How is success measured in the Premier League?
The general answer is silverware. It’s practically all we hear about. Arsene Wenger’s inability to win a trophy has dominated the offseason news cycles for the better part of a decade. A Chelsea coach’s dilemma, but Roman Abramovich’s obsession with and failure to win the UEFA Champion’s League, has made the managerial job at Stamford Bridge the textbook example of the proverbial “Revolving Door”.
But does the recent lack of champagne soaked end-of-season parties and parades make Arsenal and Chelsea unsuccessful clubs? Maybe in relation to the competition winners, but each tournament has only one of those. This measure ignores the possible relative success of 95 percent of the league.
So how do the clubs who don’t compete for the major trophies decide if their season was one of success or failure?
Let’s take the example of Wigan. The Latics enjoyed a rise in the rankings under manager Steve Bruce after they rose to the Premier League in 2005. However, after being gutted for top players such as Emile Heskey, Antonio Valencia, and even manager Bruce, who was replace by Roberto Martinez before the start of the 2009-10 season, the team suffered some of the worst defeats ever seen in top flight football, including a 9-1 drubbing by Tottenham Hotspur. That season and the subsequent 2010-11 season both saw Wigan put together late season rallies in form to avoid relegation.
This year has seen more of the same.
Wigan took all of 15 points from their first 19 games, only three of which were wins, in the 2011-2012 season. They sat in 17th place, and looked to be on their way out.
But Martinez’s men have once again turned their fortunes around. With an astounding run of form that has seen four wins in the last six games, including wins over Arsenal, Manchester United and a dominant 4-0 victory over Newcastle, the Latics could ensure their top flight status with a win in their upcoming game and a loss or a tie on the part of either Queens Park Rangers or Bolton.
So, does this story of perseverance from a bottom club deserve to be called one of success?
Here’s why it probably does. Wigan has managed to stay in the best league in England, arguably in Europe, despite having one of the least expensive payrolls over the course of their stay. Obviously, something other than big sponsors on their jerseys and superstars on their roster has helped them turn their last three seasons around at the last moment. The credit should probably go to the players’ and administration’s trust in Martinez. The “nice guy” coach, who spent the longest stint of his playing career at Wigan, has earned that trust through displaying faith in his players and a refusal to let outside drama affect him and his team.
Take for example how Martinez has dealt with current Wigan playmaker and dramatic lightning rod Victor Moses. Despite leading the team in goals, Moses has made clear his intent to move on in his career after this season. Martinez could get bogged down in the effort to retain Moses and prevent the type of player poaching that devastated the club in 2009; he has instead acknowledged Moses’s potential by comparing him to World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, while encouraging his continued development and addressing areas where Moses can improve. His faith and levelheadedness have not gone unrewarded, as Moses scored the opening two goals in the 4-0 defeat of Newcastle.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has stuck it out with Martinez despite the early season missteps, because he knows the quality of the man. Whelan has gone as far as to tip Martinez for a job amongst Europe’s elite clubs, and give his blessing to Martinez should he decide to take up the currently hypothetical offer. For Wigan’s sake, they should do what they can to retain Martinez. Continued success of low budget clubs can do nothing but good for the whole of the English league, and as the last few seasons have proven, Martinez is vital to Wigan’s success.
So yes, the Wigan Latics of the 2011-12 season are a success.
Any club that knows its people are worth more than immediate results and bought silverware, yet still manages compete with the best in Europe, is deserving of the title.