Is another relegation battle now inevitable?

Wigan’s dreadful run of injuries now looks set to run into the new year, after Adrian Lopez and James McCarthy joined the long list of players unavailable. McCarthy sustained his ankle injury following a stamp by Norwich’s Bradley Johnson, and Lopez tore his hamstring in the dying minutes at Carrow Road.

Is another relegation battle now inevitable?

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December 24th, 2012

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The Latics’ start to the season was the best they have had in the four years since Roberto Martinez has been in charge, but following the run of injuries they have dropped into the bottom three. They have had eight senior players unavailable since mid November, often having to play without three established centre backs.

Experienced absentees Antolin Alcaraz, Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis have been sorely missed and the team has been prone to conceding unnecessary goals. This under-strength team faces a challenging Christmas period with fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United at home and Everton and Aston Villa away, so the points will be hard to come by.

So what are the prospects for the rest of the season? Will Wigan be once again mired in a relegation struggle?

Martinez will certainly have to make additions to his squad during the January transfer window, as the team will be without striker Arouna Kone – who will be playing for the Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations. Top of the shopping list has to be a striker, as record signing Mauro Boselli has not managed to make a breakthrough into the first team and fellow Argentinian Franco Di Santo is yet to sign a new contract.

Burnley’s prolific 23-year-old striker Charlie Austin is an obvious target for the Latics – although the transfer fee and salary required may put him out of our reach.

Aberdeen’s 18- year-old winger Ryan Fraser could be tempted by an offer to join Wigan’s Scottish contingent.

Free agent and former Swansea midfielder Ferrie Bodde is training with Latics following a long injury but his fitness is still in doubt.

Latics have already secured the services of the combative Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza from Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, and look likely to make a loan move for young Manchester United player Angelo Henriquez. Another defensive signing could be in the offing, particularly if long-term absentee Paraquay international Antolin Alcaraz is still unavailable.

On the positive side, if Martinez can get his key players back fit and make some prudent additions then there are grounds for optimism.  The current gap between Fulham in 13th position and Wigan in 18th is only five points, so it is far from being an unassailable position. Most of the players who performed so superbly in the second half of last season are still at the club, and last season’s exploits could be repeated with the January fixtures providing some potentially winnable games. Last year’s performances show that the team has the ability, if we can get our players back fit, then we might just avoid that end of season relegation battle.

Ian Aspinall

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