Roberto Martinez's FA Cup winners failed to carry forward Wembley momentum and slip out of the Premier League as an eight-year top-flight stint ends with a whimper at the Emirates
The Gunners, too, were desperate for a win to keep alive their ambition of finishing in the top four, and Lukas Podolski capitalized on some woeful defending to hand the home side an early lead, while a Shaun Maloney free kick – won in questionable circumstances – drew the visitors level before the break.
Roberto Martinez's side threatened to put the dampeners on Arsenal's final home game of the season, but clinical second-half strikes from Theo Walcott, Podolski and Aaron Ramsey ensured the Gunners both regained control of the final Champions League qualification spot going into the last game of the season and terminated Wigan's eight-year stay in the top flight.
Neither Arsenal nor Wigan came into the high-stakes encounter with fresh injury concerns, and Arsene Wenger’s decision to replace Nacho Monreal with Kieran Gibbs at left back was the only change from the starting lineups that last featured for both.
That, though, was an issue. The emotional nature of the Latics’ remarkable turn at Wembley on Saturday offered a draining contrast to their hosts’ 10 days of inaction since beating QPR, particularly considering that, while Wigan was enjoying the greatest moment in its history, notable Premier League strugglers conspired against them with crucial wins.
Consequently Arsenal imposed itself early and was met with flimsy resistance, taking the lead just after the 10-minute mark. Alarm bells should have been ringing when a free Santi Cazorla hit the deck to send a controlled header skidding wide of the upright, and moments later a totally unmarked Podolski stooped to nod home a bouncing corner delivered by the Spaniard.
More questionable defending from a corner saw Koscielny poke narrowly wide before Walcott saw an effort ruled out for offside as Wenger’s side threatened to render Wigan’s end-of-half ascendancy somewhat impotent. Moments before the interval, though, Maloney struck a lethal free kick from edge of the area that Wojciech Szczesny’s hand couldn’t prevent from nestling into the bottom corner.
Wigan started the second half in a much more confident manner, testing Szczesny right away as the Polish goalkeeper stood firm to thwart Arouna Kone’s close-range attempt, while James McCarthy was half a yard offside when he tucked home. Arsenal countered immediately, and Joel Robles denied Cazorla as the the home side's freshness became telling.
Robles was kept busy as he blocked Podolski's header and Walcott's near-post drive, though there was little he could do to prevent Walcott prodding home Cazorla's pinpoint cross from the right flank to re-establish the Gunners' lead.
Any hopes of Wigan pulling itself back into the game and saving its Premier League status were put to the sword shortly after as Podolski grabbed his second, capitalizing on some static defending to race onto Cazorla's header and dink over the advancing Robles, before Ramsey once again breached the Latics defense to gleefully rifle home Arsenal's fourth inside the near post.
With the job done, Arsenal played out the remainder of the game in the knowledge that, having leapfrogged North London rival Tottenham, a top-four Premier League finish is now in its own hands when it meets Newcastle on Sunday.