The FA Cup is not quite ready to be melted down for scrap metal. For only the fifth time since 1990, England’s premier domestic cup competition will reside in the trophy cabinet of a club which is not currently in the top five of the Premier League. That dominance of the game indicates a fundamental problem facing not just the FA Cup but English football in general; the sheer predictability of it all.
But that is to deflect attention away from Wigan’s thoroughly deserved win at Wembley. Congratulations to them on their victory. If someone had told them their role in proceedings was to lay down and let the money talk, Roberto Martinez and his men took no notice whatsoever. Immediate comparisons were made with Wimbledon’s 1988 victory over Liverpool, the route from non-League football to silverware. Reminiscent indeed, even more so with the similarities between the headers from Lawrie Sanchez and Ben Watson.
It was an object lesson in teamwork and of utter arrogance; Manchester City played as if it were a formality and their nose was bloodied as a result. Time will dilute the achievement of The Latics, Zabaleta’s dismissal will played up as a key reason for the win. Influenced it? Possibly but Wigan had forged enough chances with him on the pitch, sufficiently for a reckless lunge to be enticed shortly after having been cautioned.
Roy Keane actually did observe that Manchester City lost due to a lack of investment, you didn’t imagine it. A staggeringly inane comment on the face of it but one which is not quite as senseless as it appears. Oh, alright it is. If he had observed that for their money, the Manchester City players were shambolic wastrels, few would have argued with him. All of the money in the world means nothing if you do not spend it wisely. Mancini fell into the same trap as many of his predecessors; he failed to strengthen a title-winning squad and the hunger which was fed as the gold medals were hung around necks, was sated. Perhaps Keane had a point.
For Arsenal, it is a warning that concentration will be required on Tuesday night. There are uncanny parallels with last season’s encounter at The Emirates. Arsenal chasing the Champions League, Wigan in a fight for survival. The crucial difference is that Arsenal were more comfortable in their position, complacent if you like. Defeat made life a bit more nervous but did not overly threaten the ultimate target for the season end. This time it is different. Chelsea’s victory at Villa Park has all but sealed third for them. Even a win on Tuesday night will still leave Arsenal requiring a slip from their London neighbours. Defeat would consign Arsenal – you would think – to Europa League football; surely Tottenham will emerge victorious over an insipid Stoke City team, especially as they are likely to be safe from relegation as final whistles blow at grounds around the country this afternoon. The reality is that six points leaves Arsenal in the Champions League qualifiers next season of their own accord, irrespective of anyone else’s efforts.
Wigan’s win has inspired some fairytales in this morning’s press, none more so than at the club’s former pet newspaper. Reports in this morning’s Daily Star Sunday equivalent have Arsenal wanting to test United’s resolve to hold onto Wayne Rooney. I am sure Arsenal do want to test United’s resolve but there is a world of difference between wanting and doing. Ask Emmanuel Adebayor; he wants to stay onside but can’t do it. Thankfully. Arsenal it seems, will be busier trying to persuade Aston Villa to sell Christian Benteke, whose £20m fee makes the figures bandied about for the likes of Cavani and Falcao seem entirely reasonable, despite being grossly over-inflated. FFP is a pipedream. As is much of the transfer talk that we will see this Summer, as I had to remind Number One son yesterday as he almost hyper-ventilated at the prospect of a rotund Scouser turning out in the red and white of Arsenal next season. It is as likely as George Osborne making a genuinely funny joke about Star Wars on national television.
That’s it for today as the crucial week of Arsenal’s season begins.
Budweiser’s FA Cup Fan Film – To The Dreamers