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Marcotti: Platini's missed opportunity

FIFA 15 hours ago
Read
May 14, 2013

Defensive woes sink Wigan

Arsenal have raised the stakes in the Champions League chase - but Wigan have finally dropped down a division, becoming the first side to ever win the FA Cup and get relegated in the same season.

Those bare facts, though, hardly tell the full story of an oscillating 4-1 win for the Gunners at the Emirates.

Although Arsenal made the massive gap between the teams painfully clear by the end, there were long spells during which this game resembled the sort of frantic chaos we have seen in the Championship over the last few weeks. And the cruel reality is that the Championship is exactly where Wigan are heading.

Defending like this made it inevitable. For their part, Arsenal - and especially the imperious Santi Cazorla - were impressively ruthless after the hour mark, going in front when Theo Walcott, who frequently and ferociously exposed Paul Scharner, got the goal he deserved after 63 minutes.

Two more goals followed in less than ten minutes, perhaps reflecting the emotional exhaustion inflicted on Wigan by their uplifting FA Cup win.

But it would be wrong to put this defeat - and relegation - down to Wembley. Wigan displayed the kind of defensive ineptitude that had cost them against Swansea, five days before the final, and on so many other occasions this season. That is why they have gone down.

And it would also be wrong to lay too much blame at the feet of manager Roberto Martinez.

Working at a club with Championship resources, while having had to cut the costs after the Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce eras, he has defied those circumstances to keep them up for so long.

More impressively, he has often had them playing exhilarating football - and that football might still have saved them here.

Just minutes after half-time, with Wigan still surfing the wave of Shaun Maloney's exquisite equalising free-kick seconds before the break, they produced a sparkling interchange that almost brought a brilliant goal from Arouna Kone. At that point, with the game on a knife-edge, a Wigan goal could have completely transformed their season.

Instead, Arsenal punished their evident defensive issues. But as much as Martinez has had to re-adjust to injuries in his backline, and as much as a high line is necessary for the pressing-passing game, there was no explanation for some of their defending.

The marking for Lukas Podolski's opening header from a corner was simply awful and, if Martinez is to go on to have the fulfilling career his ability suggests, such defensive frailties are the big problem he needs to address.

Of course, the availability of Maynor Figueroa and Jean Beausejour might have allowed them to cope better - but Arsenal instead benefited from Wigan's moments of chaos.

Although they had been on the rack in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and despite the Emirates crowd starting to mumble and groan, the supreme Cazorla provided the presence of mind to lift the game beyond mere frantic excitement.

His sublime ball across the box didn't only fatally expose Wigan, it also opened up the entire game as Walcott showed bravery to match Cazorla's brilliance.

For Wigan, meanwhile, defiance sapped away. After such a raucous encounter, things felt oddly routine by the time Podolski poked home the third and Aaron Ramsey smashed home the fourth.

Arsenal, after all their problems this season, deserve credit for ultimately keeping calm, adjusting to the tension and, yet again, rallying.

They are in control of their own destiny on the final day, as they lie in fourth. Spurs, back in fifth, will have to rely on a favour and again go that bit further themselves.

Wigan, meanwhile, have finally run out of Premier League dry land. That was most painfully seen in their tears.

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