Randy Lerner picked a bad day to make a rare visit to Villa Park. Reeling from humiliating defeats against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa endured further embarrassment here after being comprehensively beaten by a Wigan Athletic side who climbed out of the relegation zone and pushed their beleaguered opponents deeper into trouble. Only a late Stoke equaliser against Southampton spared Villa a place in the bottom three at the end of a miserable 2012.
Villa have collected only six wins and 33 points from 39 games in the calendar year, which is relegation football. Alex McLeish, who was sacked at the end of last season, has his fingerprints on that record but Paul Lambert must take his share of the blame. Lambert had plenty of goodwill to fall back on when he replaced McLeish as manager in the summer but the backing of the Villa supporters is not unconditional, and this will be remembered as the day when patience snapped.
Some fans headed for the exits with 34 minutes remaining, after Arouna Koné twisted the knife and scored Wigan's third goal on a hugely satisfying afternoon for Roberto Martínez and his players. Other Villa supporters continued to drift out long before the end, while those who stayed until the final whistle – and full marks to them for their commitment to the cause – made their feelings known on the back of another abject performance, as boos reverberated around the stadium.
This was a third defeat in the space of seven days during which a staggering 15 goals have been conceded, exposing the brittle confidence in a callow team desperately in need of some leadership and experience. Lerner will have seen that with his own eyes, and Villa supporters can only hope that their benevolent owner, who broke the club's transfer record to sign Darren Bent when they were in trouble under Gérard Houllier two years ago, will dip into his pocket once more to improve their chances of staying in the Premier League.
It is difficult to know where to start with the areas that need strengthening in this desperately poor Villa side. They have scored the fewest goals in the Premier League and conceded the most, which is about as damning as it gets in terms of statistics. There are half a dozen players in the treatment room which is clearly not helping their cause, but it was still alarming to see a Wigan team who had picked up only one point from a possible 18 and won just one of their previous nine games, stroll to victory.
The writing was on the wall inside the first three minutes when Iván Ramis marked his first appearance for more than a month with a thumping header. Jean Beausejour swung over a corner from the left and the central defender nodded emphatically beyond Brad Guzan after losing his marker, Christian Benteke. Wigan were in complete control for the opening half-hour as Villa struggled to string more than a couple of passes together.
The home team flickered into life prior to the interval when Brett Holman struck the crossbar following a Benteke knockdown but any hopes of finding a way back into the game were quickly extinguished after the restart when Emmerson Boyce doubled Wigan's lead in the 52nd minute. Boyce cut inside and swapped passes with Koné before sweeping a low right-foot shot into the far corner. Four minutes later, Koné, running on to a threaded through-ball from Franco Di Santo, sprinted into the area, brushed aside a weak challenge from Matthew Lowton, rounded Guzan and tapped into the empty net.
Koné could have made it 4-0 when he ran through on goal from a long punt upfield from Ali al-Habsi, but the forward's touch was heavy as he tried to take the ball around Guzan for a second time, and the chance was gone. By that point, though, the damage was done Villa had been trounced yet again and Wigan were well on their way to a hugely rewarding win that lifts them above the Midlands club on goal difference. "This spell without a win was really harsh after some of our performances," Martínez said. "But we were clinical today in both boxes."