Harold Wilson once opined ,”A week is a along time in politics,” Roberto Martinez could be forgiven for thinking the same about football as Wigan went from the unbounded joy of winning the F.A. Cup final to the abject misery of relegation from the cash cow that is the Premier League.
Martinez opted to show faith in the same starting line up from Saturday, no doubt hoping that the euphoria of being a part of Wigan’s first ever major trophy would carry the players through a crucial league game.
Arsenal who hadn’t played for ten days looked far more fresh and sharp and Wigan were under the cosh from the first minute with Espinoza struggling to contain the pace of Walcott who within the first five minutes had put over a cross met by Carzola who fortunately for Wigan headed wide with Robles appearing rooted to the spot.
Wigan’s respite was temporary however, Carzola fired a slow looking corner into the area, Alcaraz seemed to misjudge the pace over running the ball which fell to Podolski who had a simple header and Wigan were behind.
Arsenal continued to ratchet up the pressure and it only seemed a matter of time before Arsenal scored again as Wigan looked lethargic and heavy legged but this Wigan team is not short of spirit and gradually they started to pass the ball around . Kone had a seemingly goal scoring opportunity taken from his head almost literally as Koscielney managed to clear the ball with a very high footed kick with Szczesny stranded.
Wigan continued to push forwards in the rain and Maloney earned two relatively soft free kicks out of the whistle happy Mr Dean. The first was wasted by Gomez but right on half time, Maloney opted up to take the second one himself and his wondrous free kick flew into the corner past the out stretched fingers of the Arsenal keeper.
Both sides trooped into the half time cuppa with the boos of the home fans for Mr Dean’s performance and cheers from the small but passionate away following who clung to the belief that Wigan could escape once again .
The second half started with Wigan buoyed by the equalising goal pushing forwards with once again McManaman and Kone striving to cause problems for the home sides defence. In this purple patch Wigan had two good chances, one a good save from a Kone shot by Szczesny and the second a fine McCarthy turn and shot correctly ruled offside for offside.
The game then turned on its head when McManaman was stretched off with what looked like a serious injury on the day the mercurial talent was called up into the England under 21 squad. He was replaced by Di Santo but Wigan looked all over the place at the back and Cazorla got behind a static Espinoza and his cross was turned in by Walcott with the Wigan central defenders nowhere to be seen.
Two quickly became three as Podolski benefitted from some route one football to double his score and then very quickly it was four when Ramsey broke down the right and embarrassingly for Robles scored at his near post.
It was game over and dream over for Wigan but until the very end they kept playing football and the final whistle brought tears from both the players and the fans to bring to an end a wonderful 8 year journey for little Wigan.
Line up and Player ratings
Robles…6, some fine saves but some poor ones
Boyce….7, never gave up
Espinoza….6, exposed at the back isolated going forwards.
McArthur….6, looked tired.
Gomez….5, flitted in and out of the game, withdrawn.
McCarthy….6, a game too far for Wigan’s mercurial talent.
McManaman….7, never stopped trying, withdrawn
Maloney….8, only Wigan player to perform as well as Saturday. Man of the Match, withdrawn
Kone….7, ran hard all night.
Di Santo….5, for McManaman , no influence on the game whatsoever.
Watson for Gomez…..5.5., little chance to shine.
Henriquez ….n/a for Maloney.
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