Wigan Athletic have not always enjoyed the best reputation in English football. For the majority of last season they looked as though they would struggle to stay up but a resurgence in form towards the end of the campaign has seen them turned into one of the most unpredictable and difficult teams to play against in the league or any domestic competition.
This was highlighted by the 1-0 win they secured at home last season which effectively cost Manchester United the league title. The club deserves a lot of credit for showing faith in manager Roberto Martinez when many other clubs would have already shown him the door for spells of poor form and also for talking to other clubs.
Martinez is a Spaniard who knows a lot about Spanish football and watches a great deal of it. He used a lot of the same processes he is branding on Wigan that he did during his time at Swansea City as he played a large part in getting them to their current Premier League status today. Martinez deserves a lot of credit because through all of the bad times and good times, he has never changed the way he wants Wigan to play football.
He has always named a balanced side that suits a passing style of football and when Wigan get things right they are difficult to play against. So far this season Wigan have lost three, won one and drawn one. Their inconsistency and occasional brilliance was highlighted by their 4-1 thrashing of West Ham away from home in the Carling Cup, a match they were expected to lose heavily.
Wigan are building a new reputation in English football. Yes they are still struggling but that is only due to the inconsistency which is produced by trying to get a team to play passing football with a smaller squad with generally lower quality players.
Another reason Wigan are building this new reputation and another area where Martinez excels is his man management skills. Throughout the time Martinez has been at the club, Wigan have generally struggled. Rarely has Martinez ripped into his players, made examples of a player or blamed someone else for a situation. He is one of the most honest and open managers in the league.
Not is this only refreshing for neutrals of the game, it goes a long way to giving the Wigan squad the confidence, belief and passion to go the extra mile for their manager. They know they can give everything in a match and if it doesn’t quite go their way, the gaffer will stick up for them if the fans start to lose faith or if the media starts to attack with venom.
Wigan have retained important players despite losing Victor Moses to Chelsea over the summer. The likes of James McCarthy, Franco Di Santo, Jordi Gomez and Gary Caldwell form the spine of the team. They play regularly and technically they are as good as any other players in the league.
Wigan’s ‘new’ reputation is only going to get stronger while Martinez is at the club, while he is given a sensible budget by the chairman and while he can keep the core players of the side in place.