Martinez backs mental strength of Wigan's rejigged squad

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The Independent Online

The Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez is confident he has enough players with the right mental attitude to give them a successful finish to the season.

Wigan, unbeaten in four league matches, face their near-neighbours Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup fourth round replay at the DW Stadium tonight. While progress in the Cup would help maintain their momentum there is no doubt Premier League survival is paramount; the club are 18th in the table with 11 matches remaining.

Martinez admits the Cup gives his squad a break from the rigours of a relegation battle – he will rest a number of his first-choice players this evening – but acknowledges the same attitude is required regardless.

"It is a welcome distraction because this season we have used the cup competitions to add players to our squad," said the Spaniard. "The more experience they have the stronger they get mentally and it makes you capable.

"The group is in a very good moment mentally and it is very important that we understand we want to win every game we play in. The game will be decided on small margins but we just have to keep doing what we have been doing.

"The team is showing great maturity, the way we played at Anfield [in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Liverpool] showed that, and that means it should give you a lot of [league] points."

Wigan and Bolton have drawn against each other three times already this season and another such outcome after 90 minutes and extra time would produce a penalty shootout, which will be an additional test of players' mental strengths.

However, Martinez is confident his squad will be up to the task should it arise. "Mentality is more important. Technically I have seen the best players find the occasion is too big for them and they cannot perform," he added. "Other players who are not as gifted but have that winning mentality, that ruthless streak that they don't get affected by the moment, are the best penalty takers.

"In every squad you always have a list of players who are ready mentally to take penalties and we have plenty of options."

The Wigan manager will give a number of his senior players a rest against Bolton, but that does not mean he is taking the FA Cup lightly. "You have to be realistic as you cannot expect 11 players to play in both competitions throughout the campaign," he said. "It will be very risky so it is vital we share the efforts with the squad.

"But it is not difficult to decide on selection when you go down to their individual needs. Every player has played a different amount of football this season, some are coming in on the back of injuries while others need to refresh and have a bit of a break.

"The third round [a 3-2 win over Hull City] was a real success with a young team and we will carry on with the players who got us through. There are certain players who have been working hard behind the scenes for a few months and they deserve the chance to show what they can do."

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