Not to be a party pooper, but I feel I must interject at this point. Remember a time long ago when we all cared about the league? Nah, me neither.
I don’t think I quite emphasised the importance of the Swansea game to Wigan’s Premier League survival. Hey, we all had other things on our minds last week so I suppose you could forgive a momentary lapse of concentration… or three. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bang on for 2,000 words about how the lack of Ramis and Alcaraz reduces the Wigan defence to a gibbering wreck, though to a certain extent I believe this to be true.
Instead, I shall speak at (moderate) length about this evening’s game and how Saturday afternoon affected it. Best get out your digestive biscuits and dunking beverage of choice for this one.
They say Wigan are the first team to win the FA Cup by accident, but I prefer to describe it as ‘everything falling into place’. The right draws, the right team selections, the right bit of luck here and there – three elements that have sadly been missing from Wigan’s league line-up at crucial points in the season. Antolin Alcaraz was supposed to miss the rest of the season, but he made a miraculous return to lead his team to FA Cup glory.
If Callum McManaman had been producing these kinds of performances in the first team from day one of the 2012-13 campaign, we might probably have been safe by January. And if Lionel Messi played for Wigan, we might have won the FA Cup. Oh, wait…
Screw the ifs, because barring a trip to the Large Hadron Collider, you can do precious little to change the past. Wigan had one more chance to fend off the Grim Reaper – if they could pull off an amazing win at Arsenal, that required points total of 41 would seem less of a pipe dream and a bit closer to reality. But the margin for error was negligible; quite simply, nought but perfection would suffice. Gulp.
Here goes nothing
Latics looked to be suffering the effects of an FA Cup final as they got off to the shakiest of starts; Santi Cazorla headed narrowly wide as the hosts took early control in the possession stakes. Which is all well and good, but it’s the goals that count. And the Gunners were about to make it count.
Cazorla sent in the corner, which initially eluded two defenders on its way to Lukas Podolski who gratefully headed home past a helpless Joel Robles. Really not Wigan’s greatest ten minutes of the season, but then you didn’t need me to tell you that.
Arsenal’s assault on the Wigan penalty box continued as Sagna, Walcott and Rosicky all had efforts on goal. None were successful in challenging the keeper, however, and soon the home side’s iron grip on the game began to loosen.
When the visitors did experience possession of their own, they struggled to make any headway, stymied by excellent closing down that caused Latics’ passing to become more wayward than a London bus in Wigan town centre. Jordi Gomez saw a free kick blocked by the wall, drawing a huge cheer from the home faithful. Walcott soon had the ball in the net, but was flagged offside much to the visitors’ great relief.
As the half progressed, however, Wigan’s passing game started to function just a little better, and their threat level increased minute upon minute. Then, the lifeline Latics needed. Their best attacking spell thus far culminated in a superb Shaun Maloney free kick that eluded both the Arsenal wall and Szczesny to find the corner of his goal, a well-placed effort just when his side needed it.
Unfortunately Wigan’s fight could only last until the 63rd minute, somewhat fittingly shortly after Callum McManaman was stretchered off the field. Their life force all but extinguished, Wigan became easy prey to predatory Arsenal, who proceeded to take the lead and increase it threefold. Walcott began the landslide that would finish off pesky Latics once and for all. Podolski and Ramsey followed suit and… well, the rest is history I would prefer to remove from the books.
I could lament the slightly iffy defending right here, but it is probably best not to widen open wounds at this moment. There is so much to discuss, but there are almost three months to chew that over and we shall leave the dust to settle before taking on the more weighty issues of the past nine months. Heh, I look forward to it…
To rephrase myself, here’s a crumb of comfort: when we look back on this season, we will not remember that we got relegated. Well maybe we will, but who gives a monkey’s? We won the bloomin’ FA Cup. Not some tin pot trophy, but the most renowned domestic cup competition in the whole world. In my eyes, that counts for just as much, if not more than, a ninth season in the Premier League.
So there. I will cease this post-mortem and resume hostilities for the penultimate PWU Podcast of the season. Good day.