If Roberto Martinez subscribed to the "greed is good" philosophy that is endemic in top-flight football, the Wigan manager would surely have joined Aston Villa in the summer. More money, a lot more, was probably to be had at a club that is desperate for success. Instead, the Spaniard turned down the overtures of Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, signed a new three-year contract and renewed his vows at the DW Stadium. Loyalty does still exist in the Premier League – it was one of the sport's more wholesome stories.
Yesterday, Martinez may have felt a tinge of regret. Wigan competed vigorously, as they always do, but it turned into a stroll for Villa, who scored once in each half and could have doubled their tally but for the agility of Ali Al Habsi, the Wigan goalkeeper. That Villa are now unbeaten in seven League matches since the start of the season, and that Wigan have lost five successive games in all competitions, may have weighed on Martinez's mind last night. But did that element of "What might have been" occur to him? Apparently, not a jot.
"No, I don't have any regrets," he said. "It was not about Aston Villa, which is a fabulous club, it was that I had not finished the job at Wigan. The chairman [Dave Whelan] has always been supportive of me and I wanted to show him a bit of loyalty in return. I want to take Wigan to another level, I don't want them to be a team that is always fighting relegation."
If Martinez would have been given a generous honeymoon period at Villa Park, Alex McLeish has not been afforded the same leeway because of his Birmingham City connections. There have been murmurings of dissent among the fans already, despite the undefeated sequence, and the Scot will only ever be a couple of defeats away from a full-blown crisis. "We've got a lot of kids in the team and they've got to show they can step up to the plate," McLeish said. "It's very much a work in progress."
Villa just about shaded the first half, which was little more than a mish-mash of honest endeavour with barely any end product. Al Habsi did have to make a fine save to keep out a fierce effort, after superb close control, from Darren Bent but the robust tackling of each team seemed to constantly negate the other. Until, that is, Gabriel Agbonlahor took a hand. He might look bulkier than last season but he can still shift a bit. Latching on to Barry Bannon's precise pass, he cut inside Gary Caldwell and unleashed a shot that Al Habsi hardly saw for his fourth goal of the season. Wigan's response was bright but after Franco Di Santo had failed to win a penalty when caught by Alan Hutton – "Franco was ready to pull the trigger," Martinez lamented – their challenge gradually faded in the heat.
Al Habsi made a marvellous save to keep out a Bannan blockbuster but he could do nothing when Agbonlahor crossed delightfully for Bent to guide the ball home. Stiliyan Petrov could have increased the margin but, again, Al Habsi flew to the rescue.
"We were a bit careless today," Martinez said, ruefully. "We're not usually like that."
Aston Villa (4-1-3-2): Given; Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Petrov; Bannan, Ireland (Heskey, 57), Delph; Bent (N'Zogbia, 57), Agbonlahor (Weimann, 85).
Wigan (4-4-2): Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa, Van Aanholt; Stam (McArthur, 56), Watson, McCarthy (Sammon, 85), Moses; Di Santo, Diamé (Maloney, 71).
Referee Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the match Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)Reuse content