Getting promoted to the Premier League is one thing, but staying there is another.
As Latics fans, it would be great to believe that Wigan Athletic could put a run together and push for the playoff places. But right now, survival seems to be the main goal. Going forward, are Wigan equipped for life back in the Premier League?
The demands of top-flight football are greater than ever. For teams freshly promoted from the Championship to survive, they need to have the right structure and team in place, and they need stability.
Teams like Bournemouth, Brighton and Huddersfield have managed to retain their top-flight statuses through astute management and appropriate support from above. Meanwhile, Newcastle may have lacked backing from their controversial owner, but in Rafa Benitez, they have an experienced coach who has the team punching above their weight.
Wigan are entering a new era under new ownership and have a manager with a great track record in the lower leagues. But how to we compare to the current Championship favourites?
The practical approach
Norwich City have spent four of the last eight seasons in the Premier League with this season their third in a row in the second tier. From an outsider’s point of view, their current project is one of the most interesting. They have a young forward-thinking coach who has, despite being relatively unproven at elite level, been given him time to build a team in his own image. This season, that faith seems to have been rewarded as the Canaries look a force to be reckoned with.
As of November 23, 2018, Norwich had lost just one of their last 13 games, were top of the Championship and second-favourites with bookies MoPlay (behind Leeds) to pick up the league title. Last season, they finished in 14th place and looked to be going nowhere. They did not panic and now look well-placed for a title challenge. If Wigan show similar faith in Paul Cook, next season could see the Latics follow a similar trajectory.
The calculated risk
Still favourites to pip Norwich to the title, Leeds United have also produced some fantastic football this term. However, they look to have come back down to earth after a blistering start. Life under Marcelo Bielsa was always going to be a rollercoaster ride, but seeing a coach of his pedigree ply his trade in the English second tier has been a revelation.
Whether the Whites are ready for a return to the top flight is another story. This is a very different club to the one that was relegated in 2004. In the last eight seasons, they have gone through 14 managers and have never finished higher than seventh. And Bielsa hardly has a track record of bringing about stability. The club’s approach has been a calculated gamble, but it might just pay off.
They seem to have finally found a formula that works, have a new owner and coaching team in place, and have bought back their Elland Road Stadium. This could finally be the year that the Whites step back into the big time.
But of these two teams, it is the practical approach adopted by Norwich City rather than the calculated gamble of Leeds that Wigan Athletic should be looking to emulate.
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