Roberto Martinez urges Wigan to kick on from late-season escapes

 

The Wigan Athletic manager, Roberto Martinez, believes that his team must be a "nightmare for pundits" after completing another remarkable escape from relegation. A year after beating Stoke City on the final day of the season to survive in the Premier League, Wigan overturned the odds again to secure top-flight status for an eighth year.

After they were widely written off two months ago, when they were bottom of the table with 20 points from 27 games, Wigan's 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Monday completed a remarkable turnaround.

Martinez said yesterday: "I always had the belief because I know the players and we did it last season. We have a young group with real energy, the youth and bravery allowed us to finish really strongly, but more than anything it is the characters in the club. We have 12 or 13 different nationalities in that dressing room but they have got a real responsibility. They want to represent Wigan in the right manner and their standards on a daily basis are what you have seen on the pitch.

"To get the results we have of late and achieve something not many people predicted we would in December, I think we are a nightmare for pundits in world football."

Key to Wigan's upturn in fortunes was Martinez's bold decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation and play with three centre-backs and wing-backs. That yielded six victories in eight games, including beating Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Martinez said of the change in system: "We had to do it because whatever we were doing wasn't working. But it is not about systems, it is about the way the players can be at their best. The way we are playing now probably gets the best from our players."

Speculation already surrounds the future of the squad, with striker Hugo Rodallega out of contract this summer and Victor Moses and James McCarthy highly rated. Martinez, who could become a target for other clubs, said: "It would be foolish of me to think we can keep everyone. But what is important is we replace the players we lose. If you want to carry on developing you need to be prepared to lose players and invest in the playing squad."

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