Roberto Martinez, in trying to explain why his Wigan team beat Arsenal but lost (albeit late in the match) to Fulham on Saturday, placed much stress on recovery time. There were four days and 17 hours between the last whistle at the Emirates and the first at Craven Cottage and that made it "a game too many'' at a stage of the season when the stakes are high for relegation-fighting clubs such as his own.
"I was worried about this match,'' he said. "It was a question of recovering, physically and mentally, from Arsenal. Concentration levels have to be so high in such massive games.'' If Martinez is right – and three consecutive attempts at survival in the Premier League equip him to know – the outlook is perturbing for their neighbours and fellow strugglers, Bolton. A certain perspective is supplied by the fact that Owen Coyle's side have fallen behind with their fixtures partly because of the Fabrice Muamba emergency, but points are always preferable to matches and Bolton have to fit in five games; Wigan, Blackburn and QPR each have three, nicely spaced out.
Aston Villa have four and, if they are to relieve their anxieties, it might be at the expense of Bolton, who are at Villa Park tomorrow night, seeking to lift spirits dampened by Saturday's home draw to Swansea. Coyle's men must go to Sunderland next Saturday and host Tottenham four days later, then West Bromwich four days after that, before having the sheer luxury of seven days to prepare for a concluding visit to Stoke.
Nor does a look back at the closing stages of last season offer Bolton much optimism. Having given themselves a cushion of comfort with their excellent form in the first half of the campaign, they lost their last five matches – including one against Blackburn – while both Rovers and Wigan finished strongly.
The problem for both of Bolton's fellow Lancastrian clubs is that, even if Bolton join Wolves on the doomed list between now and 7 May, they must face each other in a derby that could conceivably determine who goes down as well. Unfortunately for Martinez, it is at Ewood Park. On the other hand – as he pointed out at Craven Cottage – Wigan's other two matches are at home.
Even if his theory about recovery time spells trouble for Bolton, there is plenty of physical and mental strain for the others to overcome on their level playing field.
Booked: Fulham - Frei. Wigan - Caldwell, Boyce
Man of the match Pogrebnyak
Referee L Mason (Lancashire)
Attendance 25,689Reuse content