How many times during Roberto Martinez’ tenure at Wigan have his team played really well, but not got a result? Too many, Latics fans would reply.
It was that same old story at the Eastlands in midweek. Latics gave us a dose of that wonderful brand of champagne football that kept them afloat last year. In the process they made the Premier League champions look very ordinary. The problem was that they came home pointless.
The issue was highlighted in a recent quote from Martinez: “We didn’t go to Manchester City for a point or damage limitation. We wanted to win and we deserved to win. But we have to learn. When we deserve to win, we have to win.”
There are 6 games left this season. Wigan need at least 3 wins to stay up. Given their form over the season, there is as much chance winning matches away as at home. Of the three teams to play away it is West Ham who have the weakest home record. So far this season their record at the Boleyn Ground has been 7 wins, 5 draws and 4 defeats.
Latics are therefore going to be looking for a win at West Ham tomorrow. The Hammers come in following a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, the upcoming champions equalising with a goal that Sam Allardyce considered offside. Despite only having 34% of the possession the Hammers were still able to score two goals. They are that kind of team – their football is far from pretty and they don’t have a lot of quality players in their squad – but they are resilient and can get results.
Given the threat of aerial bombardment, Martinez might well keep the backline of three central defenders that played at Manchester City. He has talked about rotating his squad, with so many games coming up in a short period.
On Wednesday he made two changes, bringing in Joel Robles and Franco Di Santo. It will be a challenge for him to make any more changes for Saturday, without disrupting the rhythm of a team that has been playing better lately.
Wigan beat West Ham 4-1 in a League Cup tie earlier in the season at the Boleyn Ground, but both clubs put out weakened lineups. They also beat them 2-1 at home in the league. Providing they can maintain current form they can certainly get a good result at West Ham. The question for Wigan is whether recent matches have taken a physical and mental toll on key players. Their fans will not want to see the kind of jaded, insipid performance they saw a couple of weeks ago against QPR.
No matter how they do it – by grinding the opposition down or by attacking them in style – Latics need to go all out for a win. It has been a funny old season and it is going to be hard for Wigan to stay afloat. They have done last minute escape acts before, but are we expecting too much in asking them to do it again?
Although accepting that this year’s relegation battle is the toughest for many years, Roberto Martinez believes Wigan can still make it. Given his past record Wigan remain a force to be reckoned with near the end of a season. Let’s see what they can do at West Ham tomorrow.