Wigan Athletic became the first F.A. Cup winner to be relegated from English soccer’s elite division in the same season after losing 4-1 at Arsenal, which regained control of the race for a Champions League place.
Last night’s defeat at the Emirates Stadium in London left Wigan four points behind 17th-place Sunderland with one match remaining, guaranteeing that it will join Queens Park Rangers and Reading in dropping out of the 20-team Premier League.
Demotion to the second-tier Championship after eight seasons in the top flight came three days after the Latics upset Manchester City 1-0 in the F.A. Cup final to win the first major trophy in their 81-year history.
“I never expected this to happen,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said in a televised interview. “It is a tough day for the football club. We have had an incredible eight years in the Premier League. We have to take the good things and make sure we build for the future.”
Arsenal climbed a point above Tottenham into fourth place, the final Champions League spot, and can qualify for Europe’s elite club competition for the 16th straight season by winning at Newcastle in its last match.
Manchester City, which fired manager Roberto Mancini two days ago following a trophy-less season, locked up second place behind Manchester United after beating Reading 2-0 last night. United and City had already qualified for the Champions League.
Going into the final round of games on May 19, third-place Chelsea has 72 points, Arsenal has 70 and Tottenham has 69. Chelsea and Tottenham host Everton and Sunderland, respectively.
“It is all open, but it depends on our result,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in a news conference. “Even third place is not out of sight if we win the game. I am confident because we have experience. We play for a long time under massive pressure and we have always found the solutions.”
Lukas Podolski put Arsenal ahead last night in the 11th minute and Shaun Maloney tied it for Wigan just before halftime.
Arsenal took control with three goals in eight minutes in the second half. Theo Walcott made it 2-1 in the 63rd minute, Podolski then added his second goal and Aaron Ramsey closed the scoring in the 71st minute.
Wigan’s loss ended the threat of demotion for Sunderland, Aston Villa, Fulham and Southampton, the four teams directly above it in the standings.
“The relegation is really disappointing but it is something that we can rectify,” Martinez said. “We will bounce back as we always do at Wigan Athletic. Our football style and philosophy is something for the long term.”
Cardiff City and Hull City won Premier League promotion this season by finishing first and second in the Championship. Watford and Crystal Palace playoff for the other berth May 27.
At the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Sergio Aguero got the first goal for City five minutes before halftime and Edin Dzeko added a second with two minutes left to play.
Assistant manager Brian Kidd took charge as City fans held aloft banners thanking Mancini for his contribution after guiding the club to an F.A. Cup win and first English league title since 1968 during his 3 1/2-year tenure.
“What’s gone on in the last 24 hours, it was a shock to the staff,” Kidd said in an interview with the club’s website. “If you’d have said to me before the game ‘you’re going to get three points and claim second place,’ I would have accepted that. It would have been a travesty if we hadn’t finished second.”
City said in a statement about an hour before the match that David Platt, another of Mancini’s assistant managers, had declined the offer to continue working at the club.
“He has decided to leave his role with his close friend Roberto Mancini,” read the statement on City’s website.