11 May 2013

Congrats, Wigan! Celebrate like it's going out of style!

After Aston Villa snatched defeat from the jaws of victory thanks to a Benteke red card, I had resigned myself to a rather grim day of calculating and recalculating what this means for us. Will this motivate Wigan to see that the Acorns still face relegation (they face each other on the last Sunday of the season)? Does it inspire our final foe, Newcastle? Then, I caught myself. It doesn't really matter, at least not enough for me to whip out the old abacus and slide-rule. We'll just have to play football. Problem solved.  Then, I decided to casually check in on the FA Cup to see how well Man City was doing against Wigan. To my eternal shock, surprise, and delight, Wigan had pulled off a stunning miracle, beating Man City to win the FA Cup for the first time in its 81 years. Wow. I think three or four of City's players out-earn Wigan's entire team. Not three or four combined, mind you. Each on his own out-earns an entire team, and that team won anyway. That's a glorious day for football.

It's enough to mend my broken heart after Villa's loss. I was just starting to recalculate the odds on us surmounting Chelsea to claim 3rd place when Benteke got sent off and changed the game completely. Christian, Christian, Christian. There are some who are going to say his first yellow should have been a straight red, and maybe they're right. There are others who are going to say Terry should have been sent off for a last-man tackle on Yacouba Sylla that looked enough like a goal-scoring opportunity to earn a red. Frankly, that dude looked so old and slow on Benteke's goal that I wonder if it's more to our advantage that he didn't get the red. Yes, he's still canny and tactical and all, but, man. Put someone with some speed up-top and he's about as useful as spaghetti in a snow-storm. He was stretchered off later on anyway (a knock to the ankle), so maybe he'll miss their final match against Everton. Again, I almost prefer him on the field given his form. Hazard seemed to pull a hamstring and was helped off, so between those injuries and Ramires's red card, Chelsea might be fragile enough for Everton to knock them off next weekend. A boy can dream...

More famously, Wigan won the FA Cup in fantastic fashion; a header in the 90th minute from subbed-on Ben Watson sealed the deal for the Latics. Fantastic for them. I doubt it will have much impact on their attempt to scrabble out of relegation, but I do hope they have a true and proper celebration that lasts well past the weekend. Wigan has shown that they don't mind relegation, seeming to do it every other year or so, so maybe this trophy will be enough to let them just relax, bask in that glory, and let their remaining matches slide. If we can polish them off on Tuesday, our next match with Newcastle might even get that much easier as they wouldn't have to worry so much about being relegated themselves. If they can beat QPR at Loftus Road tomorrow, they'll climb to 41, forcing Wigan to beat us at the Emirates and Aston Villa at home while also besting Toon on goal-differential (currently tied). There's some bold talk about how no team was won the FA Cup and been relegated in the same season. So what? How often have relegation-threatened teams been in the FA Cup final, much less won it? I'm not saying it's never happened, just that the sample-size is so small as to be insignificant.

In even better news, although it is just rumor-mill grist at the moment, Man City's loss might just spell the end of the insufferable Roberto Mancini's time at the Etihad. I owe him thanks for giving it to Ferguson last year, but I'd still be happy to see him go. We could then see coaching changes among the only teams to finish ahead of us this year (ahem), leading to some settling-in periods that could work in our favor. I know Moyes has had success with Everton and Preston North End before that, but coaching Man U is a whole different ball of wax. Even if Mourinho returns to Chelsea, I think we can handle them. With Arsène in charge of a squad growing in confidence, and perhaps two or three smart signings in the summer, I already like how next season is shaping up. Let's get started on it right now by dumping Wigan and Newcastle, finish 4th (or higher?), and go from there.

In the near-future, get some popcorn ready for Spurs' run-in at the Brittania Stadium. I'm seeing a drab, 0-0 draw. Potters, if you win, I might even consider forgiving you for Shawcross. Key words: "might" and "consider." Get the win, and we'll talk.