Paul Jewell's team, indeed, Dave Whelan's club, are everything Portsmouth appear not to be. They have a plan, on and off the pitch. The foot-soldiers are united and the generals decisive.
"Wigan gave us a lesson in fighting," said Alain Perrin, Portsmouth's manager. "They started the season knowing they need to fight to stay up and I explained that to my players. We have to do the same."
It is not as simple as that. Wigan do work tremendously hard for each other. Their commitment was epitomised when the rejuvenated Stephane Henchoz threw himself to block a second-half Gary O'Neil shot. But they are well-drilled and well-organised. They are playing with belief and confidence, are prepared to back themselves in possession, and looking to win games rather than avoid losing them.
Jewell, having experienced the Premiership with Bradford City, knows what is required. While some managers like to give their promotion-winners a chance, Jewell is a realist. Five of Saturday's side were signed in the summer, four had previous Premiership experience.
The exception is Pascal Chimbonda, a Guadeloupe-born signing from Bastia who has proved a find. The full-back rose above Brian Priske to head Wigan's opener. Then, with Pompey finally committed to attack, he intercepted Matthew Taylor's pass and played a one-two with Henri Camara before supplying Jason Roberts with the second.
Jewell bridled at the implication that he had stumbled upon a gem. "People have this idea Wigan is a small club but we do things professionally. There's not many of us but we get about and we watched him several times."
He is the sort of player Perrin might be expected to unearth given his experience coaching Troyes and Marseille but the Frenchman appeared to know little of his compatriot. Perhaps he felt he had enough on integrating a 26-man squad featuring 17 different nationalities with 11 players without previous knowledge of the English game.
Perrin is not entirely responsible, many of these players were inherited, but he compounds the handicap with his tactics. On Saturday he went through a plethora of formations: 3-3-3-1; 3-4-2-1; 3-4-3; 4-4-1-1. None of them worked. The opening gambit, with only Dario Silva in attack, seemed bizarre given Portsmouth were at home and, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham next up, needed to win.
Wigan operated a traditional 4-4-2 until the last two minutes. The full-backs pushed on, the central defence held. Graham Kavanagh sat while the other midfielders broke. It was simple, but effective.
"We wouldn't have expected this at the start of the season but we believe in ourselves," said Arjan de Zeeuw. "We never go into a game thinking we're going to get beat here. At half-time we said: 'It's 0-0, not bad but we're not happy. We want to get three points'."
Goals: Chimbonda (48) 0-1; Roberts (79) 0-2.
Portsmouth (3-3-3-1): Ashdown; Primus, Stefanovic, Priske; Griffin (Diao, 76), Hughes, Vignal (Robert, 60); O'Neil, Vukic (Lua Lua, 68), Taylor; Silva. Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Mbesuma.
Wigan (4-4-2): Filan; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Baines; Bullard, Francis, Kavanagh, McCulloch; Camara (Taylor 89), Roberts (Jackson 88). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), McMillan, Mahon.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).
Booked: Portsmouth Stefanovic; Wigan Francis, De Zeeuw.
Man of the match: Chimbonda.
Attendance: 19,102.Reuse content