By Nick Teale

Since making their Premier League debut under Paul Jewell five years ago, Wigan Athletic have become an established member of the top flight.

Steve Bruce took over from Jewell's successor Chris Hutchings two seasons ago. But he left for Sunderland in the summer, paving the way for club legend Roberto Martinez to take charge at the renamed DW Stadium.

The Spaniard has made European football within three years his aim, and according to Wigan Observer reporter Paul Kendrick, things are looking good.


"They've got a new manager and there's been quite a high turnover of staff. I think they'd probably settle for mid-table again this season. Martinez said just after taking over that he wanted European football within three years. They're probably looking at being lower mid-table again this season, maybe higher mid-table next season, and maybe pushing on to that top seven by year three I think."


"Martinez has settled in really well. He's just a legend in Wigan for what he did for the club during his playing career [a fans' favourite as the side were crowned Division Three champions in 1997. He scored 23 goals in 180 midfield appearances, from 1995 to 2001]. I think most Wigan fans were just waiting for the day that he'd come back and take over.

"He's revamped the playing side. Under Steve Bruce it was much more of a pragmatic approach, defend first and then try and nick a goal, whereas Martinez wants to take on the best teams, trying to play his brand of football. Obviously it doesn't always work. They got hammered by Manchester United the other week, but for 50 minutes it was a pretty decent football match until United scored the first goal and then it all caved in. He'll be bringing Wigan to the Emirates this weekend determined to play football. It doesn't always work but at least you're guaranteed an entertaining 90 minutes."


"It's been a strange start to the season. The performances haven't been that much different, it's just been the goals that changed the games. They were outstanding against Aston Villa [winning 2-0 away], pretty unlucky not to get anything out of [the 1-0 defeat to] Wolves and for half of the Manchester United game they gave as good as they got before it all went wrong in the second half. The Blackpool game [a 4-1 defeat in the Carling Cup] was a complete one-off. There were nine changes and it was the worst performance by an absolute country mile.

"They've really got back on the horse in the last couple of games. Very, very unlucky to lose in the last couple of seconds against Everton, but the 1-0 win over West Ham has been a real confidence booster, so it's not like there's been up and down performances, it's just the luck of getting the first goal in a couple of games. The fans will be relatively pleased with the start to the season. Six points from the first five games is a pretty decent return for a new manager."


"They're very hopeful [ahead of Saturday's clash]. Martinez has been emphasising in both of his press conferences this week that he's not going to go with damage limitation in mind, he's going to try and attack Arsenal. He believes that's the way that away teams get something from the Emirates. Arsenal are obviously susceptible at the back, they've conceded goals in each of the last five games, including two in the first five minutes against Standard Liege. I don't think you'll see Wigan come and park the bus in front of [goalkeeper] Chris Kirkland like a lot of Premier League teams do. They'll certainly give it a go, they'll be playing probably the five-man midfield supporting Hugo Rodallega upfront. It may not come off, but at least they'll give it a go."


"Jordi Gomez has settled in really well since his move from Swansea in the summer. But the star man so far has definitely been Rodallega playing up front on his own, supported by the five-man midfield; he's a class act. He came to the Club in January, he was supposed to come this summer, but because they elected to cash in on Emile Heskey in the winter transfer window they brought that signing forward six months and it's really worked because it's given him six months to settle in on and off the field, and he's really hit the ground running this season. His goal at Aston Villa on the opening day was one of the goals of the season I think we'll find. He is definitely the man for Arsenal to stop as far as Wigan are concerned."


"I think [Antonio Valencia's transfer to Manchester United] was probably the worst kept secret in football. From the first day of last season it was pretty much resigned that Valencia would be going, probably to United to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. He went with the best wishes of everyone at Wigan Athletic. He wasn't one of those players who was touting himself in the media, trying to get himself a move away. He played all the right cards, saying all the right things. Most Wigan fans accept that they are a selling club, and it was a very reasonably offer that they got from Manchester United. They used some of the money early to buy Charles N'Zogbia and he's a class act down the right-hand side. They use Jason Koumas in a pretty different role on the left-hand side, coming in and being the link between the midfield and Rodallega, so it's not quite as effective a team without Valencia, but with money to spend elsewhere in the team it's probably more of a complete squad as a result."

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18 Sep 2009