Football

Wigan Athletic: Leaving a lasting legacy on the Premier League

Martinez saw his side relegated after defeat at Arsenal (©GettyImages)
Martinez saw his side relegated after defeat at Arsenal (©GettyImages).

Wigan's defeat at Arsenal confirmed their relegation from the Premier League after eight remarkable years in English footballs top division.

To stay for such a long time in the top flight as such a small club on a minimal budget has is no small feat and they have left a lasting impression on the Premier League.

When Wigan were promoted in 2005 they brought with them a freshness and optimism which carried them to a brilliant 10th place in their debut season under manager Paul Jewell. 

They also finished runners up to Manchester United in the League Cup that season and quickly became a favourite club for the neutral.

Over their next few seasons in the Premier League, under the management of Steve Bruce, Wigan flirted with relegation but achieved comfortable 14th and 11th placed finishes in 2007-8 and 2008-9 respectively. 

The football was changing too. Wigan were playing attractive football, keeping the ball and showing confidence in possession. It was a trait that was part of Wigan since their arrival in the Premier League but really flourished when Roberto Martinez replaced Steve Bruce in 2009.

Having consistently been stripped of their best players and operating on a shoestring budget, Martinez put faith in youth and wanted to develop a fluid passing style, similar to that he had adopted at Swansea. 

They continually defied the odds and avoided relegation, often narrowly up until this season, where their luck ran out, injuries took their toll and their Premier League adventure ended.

It's their style of play however which has had an impact on the way football clubs approach the Premier League having gained promotion from the Championship. Going back five to ten years, promoted clubs tended to favour the more physical, in your face approach to surviving in the Premier League. 

Clubs like Blackburn and Bolton set the template for this by achieving success through methods focused on aerial dominance and physicality over flair. This is still a way some clubs choose to approach the Premier League with West Ham and Stoke famous for their aggressive, long ball style. However in general there has been a shift in attitudes for promoted clubs, I believe at least in part due to the example of Wigan surviving by playing possession football.

In recent seasons we have seen Blackpool, Swansea City, West Brom and Southampton to name but a few who have come up and attempted to play an expansive, attacking possession driven game, with varying degrees of success. 

There has been a mentality shift, with a realisation that you can survive in the Premier League without playing the long ball game and roughing up your opponents. This years promoted clubs, Cardiff, Hull and either Crystal Palace or Watford all play a possession game and play football the ‘right way’. 

This change in approach has been brought about as a result of the way in which Wigan have survived and set a new template for other clubs to follow.

Roberto Martinez’s Wigan will be a loss to the Premier League. They are a plucky, hard working side, with no little confidence or ability. For many fans Wigan are their second club, enjoying their approach and commitment. Their FA Cup win is a fitting way for them to bow out of the Premier League and I know I will not be alone in wishing them a speedy return.

 

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Topics:
Wigan Athletic
Football
Premier League

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