Awful in Autumn, Sprung in Spring, Wigan are Staying in the Premier League

Antolin Alcaraz headed home Wigan’s winner with 3 minutes to go at Ewood Park on Monday night to ensure the Latics will be in the Premier League for an eighth consecutive season.

After a poor start to the season, Roberto Martinez’s side have blossomed once again in the final weeks of the season to dramatically pull themselves clear of the relegation zone. Last season, Hugo Rodallega headed Wigan to safety with just 10 minutes of the season remaining.

After picking up 5 points from their opening 3 Premier League games against the newly-promoted sides, Wigan Athletic went on a worrying 8-game losing streak, which included losing 3-1 at home Bolton and 3-1 at Wolves. Their sixth point came with a 3-3 home draw to Blackburn Rovers in mid-November. At this stage, leaving Martinez’s side half a dozen points from safety a dozen games into the season.

Steve Gohouri, Ronnie Stam and Conor Sammon all started the home draw with Blackburn. Gohouri and Stam have not played since February, although Sammon does continue to make substitute appearances despite scoring just 1 goal this season and not looking so clever in the process.

Constantly written off season after season, it was hard to see how Wigan would survive this season after Victor Anichebe rescued a point for Everton at the DW Stadium to start February. Athletic were left 5 points adrift with 14 games to go, and a tough remaining fixture list, winless in 9.

That draw with the Toffees started off a mini run for Wigan, which saw them lose just 1 of 8 before a controversial, late 2-1 loss at Chelsea. Two weeks before their trip to Stamford Bridge, Wigan had taken 3 points home from Anfield for the first time in their history.

4 days after a heartbreaking defeat at Chelsea that left Martinez’s side in the bottom 3 with 6 games to go, they handed Manchester United a blow to their title race when Shaun Maloney scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over the Premier League leaders.

A victory at Arsenal, a 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle and Monday night’s victory at Blackburn have since followed, seeing Wigan reach the illustrious 40-point mark and ensure they will be playing Premier League football again next season.

This late run of form has coincided with a formation change. Since sending his side out in a 3-4-3 formation, Roberto Martinez has seen his formerly shaky defence sure up. 3 clean sheets were kept in their first 25 games. 5 shut outs in their last dozen games have followed, finishing the season with a home game against Wolves on Sunday.

Captain Gary Caldwell has been a rock at the heart of the Wigan defence recently, playing alongside Maynor Figueroa and Alcaraz. Victor Moses has finally stepped up to the plate in recent weeks. The Nigerian international has scored goals against Norwich, Stoke and Newcastle in recent months; picking up 7 points from those 3 games he scored in.

Even Franco Di Santo has scored 2 goals in his last 4 outings having been a laughing stock for many Premier League fans over nearly 3 seasons in which he’d scored just a solo goal in each of the previous two. The former Chelsea striker has now scored 6 goals this season; bringing his tally up to 8 goals in 86 Premier League games; a strike rate worse than Emile Heskey’s at Aston Villa.

Wigan have survived for a third consecutive season under Roberto Martinez. I’ve had my doubts over him during this spell, but whilst he continues to keep the Latics in the Premier League, we will have to accept his style of football is good enough for the best league in the world.