Roberto Martinez has challenged his Wigan players to start the new campaign with the “perfect game” as they prepare to play host to Champions League winners Chelsea.
Notoriously poor in the first half of the season over recent years, Athletic have been forced to play catch-up and pull off stunning rescue acts to maintain their Premier League status.
After a memorable escape last time out, their Spanish manager is naturally hoping for a stronger beginning this year, but a first-up clash with Chelsea is one of the trickiest fixtures they could have had.
The same opposition drubbed them 6-0 in the second game of the season two years ago and Martinez is wary of suffering such a defeat again.
He is confident that his players are ready to banish their August blues this time, though, even if they will have to be at the top of their game against the Blues.
“It’s a huge challenge but a challenge we want to be involved in,” he said.
“It’s one of them games that is not about the opposition but ourselves because we need to be perfect to compete against Chelsea. With Chelsea you’re going to get a team who know how to work hard for each other and have individuals who can do something special.
“In those sort of performances we need to be perfect, in our concentration defensively and as good as we can be on the ball. It’s about how good we can be, not who we’re facing, but it is exciting to be facing the European champions.
“These are the games you want to be involved in and the ones the players get excited about.”
It took the Lancashire club until February to get excited about anything last season, with relegation looking a near-certainty when they turned in to 2012.
A brilliant run of results eventually saw them survive with some margin for error, though, with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle all defeated en route to a third great escape in as many years.
Wigan’s approach to their plight earned them many plaudits, with their free-flowing style easy on the eye and young players such as James McCarthy and Victor Moses impressing.
The latter has become a target for tomorrow’s opponents as a result – Martinez is prepared to select him as Chelsea have not offered the asking price – and older heads such as Ivan Ramis and Arouna Kone have been added to the squad.
As a result, Martinez admits that anticipation levels at the DW Stadium are high.
“This is one of those moments when you get a real exciting feeling in your body, you have the new faces and the players have been working really well,” he said.
“I would say it’s been one of the best pre-seasons we’ve had. We didn’t have too many problems and we are all ready and excited. You want to be on the pitch competing and what a way to start, with a team we really respect and we admire.”
And, while other clubs are jostling for position at the top of the table, Martinez believes his players have not had to spend too long working out their ambitions for the forthcoming 10 months.
“Any season you ask what you want to do and achieve. We have it very easy, we want to replicate what we did in the last third of the competition, not just the team but the whole football club,” he said.
“The way we embraced and faced the challenge and adversity, it was a real joy and in many ways, from a football point of view, we need to find that meaning and intensity from the start of the season and make sure we are as competitive as we were in the last third of the season.”