While receiving the occasional pasting this year, both clubs sill chase survival after wins last week; Blackpool downed Bolton in their usual shootout, while the Latics sealed West Ham's fate with a comeback from two goals down. Both wins could be regarded as an fine examples of their opponents' profligacy or generosity, but it would be extremely ungenerous to suggest these successes were the result only of their opponents shortcomings.
Perhaps now, before potentially their last game in the EPL for some time, it's a good time to examine Wigan's Premiership heritage. They are the picture of a division-climbing club, having elevated themselves - courtesy Dave Whelan's JJB Sports in the early days - from the old Third Division to their current position as the Premiership's youngest (founded 1932) but 12th-longest tenured team. To this point, they've outlasted sixteen different teams and changed managers four times, moving from Jewell-ball through the disastrous Chris Hutchings era to Brucie-ball and now have (mostly) acclimatised to Martinez's passing style. They've been involved in perhaps the most dramatic final-day match in recent memory, their encounter with Sheffield United that saw former Blade David Unsworth slot the deciding penalty to retain their top-tier status.
Unfortunately, aside from a nice first season, that incredible spectacle may prove the lasting image and best moment in Wigan's EPL legacy. Over recent years, Dave Whelan has sold his JJB Sports business, Steve Bruce moved to manage Sunderland and took with him his extraordinary Central & South American scouting network (resulting in Latics like Hendry Thomas, Maynor Figuero, Hugo Rodallega and most notably, Wilson Palacios); finally, they've managed only average results from Roberto Martinez's flowing football. Crowds at the DW Stadium - the reading of which always proving something of a fraught exercise given Wigan's proximity to English Rugby country - have dropped an avaerage of 1200 this season to a little more than 16,800. This marks the third straight year of decline.
While this is likely to be an incredibly unpopular opinion with Latic fans, maybe it's time for Wigan to fade into the Championship. To the neutral observer, their Premiership stint has been generally one coloured in varying tones of beige and as their crowds opt for distractions anew, they are joined by the rest of the league; where Wigan are considered only when they appear on the fixture list. The diversity they bring to the league has become overshadowed by the disregard in which they are held by opposing fans. And with the emergence of Swansea City and Blackpool there are, for the first time in a few years, replacements on hand in style and locale.
It could be that the Championship is their level and the Latics have overachieved for years. This season's average attendance would rank mid-table in the Championship and would likely drop to match the playing level. Squad investment hasn't been there in recent years, with the relatively high-price purchases of Boselli and N'Zogbia overshadowed by the departures of Antonio Valencia (£16M) and Palacios (£ 12M). This is reflected somewhat in Whelan's heartwarming suggestions that Martinez's job is safe in sickness (relegation) or in health (survival). For two years, their first priority has not been to thrive in the top flight, but only to survive.
It's a simple fact of football that it's difficult to continue competing without adequate (and wise) investment: in some respects owners must throw good money after bad. Attempting to turn a profit by buying low and selling high is a laudable school of thought, but it's also a recipe for eventual (and potentially terminal) struggle as Middlesbrough discovered in 2009. The Latics have had a good run in the Premiership and may well survive to fight another year. But without substantial financial commitment, can they hope for any further development from their current squad? The answer, unfortunately, is at best a "maybe".
With all depending on what projects as a wonderful "Survival Sunday", we'll know sooner rather than later. Wigan may have drawn the best fixture, seeing them fighting against Stoke City, who's season effectively ended with last week's FA Cup final. Unlike their Nor'west Tangerine rivals, they don't face United. Unlike the Brummies, they aren't away to Spurs. They don't face another hungry relegation candidate as when Wolves and Blackburn meet. Their destiny remains their own - another year of overachievement and struggle, or perhaps this group is the one which accepts what appears to be their eventual fate: away matches at Coventry, Ipswich and Derby County.
Image of Roberto Martinez courtesy: www.guardian.co.uk
Image of Mauro Boselli courtesy: www.clicklancashire.co.uk