Martinez: Protect creative players

Martinez’s side tomorrow face a Newcastle team who are without the

services of Hatem Ben Arfa. The 23-year-old midfielder, who is on

loan from Marseille, suffered a double fracture of his leg

following a challenge from Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong that was

widely criticised. While Martinez does not wish to see tackling

outlawed, he is keen for players to act with care. He said: “The

Premier League has a competitive edge. Tackling is an art and needs

to be in the game. “You need to be accurate, not reckless, as you

risk a red card, letting your team down and letting yourself down.

“It is a thin line between a player getting injured or winning a

challenge. It is important the referees get these decisions right

so we can protect the creative players. Those are the types of

players the fans want to see. “Maybe 15-20 years ago you had

footballers playing football. Now you have athletes playing

football. “That means the speed and the power of every challenge is

different. You don’t want to see players missing months of a season

because of a bad tackle.” Martinez welcomes back midfielder Tom

Cleverley, who is on loan from Manchester United, after he proved

his fitness following a knee injury by playing for England

Under-21s. Martinez said: “Tom is more like a 30-year-old with his

awareness of the game. He is ready for the Premier League. We want

to enjoy his presence and his football. “Tom has always been

impressive in everything he has done with us. He was very

unfortunate to get a knee injury. “I am pleased he had two games

with the Under-21s and no effects from them. That means he is fully

fit.” Wigan go into the match against Newcastle on the back of a

home victory over Wolves. However, Martinez believes Chris

Hughton’s side pose a stiff test in front their partisan

supporters. “Once you get relegated it is very difficult to

regroup. What they have achieved over the last 15 months is just an

example of how things should be done in a challenging position,”

Martinez said. “Their results have been inconsistent but they have

a very strong group of players who know what it means to play for

Newcastle. “You need to match them physically and you have to match

their enthusiasm. They are a stronger side than some people

imagine. “We need to carry on growing, we need to carry on learning

and make sure we are ready for Saturday.” Goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi

is set to retain his place in the team after recovering from a

stomach virus, but Antolin Alcaraz is doubtful with an ankle