We all know that football can be a crazy game, but there is something particularly mad about the fact that Wigan Athletic travel to Arsenal three days after winning the FA Cup in such dramatic fashion and could well end up going back home as a Championship club.
Even for a team of Wigan’s renowned unpredictability, this is a truly unique situation.
Saturday was the greatest day in the club’s short history, because winning the FA Cup is an incredible achievement for a club and town of Wigan’s size, and it is always exciting to see a new name on the roll call of major trophies.
But what their deserved victory over Manchester City – and fully deserved it was – also did is add to the sense of frustration that Wigan are about to be relegated.
Ben Watson’s 90th-minute header will forever be the abiding memory of this season, the crowning moment of the Latics’ rise through the divisions, but the truth is if they go down they don’t really have anybody to blame but themselves.
Roberto Martinez has won plaudits for the job he has done at the DW Stadium, and he clearly has talent and potential, but it will be a dent in his reputation if he is to oversee the club’s demotion.
It hasn’t been a vintage year in the Premier League, but much like every year under the Spaniard’s stewardship, Wigan have been lingering in the bottom three for most of the season and their record of 67 goals conceded is the worst in the division and the reason why they are going to fall short.
Because they will fall short, as I can’t see them getting a result at the Emirates. Arsenal, who, let’s not forget, need the three points for very different reasons, are 17/50 to win here and I think they will do just that, keeping their top-four bid on track while sending Wigan down.
The draw which does neither side any good is 4/1, while Wigan are 7/1 to cause another major shock – and although they won at Arsenal last year during their great end-of-season escape, a repeat is hard to imagine.
Arsenal are now in fifth place following Spurs’ win at Stoke on Sunday, making this game in hand crucial. Anything other than a win would leave Tottenham in the driving seat on the final day, but I think the Gunners can do their bit by picking up all three points.
Arsene Wenger’s side are in great form, certainly in terms of results, even if their performances have not been sparkling.
Since losing back-to-back games against Manchester City and Chelsea back in January, the Gunners have won ten and drawn three of their last 14 Premier League games, which is title-winning form, never mind top-four stuff.
Their defensive record during that run is very impressive, too, with just ten goals conceded, and Wigan, after expending so much energy on Saturday, could struggle to make inroads.
Add to that the fact that Arsenal’s record against the teams in the bottom half has generally been very good – they have won 12 and drawn five of their 18 fixtures against those teams – and you would think Wenger’s side will enjoy another win.
But odds-on is still short given what is at stake, so I’ll play the draw half-time/Arsenal full-time double result at 16/5 (potentially worth £84 to new bwin customers using their free £20 bet on it).
The Gunners have been level at the break in 11 of their 18 home league games, which is more than any other side in the division, while Wigan have been all square after 45 minutes on ten occasions in their away games, which is just one short of the biggest total (Swansea and QPR).
So with tension in both camps, it might take a while to open up, but bank on Arsenal profiting in the latter stages, especially with Wigan sure to tire after their weekend heroics.
The Gunners tend to improve after the break – 62% of their league goals have come after half-time – so the 16/5 they repeat the trick again looks like a decent shout.