After the beating we took from Arsenal on that cold Tuesday night in North London, Wigan Athletic had to prepare for life in the Championship. A lot of people were optimistic, keeping good players and attempting to keep hold of Roberto Martinez, plus the added attraction of Europe could bring in big names to help the promotion push. It's a different story. There are several reason why Wigan don't look like going back up this year.
Wigan started their promotion push as predicted, a 4-0 win against Barnsley hinted that the Latics were going to be strong candidates but after the 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth and the consecutive 2-2 draws at home to Doncaster and Middlesbrough. The "Roberto Martinez" regime seemed to be kicking in, world beaters 1 week and relegation candidates the next.
On paper, Wigan should be in the top 2. The players that Owen Coyle brought in were Premier League standard. Grant Holt, James McClean, Fortune and Manchester United wonderkid Nick Powell and more, all of which had class about them, but we're just not winning games? At this point only being a Wigan fan could you be reflecting on a performance as bad as Leicester whilst packing for a european away game. The players are there the class is there, could it be the manager? Whelan thought he was playing his cards right by not having to pay compensation for Martinez's successor but he got apparently £1.1 million for Martinez which should have been used to get Gus Poyet. I'm trying to give Coyle a fair chance but we need to be beating Charlton, Doncaster, Middlesbrough, not drawing with them?
Could it be who we let go in summer? James McCarthy has been the biggest miss for us by far, when watching the Zulte Waregem game, Wigan lacked a lot of energy in the closing stages where McCarthy would have been a big part, he is the work horse we needed to put players under pressure and put himself in front of shots.Defenders, maybe our strongest point would have been a lot easier to contend with this year if we had kept Alcaraz? the Paraguayan filled up the defensive mistakes last year with ease. His ability to read the game massively improved Wigan's defensive record at the back end of last year which is where some might argue is what sent us down. This year at this moment in time though, it's goals we're missing. 3 consecutive League games without scoring is a big worry for "promotion favourites". Arouna Kone would have torn this league apart and maybe should have done as he has not netted for Everton and has dropped down the pecking order at Goodison with Lukaku being the main supply line of goals for the Toffees. Grant Holt hasn't really got started yet and our top scorer, Nick Powell is a midfielder playing as a striker surely that is worrying to fans and Coyle alike?
Of course there is injuries, every club will whine and have a good old winge about how they would have done this that and the other if Mark Davies and Stuart Holden would have been playing but key players do make a difference. Wigan's injury list last year, particularly at the back was phenomenal. Wigan being so short at the back had to play Roger Espinoza at the back at one point. This season Ivan Ramis, Ali Al-Habsi, Shaun Maloney and captain Gary Caldwell are all missing with the first three the best players players at the club in their respective positions with number 1 Scott Carson set to be out for a number of weeks young stopper Lee Nicholls is set to be run as number 1 keeper, with 2 clean sheets in 2 the youngster doesn't seem to be fazed by the occasion. Ramis played in a friendly earlier this week but the rest are not near return and with Ramis' injury experience, Coyle will not want to rush the Spanish centre half back into action.
There is always the classic, Referees. I have found the standard in this league is painful to watch at times. Wigan have had so many decisions go against them as they did in the Premier League but it's a matter of common sense and skill in this league. Red cards which are wrongly given, goals disallowed and penalties not given have been several decisions that have gone against Wigan this year against Watford, Blackpool and Middlesbrough. They will effect our season and people will say you're being "sour" or "that's football" but a lot does go against Wigan, it's been noticed by fans of other clubs too. Refereeing in this league is terrible and the contrast of skill and standard of referees in Europe and the Championship is a grasp that will be difficult to control.
So what is it that's stopping Wigan from being a promotion candidate like they should be? Things could get better if they win their game in hand against Sheffield Wednesday and fire up to 9th but it is 3/4/5 places below where they should be contending with. It is early doors yet and it will be better to judge where the Latics end up at the turn of the but is there a time for a change at the club?