They took six points off Manchester United and Arsenal, and would probably have stolen three from Chelsea had two shockingly bad decisions not directly given the Londoners two goals.
It is quite a remarkable achievement for one of the league’s most impressive managers. Martinez has never swayed from his beliefs and principles. His Wigan team have always passed well, but he has on a budget sold his big players and brought in less heralded ones, creating a team well organised and defensively proficient. It wasn’t always this way. Wigan have been a soft touch in recent years at times, but they have improved markedly.
Defensive organisation and faith in his methods have brought Martinez the success he is now enjoying. It was presumed Wigan would go down this year – but Martinez’s side have always had a spirit that could help keep them in the league. Now it seems inevitable that he will do just that. It would be good for football though to see a team play with such principles stay up.
Against Arsenal on Monday, Wigan passed the ball around with composure and intelligence, and when defending were smart, organised and narrow – exactly how to deny Arsene Wenger’s men. It was a quite unique performance. A team who were expansive on the ball and who pressed Arsenal high up the pitch, but who when defending formed a deep compact defensive line. It is an unusual, but seemingly highly effective, tactic.
Apparently Manchester United had an off day against Wigan last week. That was plausible until they outplayed Arsenal too this week. Retrospectively, it also sheds new light on the ‘poor’ performance Liverpool gave at home to Wigan last month, as well as Chelsea’s fortune in overcoming Martinez’s men. In fact, it says much that the only top team to beat Wigan lately were only able to do so thanks to two of the biggest refereeing mistakes of the season. It is not a coincidence that Wigan have put this run together. They have come up with a highly effective and new strategy, which is particularly effective against the top teams as it both means they monopolise possession as well as restrict their opponents to few shots on goal. Teams are going to have to think of new strategies to take on this revitalised Wigan side.
And how much more ironic would it be if the team Wigan are about to overtake, Aston Villa, get relegated? That would be quite something for a team who tried to get Martinez at the start of the season. Villa went for Alex McLeish, who is defensive minded and tactically poor, his teams playing basic, unsophisticated football. They would deserve to go down, Wigan would not. Wigan staying up at their expense would serve Villa right for making such a disastrous appointment. Martinez meanwhile, is only looking up.