Watching the Wigan fans cavorting as their team secured a second highly unlikely FA Cup victory over Manchester City in 10 months, it was very easy to imagine that instead of a few thousand from Lancashire dressed in blue being over the moon, it was thousands clad in red in North London that were celebrating with joy and abandon on Sunday.
Before the game, the draw was made for the semi-final, pitting the winners of City vs. Wigan against Arsenal, who had beaten Everton rather convincingly the day before. Rather than the ostensibly cushy option of either Sheffield United or Hull, it seemed Arsenal would have to face City, loaded with astonishing amounts of talent and, given Arsene Wenger's side's record against the bigger boys recently, their dreams of another trophy looked dashed once more.
Some fans tried to employ reverse psychology:
There is literally NO CHANCE of Wigan winning today. None. At all. Not even slim. Nope. Not gonna happen. No way, no how.— arseblog (@arseblog) March 9, 2014
And hey! It worked! Instead of Aguero, Silva and Nasri, Arsenal will face Fortune, McClean and Perch—perfectly decent players all, but not quite in the same league as Manuel Pellegrini's billionaires—in the semi-final at Wembley, after Uwe Rosler masterminded Wigan to a remarkable rearguard win at the Etihad Stadium.
While this obviously presents a rather more straightforward path to silverware for Arsenal, it does bring with it its own pressures. They really now have no excuses if they don't lift the FA Cup, given that the highest-ranked team they will have to face to do so is 13th in the Premier League, and they have already beaten Hull once this season.
Of course, Arsenal have been here before. It looked impossible for them not to win the League Cup back in 2011 when they faced Birmingham, who were in the process of being relegated, in the final. But through a combination of nerves and a comical mix-up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny, they somehow contrived to lose.
It has, of course, been nine years since Arsenal last lifted a trophy, and since they won the 2005 FA Cup, Jose Mourinho has gathered four league titles in three different countries, as well as the Champions League and four domestic cups, seemingly only pausing to belittle Arsene Wenger.
Mourinho said in February, as quoted by Sky Sports:
He is a specialist in failure, I am not. If he is right and I have a fear of failure it is because I don't fail many times. So maybe he is right?
The reality is he's a specialist because eight years without a piece of silverware, that is failure. If I did that in Chelsea I would leave London and not come back.
The Arsenal players are certainly making the right noises. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as quoted by The Guardian, said at the weekend:
We want to be excited but approach it very professionally, calm and cool as we can. Hopefully we can get through and get to the final. Every step, every round you go through, you get that little bit closer and you get hungrier and hungrier for the end result.
The right noises are all well and good, but if Arsenal fail to take this golden opportunity, one fears for their prospects of winning any sort of trophy in the near future, and should call Wenger to seriously consider his position in the summer.