17) WIGAN ATHLETIC
Pts: 20 (4-8-8)
Preseason Prediction: 18th
Accuracy: Nearly Pinpoint
Wigan, with apologies to the diehards out there, probably has the worst fan base in the Premier League (they were last in the league last season in attendance, and the two teams ahead of them were relegated), and has been flirting with relegation for a couple of years now. Couple that with the lack of effort I saw on multiple occasions last season, and I think it’s time to give someone else a chance in the Premiership, no? You want a game that sums up Wigan last season? For an FA Cup replay at the DW Stadium last February, Wigan drew a whopping 5,519 fans against League Two Notts County. And then proceeded to lose the game 2-0.
In all seriousness, Roberto Martinez is a young manager, and he may have learned his lessons last season, and Wigan may come out flying this season. If they do, they’ll be dangerous. But I’m leaning toward the opposite, a disjointed, inconsistent club that will press its luck and eventually fall on the wrong side of the relegation line.
Not that much different, actually. They’re still last in the league in attendance, and they’re still inconsistent, as shown by a 1-0 defeat at home to Newcastle over the weekend. To Martinez’s credit, he has been more defensive this year (Hendry Thomas has made 17 starts for crying out loud), and it’s improved, but it’s backfired somewhat, as Wigan has scored the fewest goals in the league (17). Hugo Rodallega has 5 goals, Tom Cleverley (whom they hope they can hang on to) and Charles N’Zogbia have added 3 each, but that’s about it (no one else has more than 1).
Preseason best new signing:
Antolin Alcaraz – He hasn’t been spectacular, but the Paraguayan leads the team in starts and has been an improvement over what was out there last year for Wigan. I don’t think he’d make the conversation for one of the top 10 or so center backs in the Premier League certainly, but you take what you can get, I guess.
Preseason key player:
Charles N’Zogbia – N’Zogbia is still one of the most entertaining players in the EPL to watch, when he gets rolling, he can be close to unstoppable with the ball. But he’s been frustrated plenty this season, and his return (3 goals, 2 assists) is not enough for Wigan right now to stay up. The potential, however, is still there. If he feels like it.
Key player now:
Ali Al-Habsi – With Chris Kirkland out, Al-Habsi has not only stepped in admirably, you could argue he’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the league. What odds would you have given on that before the season started. And he’s an Omani international. That sounds like a good story, English journalists.
Inside the numbers:
71 – Number of shots Rodallega has taken this season, 33 more than N’Zogbia in second. You can say the boy likes to pull the trigger, I guess.
I predicted them to go down before the season, I predict them to go down now. Of course, it seems like I do every year, and they’re still here, aren’t they?