Premier League Preview: Wigan Athletic

My Premier League previews continue with Wigan now in the spotlight. After a difficult first season under Roberto Martinez, can the Spaniard turn the fortunes of the club around?

After a 16th place finish Wigan will be looking to steer clear of relegation again this season. The Latics have established themselves over the years to be able to bring in foreign players and turn them into good Premier League players. Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios, now of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, are strong examples of this. Martinez has chosen to spend relatively big this summer, with Mauro Boselli joining from Estudiantes for £6 million. The Argentinean striker thirty-two goals in fifty-seven games for Estudiantes and, at the age of twenty-five the former Boca Juniors player has only managed two appearances for the Argentinean national side, although he has had Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Diego Milito. Ronnie Stam (no relation to Jaap) has been brought in from Dutch side FC Twente and, at £3 million, could turn into a solid right-back for Wigan. James McArthur has also been recruited from Hamilton Academicals for a fee of £500,000. The midfielder 168 games for the Scottish side, which is incredible as he is only twenty-two years of age. Antolin Alcarez and Ali Al Habsi have signed from Club Brugge and Bolton Wanderers respectively. Defender Alcarez has signed without a transfer fee and the twenty-eight-year-old may well look forward to first team action this season. Goalkeeper Al Habsi will most likely be a second-choice ‘keeper. These signings, though, may not be enough for Wigan.
The Latics look quite poor at the back. Former England hopeful Chris Kirkland is solid in goal but the defence in front of him is weak and inconsistent. Paul Scharner is a great attacking force and will no-doubt score a goal or two this season, but the Austrian defender looks feeble in defence. Gary Caldwell made the move from the Scottish Premier League to the English version last season and struggled to cope with the pace at times. The defender is experienced, though, and, if he can get to grips with the speed of the game, the Scottish centre-back would be an asset to Wigan. Mario Melchiot and Erik Edman were not the players they once were but Maynor Figueroa is an important player for Wigan. The Honduran defender made headlines last season when he scored from the half-way line against Stoke City. The attacking flair and strength when defending, as well as his speed and eagerness to receive the ball, will be of big benefit to Wigan this season.
Martinez’ side do have some good midfielders on their books. Hendry Thomas looked to be following in the footsteps of Wilson Palacios; the twenty-five-year-old is a strong midfielder and his ball retention skills will be needed this season. Ben Watson looks to be a good English player while Mohamed Diame seems to be a solid midfielder. It is Charles N’Zogbia, though, who is the main man. The former Newcastle midfielder scored seven goals lasts season and will probably need to better that this season if Wigan are to survive. The creativity, speed and potency of N’Zogbia will be essential to Wigan this season. The Frenchman, though, could struggle in a side that lacks so much creativity and strength, and so could leave in January.
Another man that could leave the team before the end of the season is Martinez. Wigan are going to struggle this season and, if they are in a poor position by Christmas, chairman Dave Whelan could decide to sack Martinez. The Spaniard could be gone by the end of November if Wigan struggling.
One to watch next season is Victor Moses. Although the forward became a star at former club Crystal Palace Moses has struggled for playing time at Wigan in the Premier League. The Englishman scored one goal in thirteen appearances last season and will be looking to get on the pitch more this season. Whilst at Palace Moses scored eleven goals in sixty-nine appearances, making six assists. Moses’ creativity and willingness to have the ball will give Wigan something a little bit different this season.
Up front Wigan look mediocre. Last season’s hero Hugo Rodallega will need to repeat his feat of scoring thirteen goals if Wigan are to stay up. Jason Scotland is clearly a Championship player and cannot handle the Premier League, although Boselli could provide more goals. If Wigan are to survive this season, though, they need to invest in some quality players before the transfer window shuts.
Where will they finish?: 19th
Official relegation odds: 9/4 (Bet365)
Star man: Charles N’Zogbia
One to watch: Victor Moses
Main weakness: The team lacks strength all over the park and an inexperienced manager may not be able to cope with this.
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