Wigan Athletic made history over the weekend when they won their first FA Cup and also became the first team to do so wearing an all-black kit. Unfortunately, they wrote history again last night as their 4-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium earned them the undesirable tag of being the only FA Cup winners to be relegated in the same season.
While they relinquish their Premier League status by failing to meet their minimum objective of survival, a trophy-less Arsenal side are well on course to achieve their own primary objective of securing a Champions League spot and some would argue that it’s far more important than silverware.
The Gunners have gone on an ominous run since February during which they’ve picked up 30 from 39 available points. Meanwhile, Wigan have struggled to pull off their usual great escape maneuver and after flirting with relegation for the past few seasons, this outcome was inevitable, fate can only be tempted for so long.
In a way, the game summed up Wigan’s season. They started poorly and conceded a goal, then they played their way back with a brand of football you wouldn’t associate with a team in the bottom half of the table let alone the bottom three, and finally they undid all their good work by crumbling towards the end.
Defensive atrocities are clearly to blame for the Latics’ relegation while Arsenal’s sudden efficiency has seen them position themselves for yet another fourth place finish and all the monetary benefits that go with it. It begs the question, is earning a spot in Europe or maintaining Premier League status more important than winning a trophy?
In the modern game where number crunching is but part of the game and essential to the running of every club, you’d have to say that Arsenal are quite clearly the bigger winners here despite the absence of silverware.
The new deal for the Premier League televised rights are expected to boost revenue by 71%. To put the monetary implications into perspective, consider that the bottom placed club next season will most likely receive more than the £60.6 million Manchester City did for winning the league last season. Meanwhile, the prize money Wigan earned for winning the FA Cup was a miserly £1.8 million.
On the other hand, Arsenal’s routine qualification for the Champions League have ensured their steady financial progress and coupled with their stringent wage policy as well as the departures of high-profile players, they’ve comfortably made the payments for the Emirates Stadium.
The financial rewards for qualifying for the Champions League currently stands at £7.3 million, significantly more than winning a domestic cup, in fact, it’s substantially more than winning both domestic cups!
Arsene Wenger has been ridiculed mercilessly for implying that a fourth place finish is like winning a trophy but you can’t argue with the financial figures. Now that Wigan are down, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to spring back up to the top tier of English football.
So is Roberto Martinez to blame? Not exactly because you have to realize that Wigan have been a Premier League club operating with Championship resources during the Spaniard’s tenure. After Paul Jewel and Steve Bruce did their fair share of spending, Martinez came in and steered the club clear of relegation time and again whilst losing his best players.
Last summer alone he lost the likes of Victor Moses, Mohammed Diame and Hugo Rodallega with only Arouna Kone being the notable signing. He got them playing some great football but was never able to solidify their back line and ultimately, that’s what has cost them.
Despite their standing a couple of months ago, Arsenal look set to secure Champions League qualification yet again but if there’s anything they can learn from Wigan’s plight, it’s that they can’t always rely on a surge towards the end of the season. If they win their last game, the Gunners mustn’t appreciate their success in the way they would a triumph. Instead, they must evaluate their struggle and deem it an escape.
Ultimately, Wigan’s moment of cup glory was cruelly overshadowed by the dark cloud of relegation which loomed large for the past few years. The romantics will tell you that they wouldn’t trade an FA Cup triumph for the world but the world, or that of the Premier League at least, is exactly what the Latics are made to forego.
|Is Premier League survival better than winning the FA Cup? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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