It ought to be simple, of course. Wigan are Championship near the top, Arsenal are Premier League near the top. No contest. Wigan are currently looking fairly secure for a play off place in the Championship, we’re fighting for a top four finish in the Premier League.
Still obviously an Arsenal win.
But… we’ve been here before. Remember Wigan rushing into a two goal lead in about five minutes in April 2012. It was eerie to say the least. About 300 Wigan fans perched in one little corner going berserk and the rest of the stadium silenced for a moment before we roused ourselves to start singing again.
And, of course Wigan have beaten Man City – both in this season’s quarter final and last season’s final. So how do we call this?
First, you could say that Arsenal have the experience of playing the lesser teams, and know just how they can turn us over. The league cup final against Birmingham is a reminder of all that can go wrong, and the club has a litany of errors going all the way back to Herbert Chapman’s last ever FA Cup match, in which the mighty all conquering Arsenal of the 1930s were beaten by Walsall of the Third Division North.
Given that the current incarnation of Man City haven’t had too many such upsets, they could perhaps be excused. Arsenal really ought to know.
We can also say that both teams have other things on their collective minds. Arsenal need to secure fourth place once again, and Wigan want to get back into the top league. Yes, they are the cup holders, and yes, their run has been magnificent, but they won the FA Cup and were relegated – which would have dented their pride quite a lot. So who can focus well enough could be a guide.
Arsenal’s run of late has been very poor – you don’t need me to tell you that. For Wigan in their last six league games they’ve won two, drawn two, lost two. So they are in a modest run of form. Arsenal have won just one of the last six (against Tottenham away) so are very much out of form.
As for injuries, Wigan just have Ben Watson out (and no one suspended). With Arsenal it is getting to the stage where the list of players available is shorter than the injury list.
So, in summary, Arsenal are in trouble, they are losing matches all over the place, they are letting goals in right left and centre, and key players are injured – players who would normally take control of the game. Ramsey is available and the only other one who might make it back is Koscielny – but it might be a week later. But not Ozil, and of course not Wilshere and not Theo.
For Wigan everything is running smoothly except for a minor blip of a 1-0 loss to Millwall on Tuesday, but they still look certain to get a play off place, so can worry about that later Just one player is injured, confidence is high.
Which means Wigan will be confident and flowing, Arsenal stuttering and nervous. And Arsenal will win – because the unexpected is what always happens in these circumstances.
Meanwhile Arsenal also have to focus on securing the top four finish. But they can do that with a run in against Hull, West Brom, Newcastle and Norwich.
Hull will have their minds on the FA Cup, or will be devastated at being out of it, WBA and Newcastle will have no worries and will be glad to see the back of this season, while Norwich are in turmoil, sacking the manager with just a few games to go. I see Arsenal getting maximum points and once again qualifying for the Champions League at the end of the season.
In fact I don’t see any of this as Arsenal’s biggest problem. Where I see the danger is in what happens to the manager.
Many non-attenders of Arsenal games want Wenger out. Most attendees want him to stay. If he goes, I have grave doubts as to who we can get in, for anyone looking at the club will be very aware of the antipathy of the bloggers, the rough ride the club gets from the media, the horrific injury list that Arsenal carries year on year, and the overwhelming fact that if Wenger can’t do it, who can?
That last point will see odd to most anti-Wenger supporters, but the fact is that across the world Wenger is revered as a football genius. His work with the club during a time when it has had limited money, while taking on the oil-rich clubs, is praised in a way that would leave many in the UK wondering if Wenger wrote the copy himself.
Yes, this summer, with his contract finished, he might well feel that he has done enough, and simply walk away. And, I fear, many of the top managers in world football will feel that they would sooner work somewhere else.
Arsenal should win the cup easily, but if they do they could then have a far greater hurdle to overcome.