Date: 28th January 2013 at 1:07pm
Written by:

A rather critical piece about Roberto Martinez being the Premier Leagues most over-rated manager appeared on the internet this morning at the football blog site , well Vital Latics member russialatic felt so aggrieved that he has put together a reply, over to you Russia:

Thanks for this analysis. Clearly it is fashionable for the media to talk about how wonderful Martinez is without any understanding of the detail. Wigan fans will tell you that, despite the highs from March to May, it’s not all smiles and laughter. Some find Martinez’s style frustrating and don`t fully buy into his philosophy. And a lot of people are frustrated at the lack of progress this season after such an amazing end to 2011-12. However, I’d argue that this article makes some conclusions that are entirely misfounded. If I may, I’d like to give an informed Wigan perspective.

If you are right about poor coaching for individual players then the players chosen as an example shows a lack of insight. The argument assumes that Martinez has brought in proven players and that they have subsequently declined. Yet McArthur and McCarthy both signed from Hamilton as raw youngsters and both have flourished at Wigan. McArthur in particular cost in the region of £300K yet is now a steady Premiership regular and a Scotland international. McCarthy is being linked with moves to Arsenal and others. For all the links with big clubs in his childhood, why are they only coming in now, and why is the amount spoken about larger with every transfer window? It’s because he’s improving. Contrary to your opinion, both James Macs excel in their defensive duties. If you were to ask opposition midfielders if they get an easy game against that pairing, they’d tell you that it’s a real battle. Goals conceded are pretty rarely down to them.

Figueroa was signed by Paul Jewell and without doubt he struggled when Martinez first came to Wigan. He seemed to struggle to adapt at left back to the new style and gave the ball away a lot. But this season and last he has been one of Wigan’s most consistent performers in a new role – left centre back in the back 3. His reputation in the Premier League is perhaps strong as it has ever been.

Di Santo has had a poor season so far but arrived with a failing reputation after missing the grade at Chelsea and an unsuccessful loan at Blackburn. In his early days at Wigan he looked uncomfortable and unable to channel his natural abilities. Yet under Martinez last season he flourished into a player none of us had dreamed he could be and that call up to the Argentina squad followed. This season he’s been inconsistent and has failed to live up to the new-found hype but it would be equally valid to argue that this might be related to his contract expiring in the summer. He’s been linked with Liverpool yet clearly he’d never have come to Wigan a couple of years ago had he been a full Argentina international with the likes of Liverpool interested. Bad coaching?

The argument that Martinez is, more specifically, a bad defensive coach looks to have more justification. Over the past 3 ½ years we’ve leaked goals at an alarming rate and been on the end of more batterings that pretty well anyone. If we’re to look at statistics that frailty seemed to disappear in March 2012 only to re-emerge this season. Yet statistics ignore the horrendous defensive injuries we’ve had this season. Our back 3 of Caldwell, Figueroa and Alcaraz that starred last March have been unable to play together due to injuries. Alcaraz has been out all season. Ramis, our promising signing, has been injured more often than not. Caldwell has struggled for fitness and even the cover brought in have suffered. We`ve played 9 different players in central defence this season, purely through injuries. I’d question whether any clubs in the bottom half could cope with that. I’d have said any club ‘with comparable resources’, but then we’d need to look in the championship to find them.

As a supporter of English football Martinez can be a frustrating manager. Sometimes when chasing a game you want to see that directness, adapting the style to fit the scenario. But Martinez is undoubtedly stubborn with his tiki-taka football . Yet over the course of 3 seasons more often than not his stubbornness has been proven right.

He is a visionary. He has revolutionised Wigan Athletic off the field. If you look back to the days of Steve Bruce and Paul Jewell there was the annual fight to stay in the premier league and the club was successful in achieving this aim. But the wage bill was rising, the club was making a hefty loss year on year and there was no emphasis on developing young talent. The club’s survival became pinned to Dave Whelan’s subsidies and sales of players because the wage bill was huge and there was no nurturing of talent. Not a single young player made it through into the first team in this period in the EPL – the last one being Leighton Baines. Under Martinez the wage bill has been brought under control, a much larger emphasis has been put on the nurturing of talent and now if you watch Wigan play at any level there is a consistency in playing style and tactics that is absent from the bulk of British football. Rather than disappearing without trace, young Wiganers are increasingly seen out on loan in the Football league and more and more of them will make it in the game, even if not at the highest level. One of the key reasons why he stayed in the summer was securing a long-neglected investment in academy facilities to promote the emphasis on sustainable development. This will take time, but already we are seeing the benefits and if Wigan are relegated it will be a lot less scary than it would have been a few years ago.

To say he is one of the best managers in the league would be clearly foolish given the results he’s had. But he’s a man who has control of the entire football club in a way that few manage these days and he’s still one of the youngest managers at this level. At the same age Sir Alex was still at Aberdeen and yet to make a name for himself. Time is on his side and the signs are good. At Wigan we hope he’ll continue his education with us because even his critics will miss him when he`s gone.


The latest edition of the PWU Wigan Athletic podcast is now available for download.

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