It is that most holy of days. A day truly sacred in a true football fans calendar. FA Cup final day. I’m going to tell you why I feel that the FA Cup is so special, and why I think Wigan managed to pull of such a huge upset today, beating Man City 1-0.
The FA Cup is, for me, the greatest club cup competition in the world. Forget the Champions League, everyone talks about the romance of the FA Cup and todays final, and this years competition has showed us why. Not only do you get minnows like Wigan pulling off shock victories against all odds, but as we’ve seen in previous rounds you get top teams battling it out.
But before this, I have to say, that I’m worried for the FA Cup. The FA seems to be trying to devalue England’s premier cup competition. Last year, for the first time that certainly I can remember, we had Premier League games being played on the same day as the cup final. Now I appreciate that the schedules are tight, but the FA should stop being so money obsessed and have this as the only match on that day. Frankly have a high profile Premier League match takes away from the importance of what I believe is the most important football match in English club football. Secondly, today’s game kicked off at 5:15pm. WHAT? The final should kick off at 3:00. I find it ridiculous that it’s kicking off in the evening, as long as I can remember it’s been a 3:00 kick off, and the only 3:00 kick off. And that the way it should stay.
Rant over. Back to the majesty of the FA Cup, and this seasons has perfectly illustrated why I feel that it’s such a special competition. We’ve had huge shocks, Liverpool losing at Oldham, Arsenal lose to Blackburn and Leeds beating Spurs. Normally we couldn’t even conceive of such shocks, but in the FA Cup we just say “thats the magic of the cup”. We also see non-league teams like Mansfield or Luton facing off against Premier League or Championship teams. As well as games involving so called ‘minnows’ we’ve seen heavy weight clashes like Man U v Chelsea which produced two very entertaining ties. This is why I think the FA Cup is so special, it offers everything you could want in a competition, something I feel no other cup does.
Now to todays game. Wigan v Man City. No one really gave poor little Wigan a chance, it was just assumed that City would just walk all over their dodgy defence, which had fallen to pieces against Swansea in midweek. And certainly the first 5 minutes would have had many Wigan fans fearing the worse, with the Latics looking nervy and City looking in complete control. However the reality was quite the opposite. Once Wigan calmed down they started to get Maloney, McCarthy and McManaman into the game, and to be honest Wigan were dominant. They had a couple of great chance, and a shout for a penalty (although I felt there wasn’t enough contact for one to be given) and City only had one proper chance, when Tevez forced an excellent save from Joel.
The second half was different though. City were far more dominant, and had nearly all of the ball. But for all their possession the Wigan defence did an excellent job of keeping it out wide, or around the half way line. Yes that same Wigan defence that had been much maligned all season and, according to some, was going to just collapse before City’s attacking prowess. But it didn’t. Boyce, Alcaraz and Scharner were magnificent. I don’t City were particularly bad, I just think Wigan were very good. And building on their great defence, Wigan always had an outball. They were able to find McManaman throughout the second half, and his driving runs at the city back four were clearly too much for them.
This led to a pivotal moment in the game, Zabaleta’s red card. Both yellows were for fouls on McManaman, because City just could not handle him. I really think that in McManaman Wigan have a top class player with a massive future. The sending off, as well as reducing City to 10 men, forced the to drop Yaya Toure back into sitting midfield, just a few minutes after he’d been pushed forward by Mancini, this completely killed off any City attacking threat for me.
To be honest when the sending off happened I was thinking that it gave Wigan a great chance in extra time, but hey Ben Watson decided to turn up and power home a header. This was really a goal of City’s own making. When are managers going to realise ZONAL MARKING DOES NOT WORK! City are defiantly the worst for it, and it cost them here. Watson was able to get a free run at it because Rodwell was standing off slightly in his ‘zone’. If Rodwell had been tight the Watson would have found it far harder to win a free header there. But hey if teams aren’t going to learn then be my guest and keep conceding from set pieces (except Liverpool, we really need to get better at it guys).
I’m absolutely thrilled for Wigan, over the 90 minutes they certainly deserved it, and they were excellent all the way through the competition. I’m also so pleased for Roberto Martinez, he strikes me as on the genuinely nice guys in football, and he deserves a lot of credit for getting his tactics spot on today. Congrats, and I’ll look forward to seeing them in Europe next year.
So there you have it, my take on why the FA cup is so special, and why Wigan came out on top on the day.