Tuesday afternoon Arsenal hosts Wigan Athletic in an English Premier League match that’s basically for, “all the Tositos” (or their British equivalent.) The results of the match (2:30, Fox Soccer) could all but render the upcoming matches on “Survival Sunday” meaningless, save one or two games.
If Wigan, the recently crowned FA Cup champion, fails to win at the Emirates then Roberto Martinez’ men will be relegated to the Championship. This presents a classic, “you’re a winner and a loser,” scenario for the club, which has developed a knack for somehow finding a way to stave of relegation the last couple Mays.
Wigan are on 35 points, four behind 17th placed Sunderland. A loss by Wigan will be celebrated by Aston Villa (40 points), Fulham (40) and Southampton. (What the heck happened to Fulham, which is now winless in seven matches?) Wigan plays Aston Villa Sunday and also needs to win that match to ensure saftey.
Arsenal need to win to jump back front of Tottenham for fourth place, which equals the final Champions League place for English clubs. A win puts Arsenal on 70 puts, one better than Spurs meaning the Gunners control their own fate heading into Sunday’s game at Newcastle United. Adding a wrinkle, if Arsenal win and relegate Wigan today it means Sunderland — Tottenham’s opponent on Sunday — will have nothing to play for when it travels to White Hart Lane.
Through all of Arsenal’s trophy-less seasons dating back to the 2005 FA Cup, Arsene Wenger has been able to hang his hat on the Champions League. The last time Arsenal missed out on the competition was the 1996-97 season, the Frenchman’s first at the club.
Everyone tends to associate Arsenal with high-flying, attacking soccer but in their last four games the club hasn’t scored more than one goal, instead playing neat-and-tidy stuff and holding on defensively. It’s been a much of functional Arsenal team down the stretch.
Wigan weren’t intimidated Saturday in the FA Cup final vs. Manchester City and figure to play with the same kind of fearlessness at the Emirates today since a draw helps neither side. Arouna Kone, Calum McManaman and Shaun Maloney could cause Arsenal’s defense fits, assuming the Wigan players aren’t still hungover from partying over the weekend.
It’s must-see soccer on a Tuesday afternoon … just how they drew it up when they released the schedule list last summer.
[photo by Getty]