quality. 16th