Odds stacked in Wigan’s favour

Wigan. Now there's a team with a reputation for playing fairly nice football but also being a bit unreliable, finishing near enough to 17th and celebrating like they've won the league.

Wigan. Now there’s a team with a reputation for playing fairly nice football but also being a bit unreliable, finishing near enough to 17th and celebrating like they’ve won the league.

That’s sort of what they’re famous for now, and Martinez is building up the unfortunate legacy of scraping into Premier League football with three 16th position finishes and finishing in the dizzy heights of 15th last year. That’s probably not fair on Martinez, who has served Wigan well, bringing in some style into their play, if not enough consistency. He has made good signings for the side and there probably aren’t many of his players that other league sides wouldn’t consider signing from him.

I personally like Martinez – he comes across very well in post-match interviews and seems like a nice enough man. This aside, Wigan are not seen as a serious threat in Premier League football. The bad news for West Ham is that we’ve lost three of our last four games against them in league and League Cup. So we might not have counted Wigan as one of our “bogey teams”, but maybe we should.

I previously wrote for Blowing Bubbles about my experience at the DW Stadium on the day we were relegated in 2011. That day we let a 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 defeat, in what was an exciting match but disappointing all the same. Ba scored twice before half time, but then we completely collapsed in the second half and conceded the final blow in the 94th minute.

Since then, we were handed a home draw to Wigan in the League Cup back in September, in which we allowed them to put four past us in a 4-1 defeat. Well, at least we could concentrate on the league. This was followed by a 2-1 Premier League defeat at the DW Stadium in October. I was there that day as well, and yes, it was as bad as it sounds.

We conceded in the 8th minute to a decent volley from Ramis, and then put in a first half performance that showed no urgency. A characteristic lack of passing ability was present on that day, which left the crowd in an irritable mood. The second half showed little improvement, something that Sam Allardyce criticised after the game. We conceded the second within 2 minutes of the restart and then spent the next 40 minutes chasing the game and occasionally firing off target or too weakly.

Personally, I thought it was one of the least impressive away performances I’d seen. I’d been quite used to us having a good go at away grounds at being less impressive at home, but this was in the relatively early stages of this season in which we seem to have turned that around. I never leave games early, never have and never will. But on this occasion, I still managed to miss our consolation goal in the 93rd minute, as I let out a sigh and picked up my bag ready to beat the rush at the final whistle. Although the ball was floating around the Wigan box, I didn’t even have the belief that we would get near the goal, which is unlike my optimistic outlook on all things West Ham.

The giveaway that we’d scored was a brief “hooray” noise that was let out with as little enthusiasm as I’ve ever heard. What is it about Wigan? Well on that day, they were well organised. While West Ham flapped around a bit, Wigan knew what they had to do. They have strikers that are capable of brilliance and also taking scrappy chances when they arise, and while their defensive display wasn’t the most attractive, it was effective. Perhaps it’s that we’re never sure what to expect when we face Wigan. Do we set up to defend against their flair or do we attack and exploit their weaknesses?

I guess with “bigger” clubs, you know what to expect (well at least the fans do), whereas there is probably a lot of video studying to be done with Wigan. Our players should be looking back at the last three defeats to the North West side and try and work out a common denominator, and it could simply be our complacency and lack of urgency.

The last time West Ham beat Wigan was back in November 2010, when Avram Grant masterminded a 3-1 victory at Upton Park. Only three players from that day are still involved in this side; James Tomkins played 90 minutes, and Winston Reid and Carlton Cole were brought on as substitutes. Our scorers were Valon Behrami, Victor Obinna and Scott Parker and our very own Diame was on the other side. That all seems like a long time ago now, and maybe with our home form on the up again we can repeat this result.

We have to be careful in this fixture though. This is the business end of the season, which is when Wigan kick in to proper gear and they really need points. While we might not need the points necessarily, we still want them. Those interested in our finances would like to see as high a finishing position as possible, and those of us who watch would like to see some fighting spirit to show the rest of the league that we mean business.

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