Roberto Martinez says his players face a massive test against Newcastle United and themselves this weekend, when Latics look to build on last weekend’s FA Cup success and improve their home form in the Barclays Premier League.
West Ham United and Reading are the only teams Latics have taken maximum points from at home this season, and Martinez stressed that getting certain elements of his team’s performance right on Sunday will help them find a springboard for the remaining nine games that follow, saying:
“On Sunday we face a big battle against ourselves in truth; we need to improve on what we’ve been doing defensively recently and this is an opportunity to show how we can adapt and improve upon what we’ve done.
“We need to be more solid at home than we have been recently, and I think that will be the difference between us coming away with a positive result or not.
“I think one result will prove to be a springboard for future home games for the remainder of the season.
“We had a similar situation against Stoke City last season, when up to that point we had produced good performances but hadn’t been able to affect both penalty areas enough.
“On the day we found our rhythm and a way of performing that set the tone for every single game we had left in the campaign.
“We’re looking forward to trying to recreate that feeling and play out the best performance possible.
“Newcastle assembled more strength to their squad in January, and in many ways transformed their dressing room and line up.
“On top of all the good things they did last season in the Premier League, they’ve now got fresh players who want to make an impact in the Premier League, which is something we’ll have to be aware of.”
The Gaffer admitted that confidence within the group couldn’t be higher, after their 3-0 win over Everton last weekend, but that the players’ focus is sharp and competition fierce:
“The confidence in the squad is very high and there’s a real desire with every member of the squad to play on Sunday. The competition for places in crucial at this point in the season, when you find yourself in situations like ours.
“It’s important now that we focus on what we have ahead of us; a very important challenge to affect and improve our form at the DW Stadium.
“We need to set the tone and create a platform for the next five home games, from which we need a lot of points and a lot of good performances.
“We’ve got a dressing room full of players who have experienced many different scenarios with our club and their former clubs – that’s a big strength of ours.
“They all enjoyed making history for Wigan Athletic last weekend, but the reality is that since Monday the only thing on their mind has been Newcastle United and the job they face in the Premier League.
“The cup success has been put to one side for now, the players are of course looking forward to the chance of playing at Wembley, but the reality is that in order to make that team sheet against Millwall their performances need to be outstanding in the next three league games.”
Latics were dealt bad news in the week when it revealed that Ryo Miyaichi requires surgery on his right ankle ligaments. Martinez revealed that Callum McManaman could also be a doubt for the Newcastle game:
“We’ve had a real blow with the news of Ryo’s injury, which has required him to have surgery. We’ll work hard with Arsenal to find the best treatment and rehabilitation for him, but it’s a big disappointment because he’s had two or three niggles this season which have prevented him from really enjoying his football with us.
“He’s a fantastic professional who deserves to be on the pitch playing his football, and hopefully we’ll see him doing that once more before too long.
“Callum McManaman is still receiving treatment for the ankle injury he suffered last weekend, so we’ll asses him before Sunday.
“But apart from that everyone else is fully fit and desperate to be a part of the game.”