Soccer: Wigan relegated after Arsenal defeat

Wigan became the first team to be relegated and win the FA Cup in the same season after a 4-1 loss at Arsenal today ended its eight-year stay in the Premier League.

Arsenal is primed to qualify for the Champions League for the 16th season in a row after reclaiming fourth place to sit a point above Tottenham with one round remaining.

Wigan, weary from Sunday's first title win, briefly posed a threat when Shaun Maloney canceled out Lukas Podolski's opener just before halftime from a free kick.

But a powerful start to the second half yielded nothing for Wigan before Arsenal's ruthlessness produced three goals in nine minutes.

Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and finally Podolski all ripped through Wigan's defence to score.

Wigan has won plaudits for its style of play under Roberto Martinez, who overlooked any fears of fatigue to stick with the same players who beat Manchester City 1-0 at Wembley Stadium to win the club's first title in 81 years.

But they struggled to replicate the dynamic performance that ultimately overwhelmed City.

Arsenal needed only 11 minutes to take the lead, with Santi Cazorla exploiting gaping holes in the defence before picking out an unmarked Podolski from a corner to head into the net from close range.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was furious at a free kick being awarded when Maloney went down under contact from Mikel Arteta just before halftime.

Maloney sent the resulting free kick dipping into the net, with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny at full stretch and getting a slight touch but unable to keep the ball out.

At the start of the second half, Szczesny denied Wigan by coming off his line to block Arouna Kone's effort.

The pace was becoming frantic, with each team's seasons on the line.

A succession of chances fell to Arsenal. Walcott breezed down the right and cut the ball back to Cazorla, who was denied by goalkeeper Joel Robles. From the rebound, Tomas Rosicky could only sweep the ball wide.

The pressure was telling, and Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 63rd.

A low cross from Cazorla on the right reached Walcott in a central position and he nudged the ball over Joel, who slid in studs-first but couldn't make the block.

Five minutes later, Podolski broke clear and clipped the ball into the net with the outside of his boot.

With Arsenal's cutting-edge finally showing, the energetic hosts compounded Wigan's misery.

Ramsey cut in from the left and lifted the ball into the roof of the net over the onrushing Joel.

Arsenal, having made its worst start to a season since Wenger took charge in 1996, now looks like heading back into the Champions League going into Sunday's finale at Newcastle.

Arsenal has failed to win a trophy since 2005, but the fans still stayed behind to cheer Wenger and his team after their final home match.

From jeers in October to cheers in May the fans in the rain sang "There's only one Arsene Wenger."

Next week he'll become the longest-serving current Premier League manager when Manchester United's Alex Ferguson enters retirement.

-AP

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