After a shocking start to the season, one that buried the team at the bottom of the Premier League throughout January, February and March, team manager Roberto Martínez seems to have started to figure things out after switching the formation to a bold 3-4-3. The turnaround from Wigan this season has been nothing short of remarkable, but the more notable topic is the style and the manner in which they have conducted themselves that has captured the hearts and the imagination of fans.
I will be the first to admit that a couple months ago, I thought Wigan looked to be a squad ready to drop. I’ll even take it one step further, and say that I was almost happy about it. Any match that was on at the DW Stadium seemed half-hearted at the time, with more than half the stadium empty and absolutely zero atmosphere. Things were not looking right, and fans were ashamed that the team they eagerly wanted to support was such an embarrassment in what I believe to be the best football league in the world.
In the last month however, things have turned around and Wigan has begun to change the opinions of the critics out there. I think they have one of the best managers in the league at their disposal, Martinez, who always conducts himself with dignity and respect. Although considered to be a “young” manager, he’s the leader this team needs.
Fans can thank Martinez’s recent development of a 3-4-3 system for the strong play we’ve seen. This arrangement of players gives the team more passing angles than a 4-4-2 would, and the players, all confident when in possession with the ball, have seemed to thrive.
They started to play with the conviction and resolve of a team who finally took pride in their position in the Premier League. Key players such as Di Santo, Moses, Maloney and Caldwell are starting to reach their potential, and delivering results very few predicted. They’ve managed to defeat Premier League giants such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle in a run that offered much hope and promise for next season. And most reassuring of all, these results weren’t just ‘lucky’; they played magnificent football.
Let’s quickly focus on the Arsenal game at the Emirates Stadium. Although the final score, 2-1 in favor of Wigan, was not as impressive as the one against Newcastle (4-0 Wigan victory), it was this performance against Arsenal that many felt was the best of the season. From the outset of the match, Wigan attacked and kept Arsenal on their heels though swift passing, leading to their first goal being scored with just 7 minutes played by Franco Di Santo. Victor Moses, who was a beast that whole game, found space on the right to slot a ball in for Jordi Gomez who then set it up perfectly for Di Sanco to shoot into the Arsenal net. Those fans who made the trip from the Greater Manchester area to North London sure got what they wanted.
Wigan continued the attack, and scored again 94 seconds later. Victor Moses found himself with too much space on the left and sent in a wonderful ball for Jordi Gomez to net their second goal of the match. Emirates. Wigan were finally playing football worthy of the Champions League.
For the first time in a long, long while, Wigan have shown their potential, and displayed an ability to work as a team and listen to the advice of their manager. The team is the epitome of ‘football bravery’: trusting that your system will, at some point, deliver results. It is a process that requires much patience and for much of this season, the results have not followed. If they can carry this momentum into the next season, along with a few transfer deals, they could be vying for a top ten finish.