Opinion: Season Preview
Feature by Paul Farrington
Updated Tuesday, 7th August 2012
Ahead of the big season kick off here is an opinion piece as to our potential fortunes.
What's the target for this season?
We're a small club in a big league and to have survived for an eighth season in the Premier League would have been beyond our wildest dreams when we earned promotion from the Championship.
It is important that we do not let expectations grow too fast. Our performances toward the end of the season last year have led many supporters to get carried away about the forthcoming season.
However we have a small budget and an even smaller squad. Roberto Martinez is working hard to build the infrastructure of the club as well as a first team that is capable of competing.
THe immediate target without doubt has to be survival for a ninth season in the top flight. Anything beyond this would be a big bonus. Mid-table obscurity and/or a cup run would represent a fantastic season for us.
Your thoughts on the manager...
Roberto Martinez was initally like marmite at our club. He already held lengendary status with the supporters following his playing achievements with the club when we were back in the lower leagues.
In his early days with the club he split the supporters down the middle. Many were disappointed with the on the field achievements, or lack of, and grew frustrated with the manager.
The others shared the vision of Martinez and could see that as well as building a first team that would play attractive football he was looking to build the infrasture of the club from the bottom up.
Fast forward three years and Martinexz has further cemented his status as a legend with the club. We remain in the top flight and play some delightful football and along with this, from the under 11's upwards, the structure of the club has grown into that of a Premier League team.
It is not a surprise to see Martinez linked with Liverpool, Aston Villa etc... each summer.
Your key many this season will be...
We have a few as opposed to one. As with past Wigan Athletic sides we are not heavily reliant upon one player in particular. We now have a much more talented group of players.
Victor Moses is the headline talent within the present squad, but Franco Di Santo, Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy, and James McArthur all showed their exciting potential at the tail end of last season.
Add to that the emergence of youngsters Nouha Dicko and Callum McManaman and the return of big money signing Mauro Boselli and we have a talented group.
Boselli has found life tough in England since arriving from Estudiantes as top scorer in the South American equivalent of the Champions League. Following the best part of eighteen months out on loan Boselli is now ready for a second crack at the Premier League in a team now fully evolved into Martinez's playing style and ethic.
Youngster to watch...
Callum McManaman is our most talented young player at the moment. Following a spell last season with Blackpool on loan, McManaman is on the verge of the first team and could well be a surprise package this season.
Fellow winger Nouha Dicko is also an exciting prospect with blistering pace who also spent time on loan with Blackpool.
A player who must deliver
Following his poor start with the club two seasons ago, Mauro Boselli spent the best part of eighteen months out loan with Genoa and his former club Estudiantes.
Arriving to the club for a big fee and with a big reputation we were not ready for Boselli's talents. A goal poacher much in the build of Michael Owen, we were far too direct in past days.
Now with Martinez's football ethic embedded into the present squad, Boselli is back for a second crack at the Premier League. He has an enviable goal-scoring record in South America and has been on fire in pre-season. If he can hit the ground running the 27 year old ARgentine could raise eyebrows this season.
Your achillies heel...
All too often we conceed silly goals and collapse defensively. The problem was the main reason why we struggled over the first half of the season and our shift to the interesting 3-4-3 formation removed much of the problems.
Hopefully the addition of Spanish defender Ivan Ramis this summer will add further strength to our back line.
Fixture you are looking forward to the most
With Bolton and Blackburn relegated we have less local derby games this season. City, United, Liverpool, and Everton don't consider us rivals so I would point to the promotion of West Ham as our biggest game.
Following the Tevez debarcle and other recent prickly historical events, there is a little bad-blood between the two clubs and despite the distance, there is a rivallry between supporters and we'll be hoping to get six points against them this season.
Your toughest opponents will be
Manchester City will once more be the team to beat, particularly given that they have largely the same squad as last season and will have a much stronger team spirit for the forthcoming season.
Such is the talent and strength in depth of the Manchester City squad, they could name teo starting elevens capable of winning the title.
Player you love to hate
Robin Van Persie will hopefully developed a little more respect over a summer of transfer speculation. The petulant striker childishly refused to shake the hand of Gary Caldwell, who man-marked him out the game, as we defeated Arsenal in their own back garden last season.
Rival player from the Premier League you would have in your team
There is only one for me. I think Vincent Kompany was a man mountain for Manchester City as he helped to lead them to the title last season.
With all the glamour surrounding the antics of their big four strikers and flair midfield players, Kompany was such a strong influence at the back and he would be a welcome addition to help remove our soft defensive under-belly.
Your first choice XI
It is difficult to know and it isn't clear cut. Martinez devised the 3-4-3 formation last season that had many a senior manager bemused and saw us power to survival over the final weeks of the season with some historic results.
Pre-season fixtures haven't given too much away in terms of team shape and or formation with Martinez rotating the system dependent upon the players deployed.
This variety will no doubt keep opposition managers on their toes. Our straight best eleven players in a 4-4-2 formation would be:
Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Moses, Beausejour, McArthur, McCarthy, Maloney, Di Santo/Boselli.
The final verdict to summarise
Plucky Wigan Athletic are here for another season, eight in a row now, and we're certainly hopeful to make it nine. We will be underestimated by the vast majority of the media and opposition supporters but that will not deter us.
We have a terrific team spirit and club environment and we know just what it takes to survive in the Premier League.
We have our best team for a number of years and the level of consistency and development of our younger players has allowed us to grow without alerting the radar of our rivals. We could well be a surprise package this season.