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FA Cup joy is followed swiftly by relegation heartbreak for Martinez's Latics
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Wigan: Elation to despair in three days

By richbrawn1 on May 19th, 2013 in Blow the whistle 15 comments
Wigan: Elation to despair in three days
Exciting prospect - McManaman
After experiencing the high of their first ever FA Cup win, Wigan Athletic were quickly brought down to earth with a thud as their faint hopes of Premier League survival went up in smoke at the hands of a rampant Arsenal side. It was a devastating blow for Roberto Martinez and his Wigan side who have performed so well over recent weeks but just couldn’t quite amass enough points to take their bid to retain top flight status to the final game of the season.  

The Latics needed to win their last two games after succumbing to a home defeat against Swansea City in their previous outing. Unfortunately they came up against an Arsenal side who also needed a win to keep their chances of a top four position in their own hands. When the Gunners opened the scoring 11 minutes in with a Lukas Podolski header it gave Wigan an even bigger mountain to climb, not just needing a win at the Emirates but now having to come from behind in order to do it.  

They did well to fight their way back into the game though and managed to steal an equalising goal right on half time with an exquisite Shaun Maloney free-kick. This gave their fans renewed hope that they could achieve the impossible. In the second half, Ivorian striker Arouna Koné brought a good save out of Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny.

But their tremendous FA Cup final exploits three days prior, where they beat the multi-millionaires from Manchester City, were always likely to take their toll on the players later in the game. And sure enough, the Gunners edged their way back in front when Theo Walcott latched onto a Santi Cazorla cross in the 63rd minute. Unfortunately this time the weary legged Wigan players were unable to respond and Podolski beat the offside trap to chip the ball over Joel Robles to add a third for the Gunners. Aaron Ramsey then compounded Wigan’s misery when he fired home from a tight angle to confirm the Latics would be playing their football outside of the top division next season.

It was a sad day for long standing chairman Dave Whelan and everyone connected to the club as they waved goodbye to their top flight status. The Latics also became the first side in history to win the FA Cup and get relegated in the same season. Not an accolade they would have particularly wanted though. It left the Wigan fans in tears of utter dismay - a complete contrast to the tears of joy they experienced just 72 hours earlier when Emmerson Boyce and Gary Caldwell held aloft the most prestigious cup in English football. They must’ve been in dreamland. But that dream had quickly turned into a garish nightmare.  

So how could this happen? How could a team good enough to outdo Manchester City in the FA Cup final end up falling through the Premier League trapdoor that same season? It seems a difficult concept to grasp. Not only that, but the Latics had also managed 8 wins out of their final 15 games in all competitions. Granted, quite a few of those were in the FA Cup which didn’t help their position in the league, but they still showed the form of a side that should’ve been nowhere near the relegation shakeup come the end of the season.  

It was that age old problem of not really managing to turn it on until the latter stages of the season that really killed them. It’s happened to them in previous seasons as well. Last season they began very poorly but in the end miraculously managed to put a decent run together which culminated in a 1-0 win in May to secure their survival and simultaneously seal Blackburn’s fate. The year before that, again they escaped by the skin of their teeth, when the battle for survival went right to the wire. The Latics emerged victorious at Stoke City on the final day of season.  

Perhaps the greatest escape of them all came in 2010, when they managed to beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in an incredible late surge that saw them overcome the odds to retain their top flight status when it looked like they were dead and buried.  

Why they’ve always seemed to leave it so late before they start performing since Martinez took over is one of those little mysteries that we’ll probably never know the answer to. It’s a shame really because they can be such an exciting team and they play football in the right way, always looking to pass the ball around and always keen to attack the opposition, for better or worse. We’ve all become accustomed to Wigan’s entertaining style of football under Martinez and it’s led many supporters to adopt them as their second favourite team over the past few years. That said though, with the team they have, it’s almost criminal to think they have lost their Premier League status.  

In fact, the attack talent they boast is enough to rival the majority of top flight clubs. Callum McManaman must surely be one the most exciting prospects in the game. He is skilful and loves to run at defenders with pace and has also recently demonstrated a keen eye for goal. James McArthur is another who has been excellent going forward in recent weeks, showing the ability to run defenders and the desire to give everything he has for the cause. And it’s the same with James McCarthy as well. It’s easy to get them mixed up but McCarthy has also performed well in the middle of the park in the latter stages of the season.

Besides this they have the impressive, technically gifted talent of Maloney, who can be extremely dangerous from dead ball situations, as demonstrated at the Emirates. Then there’s Ivory Coast international Koné, who has bagged 11 goals to his name this season and is always a threat to even the most astute of defences.

A team with such a superb array of attacking talent should really never have found themselves in the position they are in. It may have been their defensive displays that really did them in though. The Latics conceded more goals than anyone else in the division and as a result, their fate has been sealed.  

Where they go from here remains to be seen. There are question marks over whether Martinez will still be in charge at the DW Stadium next season with his name being widely linked with the vacant Everton management position. Also whether they can keep hold of their top players could dictate whether they are able to bounce back up from the Championship next season.

They will certainly be missed in the Premier League that’s for sure. But at least we will still see them feature in Europa League action, despite being out of the top tier. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll add some more illustrious silverware to their trophy cabinet. As their latest chapter has shown, Wigan are the type of club where you just cannot rule anything out.
By richbrawn1 on May 19th, 2013 in Blow the whistle

Wigan: Elation to despair in three days
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