Belfast Telegraph

Roberto Martinez: now we have two more finals to win

By Carl Markham

Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez accepts there is no margin for error in their final two matches with the team staring relegation in the face.

Anything other than victory at Arsenal tonight would effectively send the Latics down -- they have a vastly-inferior goal difference to nearest rivals Sunderland, who are four points ahead -- just three days after winning the FA Cup.

The situation is not an unfamiliar one for Martinez, as the last two seasons their top-flight existence has gone down to the final couple of matches.

"There is no margin for error, you need to win your 'finals' -- that could be survival or winning trophies like we did on Saturday," said the Spaniard.

"You prepare for 10 or 11 months to get to crunch time and make sure you win the games and that is exactly the situation we are in.

"When you start the season you plan the campaign to try to be successful in the league: some clubs plan to win the league and some plan to stay in it.

"Six points at this stage of the season is vital. Two years ago we had to get all six, last season we had to get three out of six, other years we've needed one.

"I don't see it as an extra pressurised situation as the players have been coping with it year after year.

"We have six points to get and finish the season on a real high."

Martinez's positive outlook, which has remained unchanged almost throughout his four-year reign at the DW Stadium, sees his side's predicament differently to the outside world.

It probably partly explains why his players perform so well at this stage of the season when other rivals have crumbled.

And the Wigan manager feels had it not been for debilitating injuries which have created something of a defensive crisis, his side could have been comfortable in the top half of the table.

"I don't see it as survival, I see it is an important moment of the season," Martinez said.

"The performance we had on Saturday (beating Manchester City 1-0) was something our fans have seen week in, week out and we have been very consistent this season and the best in the way we've played.

"We've never had such an unfortunate season in losing defenders. It is not losing one or two but four or five in that backline and that stops you from having solid partnerships and if you concede goals cheaply and you are not strong enough in your defensive box, it will have a massive bearing on your results.

"We've just got on with it and we've won a major trophy.

"The difference of 10 to 12 points is something we should have earned with our performances and we should be talking about a team in the top nine."

Wigan went to the Emirates in mid-April last season and won during a remarkable run of seven wins in their final nine matches.

That result -- and their Wembley win -- will give the players confidence.

"We know when we get our performance right we can compete with them. We did that last season and it is great to have it fresh in our memories," said Martinez.

Meanwhile Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not content with merely scrapping for Champions League qualification and has demanded more from his team next season.

"Last year we made 70 points and finished third. This year, we can make 73 points and finish fourth, so what you want to do is have a consistency and fight for the Premier League," he said.

"It (finishing fourth) is the minimum required. You could see that when Chelsea's Champions League position was under threat, they came out quickly and said 'no, what is most important for us is to be in the Champions League next year.'

"It is difficult to achieve, but we have done it over the years. Is it enough? No. We want more, but this year, Manchester United was above everybody else."


From Belfast Telegraph