International Soccer
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
Martinez has Wigan ready for relegation battle
Roberto Martinez focuses on the performance of his men and what they did well.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Roberto Martinez seems like a glass-half-full kind of manager.

Whether the Wigan boss is talking after a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United or a vital 2-0 win over Stoke City this past weekend, the theme is always the same.

Martinez focuses on the performance of his men and what they did well, and he will occasionally sprinkle in an area of concern that must be addressed.

But he always speaks with the certainty of a man who knows that in the end everything will work out if his team has the proper belief.

That sunny disposition will be tested plenty over the next month as the Latics embark on a seven-match quest for Premiership survival that is sure to be filled with the usual twists and turns that go along with a relegation battle.

Wigan began the season with only three wins from its first 24 games and looked destined for a place in the Championship next season.

But the club began to hit its stride in February and has lost only one of its last eight games, including a current four-match unbeaten streak that has seen Wigan win back-to-back games for the first time all season.

Martinez has his side playing as well as they have all campaign, but the road is about to get bumpy as Wigan's next three matches will come against league heavyweights Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Most clubs in Wigan's position would dread such a brutal stretch of games at a critical time in the season, but Martinez, as per usual, has chosen a different outlook.

"We've got some very difficult games coming up, but by the same token some exciting challenges as well, which is how we're looking at it," Martinez said.

"The fight for survival is going to go to the wire, but the most important thing is that we continue showing the same levels of performance which we have been doing for some time."

Wigan has managed to score just 29 goals in 31 matches this season, tied for the lowest total in the league. And having conceded 55, it's no wonder the club owns the second-worst goal differential in the top flight.

But over the past eight games, Wigan's defense has tightened up with the opposition combining to score only seven times.

Martinez still has to figure out how to get a few more goals out of his team, but at this point in the season, the manager is in much the same spot he was last term.

Wigan was mired in the bottom three with six games remaining, but suffered just one defeat in its final six to secure safety on the final day with a 1-0 win over Stoke City.

And this season figures to be just as tight with four teams separated by one point for the final two relegation places.

Wigan has the most difficult stretch over the next few weeks, but if it can survive the storm, the final four games should offer up a chance to collect points with matches against Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and relegation-bound Wolverhampton to end the season.

"I feel over the last seven or eight games the bottom five are going to pick up a lot of points," Martinez told The Guardian. "We can only control our own fate. Whatever happens elsewhere, I expect it to go to the last day because I don't think there is a bad team in this league. Sometimes teams can drop off too much and are not up to standard, but in this league everybody will be fighting until the end."

This season's relegation battle will cause nerves to jangle, tensions to rise and plenty of heartbreak for a few teams.

Yet through it all, you can expect Martinez to remain positive and have his side fighting all the way up the final whistle, regardless of the outcome.

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