When Wigan chose to recruit Roberto Martinez from Swansea as manager it was seen by sceptics as an indication of their ambition, a gamble many believed would backfire. One match into his Premier League career, his appointment already seems to be one of the shrewder signings of the season after he guided his slick Wigan side to a deserved victory.
Having established a growing reputation during two seasons in South Wales, Martinez' arrival was seen as a risky strategy akin to the decision by near rivals Blackburn to appoint Paul Ince a year ago. That relationship ended with his sacking in December to be replaced by the more experienced Sam Allardyce.
Despite losing two of Wigan's most influential players from last season – Antonio Valencia to Manchester United and Lee Cattermole to Sunderland – Martinez has gone about his task impressively to claim an opening day victory over an Aston Villa side expected to challenge the top four. Playing an intricate passing game which is sure to win them many admirers this season, Wigan weathered early pressure to secure their victory with goals in each half from the Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega and Jason Koumas.
"We are going to be judged on results so it was important to get that today," said Martinez. "We will get a lot of confidence from this performance and to be able to come to Villa and get a result, but we still have a lot of work in front of us."
Villa, aiming to improve on two successive finishes of sixth, started well enough with new signing Fabian Delph firing wide from the edge of the box and James Milner, impressive as substitute in England's 2-2 draw with the Holland in midweek, missing from a similar position during the early stages. Emile Heskey, another Villa player involved in Amsterdam, also missed from the edge of the area after a mistake by Titus Bramble.
For all Villa's early dominance, however, their uncertainty at the back was to become a common theme of the match. It was exposed for the first time in the 19th minute with Jordi Gomez, a summer recruit from Swansea, running from midfield to the edge of the area and allowing Charles N'Zogbia to fire the first warning shot from the left which hit the base of the post.
Described by England coach Fabio Capello as "the future" in midweek, Milner's athleticism was required to prevent Rodallega from claiming a 25th minute lead with a powerful header from inside the box following more defensive uncertainty. It was only a temporary reprieve, with the Colombian registering an early contender for goal of the season just after the half hour, pouncing on a loose ball on the right-hand side of the area before powering a thunderous volley over goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Rodallego's physical presence continued to cause Villa problems and he should really have put Wigan further ahead before half-time, this time failing to finish with the same composure after N'Zogbia's flick-on put him clear of Villa's flat-footed defence. Expecting an improvement after the break, Villa's expectant fans were to be disappointed and just 10 minutes into the second half N'Zogbia fed Koumas down the left, who beat Friedel at his near post to all but settle Wigan's victory.
Having won only seven home games last season, the same number as relegated West Bromwich, Villa never threatened to start afresh although Ashley Young should have scored in the final moments after being set up by Heskey. Martinez added: "The next six or seven weeks are going to be the most challenging weeks in Wigan Athletic's history because there has been a massive turnaround of players. The whole experience is a big step forward, but we know we haven't done anything yet."Reuse content