London – Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has said his side have “no margin for error” as they face their latest last-ditch battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Anything other than a victory for the FA Cup winners at Arsenal on Tuesday would effectively condemn Wigan to Championship football next season as they have a vastly-inferior goal difference to nearest rivals Sunderland, who are four points ahead.
But the last two seasons have seen Wigan's top-flight survival determined by the final couple of league matches, making Tuesday's fixture familiar territory for Martinez.
And having seen Wigan cause one of the great Wembley upsets in beating Manchester City 1-0 to win the FA Cup, Martinez was in bullish mood.
“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.”
He added: “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.
“But 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 conceding soft goals.
“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 have missed Antolin Alcaraz most of the season, Ivan Ramis has a cruciate (knee) injury, Gary Caldwell has a hip problem, (goalkeeper) Ali Al Habsi has a problem in his shoulder, we lost Jean Beausejour and Maynor Figueroa - the list is endless.
“But we never moan about it, the players never use that as an excuse. We've just got on with it and we've been able to win 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 Arsenal's Emirates ground in mid-April last season and won during a remarkable run of seven victories in their final nine matches.
“In football and in life you need to have pictures of what you want to achieve, and in football it is very difficult to create a vision when you've never achieved that,” said Martinez.
“We know when we get our performance right we can compete with them, and we did that last season and it is great to have it fresh in our memories.” – Sapa-AFP