Despite their 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Wednesday, Wigan Athletic are not sure to be relegated from the Premier League. They are currently in the drop zone, but there are few teams over the past couple seasons that have shown a greater penchant for finding a way to survive in the final weeks of the season.
Wigan's 11th place finish in the 2008/09 season under Steve Bruce was the second best in club history and the highest finish they've had in the last four seasons. Roberto Martinez's arrival in the summer of 2009 hasn't meant suffering for Wigan supporters but it has been stressful with the club needing late season surges, and in one case a win on the last day of the season, to ensure their survival.
In Martinez's first season Wigan finished the final ten games of the season with two wins, two draws and six losses but managed to get enough points to survive. A 1-0 defeat of Liverpool before that stretch helped, plus a come from behind 3-2 win over Arsenal was key as the Latics finished in 16th, six points off the drop.
The 2010/11 season was an extremely close call for Wigan who survived going 4-3-3 in the final ten games, including a dramatic win over Stoke City on the final day to just get their noses ahead of Blackpool and Birmingham City. If not for Wigan securing 15 points down the stretch, Martinez's side would have been in the Championship.
Wigan again flirted with relegation in 2011/12 but managed to earn a rather incredible seven wins and one draw from their final ten games to once again survive. Wins over Manchester United and Arsenal highlighted the run as it was actually a fairly stress free late season run, compared to the previous two seasons.
Are you starting to see a pattern?
So now we reach 2013 and once again Wigan are right in the thick of another relegation fight. With six matches left to play this season they're in 18th, firmly in the relegation zone three points behind Aston Villa, Stoke and Sunderland.
The aforementioned loss to Manchester City was a real blow for Wigan who could have jumped out of the relegation zone with a victory or at least closed the gap slightly with a draw. A late Carlos Tevez goal doomed the Latics, but it's a potentially worrisome sign for those who want Wigan to stay in the Premier League. In the past couple seasons Wigan has managed to pull off a signature win or two, the kind of win they had hoped to get yesterday.
Except they didn't.
Wigan also has a fairly challenging schedule left in front of them with trips to face West Ham, Arsenal and West Brom, plus home games against Spurs, Swansea and Aston Villa.
There are positives though despite the disappointing loss against City. The Latics played well and probably deserved at least a point at the Ethiad Stadium. That kind of performance against some of the teams ahead for them should yield points. They also still have a game in hand over their relegation rivals (home against Swansea City on May 7th) and they get to play Aston Villa on the last day of the season at home.
There is no Hugo Rodallega or Charles N'Zogbia, two of the team's leading scorers in the past couple seasons, left to help save them. Rodallega won't be there like he was against Stoke in 2011 to score a winner on the final day of the season should it be necessary. The likes of Arouna Koné or Shaun Maloney, Wigan's leading scorers this season, will have to step up.
Despite the loss and the recent struggles for Wigan, it's hard to bet against Roberto Martinez not being able to pull off another great escape. Having managed to survive with late season runs every year since he took over, Martinez knows how to prepare his team. At the same time, you have to wonder if maybe his luck has finally run out.
Fans of Villa, Stoke and Sunderland will hope that is the case.