Analysis: What has happened at Wigan Athletic and can they avoid the drop?

It seems like only yesterday that a Ben Watson goal at Wembley, against the spending power of Manchester City, won Wigan the F.A. Cup.

That culminated in a season coupled with triumph and disappointment as the Latics suffered the heartbreak of relegation just three days later after an eventful eight-year spell in the top flight.



In the space of just two years, gladiatorial battles with European heavyweights such as Chelsea, City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have been replaced with trips to the likes of Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Gillingham.

What has brought about this decline and what are the chances of Wigan managing to avoid the drop to the third tier of English football?

Former Brentford manager Uwe Rosler was dealt the task of gaining promotion back to the Premier League, faltering at the last hurdle by losing in the play-offs to QPR last season.

A poor start to this season meant the end of Rosler’s reign by November and the controversial appointment of Malky Mackay followed: Mackay was still under investigation for racist, homophobic and sexist comments made while in charge of Cardiff City.

Whelan jumped to his defence, only to create controversy of his own accord, making anti-Semitic and racist comments, which led to a £50,000 fine and six-week ban from football activities, which included the possibly pivotal January transfer window.

That window may prove to be decisive in Wigan’s fate and has culminated in a mass exodus. In all, 13 departures, including the depletion of Wigan’s creativity in midfield with Adam Forshaw leaving to join Championship rivals Middlesbrough and Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman joining Chicago Fire and West Brom respectively.

Although 12 reinforcements have been brought into to stem the loss and add depth to the squad, there are question marks over the quality of the new arrivals in comparison.



A flurry of free transfers and loan signings until the end of the season will definitely not fill fans with hope or ambition.

Two players who could lift Wigan however are Liverpool youngster Sheyi Ojo, who is showing glimmers of promise and tons of potential, partnered with the experience of Jermaine Pennant from his years playing in the Premier League.

These acquisitions could prove influential in their relegation dog-fight. 

Not only has the coming and going of playing staff since Mackay’s arrival also rocked the boat, inconsistency in the boardroom following Whelan’s resignation earlier this month has also not helped matters.

His grandson, David Sharpe, who was appointed a director back in December, has now taken over the reins as the chairman and is managing the day-to-day running of the club.

At just 23 he is easily the youngest chairman in the top four tiers of English football.

Sharpe has been around the club for years and knows it inside out, but a lack of experience would definitely mean he might experience public scrutiny from supporters and the media alike, especially in such a crucial point of Wigan’s season.

On the pitch, Wigan haven’t faired much better than its manager and owner. 18 points from Mackay’s 20 games in charge is a dismal return (W-5 D-3 L-12).

This isn’t a great indicator for their form however, as four of these wins were in the last eight games, including their latest win against fellow strugglers Rotherham.

This epitomises how diabolical their form was over the Christmas and New Year period. Despite this pick-up in form, Wigan are currently 22nd in the league with eight games to go, and find themselves six points adrift from safety. 

Trawling through statistics from the five previous seasons, 49 points is the average to guarantee safety in 21st place and this is certainly the target Wigan would need to reach at least.

That means five wins or 15 points from the last eight games. Put this into context, that means they realistically need wins against the four teams in around them in the bottom eight and at least one win against one of the promotion chasers just to stand a chance of staying up.

A tough task for any team in this hotly contested league and with games coming thick and fast, it will certainly show if the Latics have the character and steel to navigate their way out of the relegation places.

With games coming thick and fast, the most vital period may prove to be the three consecutive games against fellow strugglers in the space of eight days in April. Away trips to Fulham and Millwall followed by a home tie with Brighton could define their season and possibly preserve their Championship status.



The Latics have experienced dizzying highs in recent years, but are in danger of being brought crashing back down to earth and possibly back to where they were originally found back in the mid 90s.

These uncertain times are nowhere near over, with new visions being laid out by their young chairman: a new era has certainly begun at Wigan Athletic.

The question is, will this era begin in the Championship or League One? I for one am not optimistic. But who knows, football is a funny old game.

Main image courtesy of Wigan Athletic via YouTube, with thanks.

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