Prior to the staging of the English FA Cup quarter-final ties, much of the preview talk featured the possibility of Roberto Martinez winning the trophy in consecutive seasons while managing two different clubs. By the completion of the matches, there was the unlikely scenario of Wigan Athletic retaining the FA Cup against all of the odds.
Everton were dispatched 4-1 by Arsenal and so ending the dream of Martinez, but since Uwe Rosler was appointed as manager of Wigan in December 2013, the team has demonstrated a resurgence in form with clear prospects of qualifying for the Championship play-offs and the ensuing possibility of a swift return to the Premier League.
Having completed five successive wins before their FA Cup quarter-final tie at Manchester City, Wigan began the match in good form but were given little chance against a team chasing a quadruple trophy target, having secured the Capital One League Cup title during the previous weekend.
Maybe the looming Champions League tie at Barcelona was uppermost in the minds of the Manchester City staff and players alike with a subsequent effect on their performance, but Wigan deserved their 2-1 win to beat their opponents for the second successive season in the competition. At times they were reduced to desperate defending in a frantic second half but a semi-final against Arsenal now awaits Wigan and the Gunners will not relish the task as three Premier League teams have now been eliminated by Wigan in this season’s competition.
It is now nine years since Arsenal won a domestic trophy and the pressure on Arsene Wenger to secure this season’s FA Cup will be immense especially as they have been installed as firm favourites by the bookmakers. Yet on their previous appearance at Wembley, the Gunners were beaten by lowly Birmingham City in 2011 final of the Football League Cup and they will not wish for a repeat performance.
The winners of Arsenal versus Wigan semi-final will play either Hull City or Sheffield United offering the possibility of teams from outside the Premier League contesting the final. For League One Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough, the competition offers the prospect of him achieving a feat which was beyond his famous father Brian by lifting the FA Cup Trophy as a manager.
No doubt his opposite number at Hull City will have other ideas as Steve Bruce attempts to earn his first significant silverware as a manager. Hull have reached the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 1930 and beat Capital One Cup runners-up Sunderland without the cup-tied front pairing of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, but still managed a comfortable 3-0 success.
Both semi-finals will be staged on the weekend of April 12-13th at Wembley, and they will be fiercely contested affairs, but there a few signs that Wigan are willing to relinquish their hold on the famous trophy.