Early Doors

The irony of Swansea’s slaying of Wigan

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There are several layers of irony to Wigan's 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Swansea.

First is the manner of the defeat. In previous seasons Wigan played their way out of nailed-on relegation by keeping calm and passing the ball (to each other, not a languid Bulgarian striker). When everyone else panics around you, what better strategy than to retain coolness under pressure and eke out three or four wins out of your last five games? Fulham did it before, and wisdom dictates that Wigan's repeat escapes are no fluke.

Yet on Tuesday night Wigan were confronted with a team who play in that exact same style (well, almost - but more on that later); and in the face of such composure the Latics wilted. The air of mild neurosis around the DW Stadium each time Swansea nicked a goal was tangible, not among supporters but those exact players whose cool has been so vital. So much for Wigan's passing groove playing them out of trouble.

The second stroke of Alanis Morisette's pen is just who landed such a hammer blow to Wigan's hopes: a Swansea side that Roberto Martinez so lovingly crafted, before doing likewise with the team he left the Welsh wonders for - in a bid to coach in the top flight. Ouch.

Mad Men antihero Don Draper slumped into a depression following the realisation that, not only was his protege Peggy Olson better than him, but she was set to win business from him. Martinez cuts a similarly dashing figure and now has to contend with the fact that Swansea have filled in the gaps his own vision created. Oh how he must wish he shared Draper's cold-eyed cynicism.

The Swans still have the odd capitulation in them, but thanks to Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, they have a defensive stiffness and resolve under pressure that Martinez has criminally failed to instil in his Wigan team.

There are some fine ball players in Wigan's defensive third but, frankly, an over-reliance on Antolin Alcaraz should not be a factor for a Premier League side. Martinez has had years to solve the problem of Wigan's defensive frailties, and he has steadfastly neglected to, instead preferring to add yet more creative midfielders and faintly dodgy Latin American centre-halves to the mix.

There is no need to change the overall style of play, but the naivety is almost unforgivable. A similar situation occurred with Chris Coleman at Fulham some years back. Despite having been a strapping stopper in his day, the Welshman never filled their soft centre and they almost went down as a result - he lost his job.

Dave Whelan has an almost fetishistic obsession with Martinez - and why not, he has kept a tiny club in the Premier League for several seasons, and has an FA Cup final to look forward to.

But Martinez's steadfast refusal to better the defence - and, despite a couple of errors, his inexplicable decision to drop Ali Al Habsi for rookie keeper Joel Robles - are close to unconscionable errors.

Managers have come and gone at the bottom of this season's Premier League, some with good reason, some from nothing more than the itchy forefinger on a ego-driven oligarch. Whelan (he broke his leg, dontcha know) has been praised for his steadfast refusal to dismiss Martinez when the going has got tough. His resolve is impressive but you wonder how much of that is a desire to maintain his own image.

Wigan may stay up, although they will probably have to beat Arsenal, away, to do so.

But even if the Latics do remain in the top flight, you have to believe that - Cup final or not - Martinez's cycle has come to an end, and even he would be better served at a club with a more established defensive unit.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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