The bottom of the English Premier League table usually provides just as entertaining an finish to the season as the contenders for the title. The brilliance of the relegation system means that the bottom feeders will need to muster every last bit of courage and energy to keep their place in the top flight of English soccer. The reward comes with another year of excited fans as well as a boatload of money.
As recent as February, Wigan Athletic looked to be a side ready to drop. Like a fish out of water, they floundered about in last place with a mere 20 points on the season. The run in appeared dangerous, as teams such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal still resided on the upcoming fixtures list.
Wigan’s recent form has stunned the odds-makers, and the team has propelled themselves out of the drop zone. Their first upset came against Liverpool at Anfield. It was the Latics first ever win at the stadium and provided the much needed boost of confidence to make a charge.
Wigan followed up that victory with a 2-0 home win over Stoke City. Then came Chelsea. Wigan played their hearts out and Mohamed Diame appeared to have tied the match in the 82nd minute with a thunderous effort, but Chelsea went on to win with a late goal by Juan Mata. However, Chelsea’s 2-1 success was marred by the fact that both their goals were unquestionably offside. Wigan was robbed of another miraculous win over a big four club.
But, as some teams often crumble under the raw hand of fate, Wigan rose as one and responded with a 1-0 win over league leaders, Manchester United. Striker Shaun Maloney provided the winner in emphatic fashion. The game should have been more decisive as Victor Moses had a goal disallowed in the first half. For Maloney, the goal was a proud moment as the Scottish player has made few appearances this year due to injuries. Now, he is providing a spark that could save the season for Wigan.
Wigan’s revival continued the following week as they claimed their first ever points at the Emirates Stadium. Two early goals enabled the team to defeat Arsenal in a match that displayed their grit and determination to stay in the Premiership. They followed up that win with a loss to Fulham, but as a whole the run has given Wigan hope as they enter the final three matches of the season.
Newcastle will provide a stern test since they are in contention for a Champions League spot this year. Then they face Blackburn in a match that could very well decide their Premier League fate. Finally, they will play host to Wolverhampton, a team that is already assured to drop to the Championship next year. Wigan has displayed a knack as a giant killer in recent weeks, and I dearly hope that they will fight on to stay in the league next season.