by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Wigan Athletic’s 8-year Premier League stint ended in 8 minutes yesterday. The rescheduled game between the Latics and Arsenal at the Emirates, was tagged as a cup final. And Roberto Martinez, must have travelled down to North London, confident that his side must have lapped up huge inspiration from their FA Cup final triumph over Manchester City. They ran out of steam in the end.
The hosts started brightly and should have been out of sight early. However, this is Arsenal. The Gunners never make it easy for themselves and their high blood pressure resistant fans. Shaun Maloney cancelled Lukas Podolski’s opener, with a free-kick of supreme quality, as both teams went into the break level.
The second half started with the visitors on top. They passed the ball better and caused Arsenal all sorts of problems. Arsene Wenger will be grateful for an excellent save from Wojiech Szczensy, tipping Arouna Kone’s effort around the post.
In the 63rd minute, Theo Walcott restored Arsenal’s lead, matching Santi Cazorla’s invention with a brave finish. Five minutes later, Podolski lifted the ball over Joel Robles. It effectively ended the game as a contest, but there was time for Aaron Ramsey to find space down the left and hammer a fourth into the roof of the net.
The emphatic result settled two things – the Gunners return to fourth spot and Wigan’s relegation. So, we know who the champions of England are and second place is settled. We also know QPR and Reading will play in the Championship next season. However, the final Champions League spot is not sorted out. Tottenham Hotspurs sit one point behind Arsenal and will be hoping their rivals stumble against Newcastle, while they take Sunderland to the cleaners. Andre Villas-Boas however knows deep within that it will be a big ask, as Wenger and his men know how to do this every season. Their destiny is in their own hands. And I expect them to seal a top-four finish.
There is talk of them sneaking into third place, ahead of Chelsea who face Everton at Stamford Bridge. That’s not what is important. Wenger would be grateful to be where he is now right. After the defeat in the North London derby in March, Arsenal were dead and buried like the biblical Lazarus. How things have changed. On Sunday, at St. James Park, they will stroll out of the tunnel knowing a victory of any nature, will guarantee a place among Europe’s elite next term.