Wigan Athletic on the verge of their greatest ever season
We look at five reasons why Wigan could stay up whilst claiming an FA Cup against all odds
The narrative journey of Wigan Athletic is stands as a fairy tale of what can be achieved in the beautiful game.
Achieving football league status just 35 years ago rather controversially replacing Southport in the old Fourth Division through a voting system which originally tied and had to be recounted, the rise has been meteoric, from lowly Springfield Park, to the all action Premier League standard facilities at the DW stadium.
Just under a fifth of their time in the football league has seen the north-west club occupying a place in the elite of the Premier League, not bad for a town heavily dominated by the success of Rugby League
Iconic as the catalyst of this rise is none other than chairman Dave Whelan, founder of sports retailer JJB Sports, and former Blackburn Rovers player. His investment has helped drive forward and maintain the clubs success, without it there is no telling where the club may be now.
He funded the new stadium and fulfilled his promise of taking Wigan Athletic all the way to the promised land in 2005 through his faith and investment along with shrewd managerial and playing staff of course.
Since the arrival of former player Roberto Martinez in 2009 Wigan Athletic have developed a reputation on two levels, a side capable of sheer brilliance playing some great football. The other for being great escape artists and immensely calm under great pressure.
Wigan have provided some of the most dramatic survival moments in Premier League history. Just last season the Latics won seven out their final nine remaining fixtures to survive, beating the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in their own back yard, and Manchester United at home in the process. It's fair to say under pressure the team holds no fear.
Fast forward 12 months to today and Wigan are in a similar situation, two points from safety with three games remaining, although they have achieved success by reaching the FA Cup final, with the added bonus of a European campaign next season as Manchester City, their opponents in the final this Saturday have already qualified for the Champions League.
The last few years have been almost like a Premier league stage show for Wigan, metaphorically put in chains and thrown underwater like magician Harry Houdini only to survive against all odds year on year, but can they do again with the FA Cup distraction?
Here are a few reasons why not only can they do it, but why they probably will do it, and don't be surprised if we see silverware at the DW Stadium for the first time.
Here we take a look at five reasons why Wigan Athletic can maintain their Premier League status whilst also claiming a famous piece of silverware.
This has already been touched on in the article, but since Roberto Martinez has arrived, the club has worked under a tight budget, miracles have been worked with a limited squad, but the team has failed to finish higher than 15th place since the Spaniard has been in charge. This is the fourth time Martinez has been tasked with a great escape with his nerves of steel.
However, this experience seems priceless by the time April comes around and this season should be no different. Much of the same squad has been through the end of season rigours before, and although the talented Victor Moses left for Chelsea, he has been replaced well with Arouna Kone.
Two of the remaining league fixtures are at home, tonight’s game against a Swansea side who have been impressive early on, achieving their own silverware for the first time in March with the League Cup, but since securing Premier League survival have significantly dipped in form and look to be already on summer holidays.
With nothing to play for, Wigan should surely go into this game as favourites, which if they win will really make things interesting in the relegation battle. The Arsenal away game will be extremely difficult a couple of days after the FA Cup Final and with Arsenal vying for a Champions League place, so a positive result is unlikely there.
Finally the crunch game on the final day is at home to Aston Villa, who despite a resurgence of late, could still be dragged into the battle if they fail to beat Chelsea on Saturday.
If Wigan win tonight or at the Emirates and Villa lose at home to the Blues, a win on the final day for the Latics will see them finish above Villa, and possibly see the midland side relegated.
It's become common knowledge but Wigan don't just hoof the ball up field or play on set pieces. There is a good level of interchanging passes, attacking runs and pass and move football which can be incredibly difficult to defend against. This blend of play could be integral to the survival hopes.
City performed appallingly in the Champions League and haven't put up a credible challenge at the Premier League title, following an impressive season last year. Certain players have lacked consistency such as Joe Hart in goal and Mancini is under massive pressure to deliver silverware to the Etihad.
Seriously, this game could be the difference between the Italian having a job and being unemployed. Second place is simply not good enough for City anymore, and with Chelsea now breathing down their necks for that, the heat is well and truly on.
There aren't too many people outside of the town of Wigan to give them even a slight chance of victory, which just heaps on further pressure.
As an extension of the pressure of Manchester City in this game, Martinez side can genuinely go out and enjoy their day in the final, in a no doubt welcome break from their own pressure to retain their top flight status.
A stand out result in this season's cup competition surely has to be the 3-0 shock and awe demolition of Everton by Wigan in the quarter final. Three goals in less than ten minutes at Goodison Park shocked not only the blue half of Merseyside but much of the footballing world too.
The real threat is there if City aren't at their mercurial best, which has been very rare this season. The Crazy Gang did it in the 1980's with their more direct style against a highly fancied Liverpool side, why can't the Latics do it this year?
Arguably one of the biggest draws of cup competition is the threat of a shock, count against it at your own peril.
To sum up, even if Wigan fail to beat Swansea tonight, they will still be in with a chance, and based on the reasons in this article this writer feels Wigan have what it takes to not only breathe above water, but take a trophy, carrying on their quite remarkable journey.
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