Arsenal 1 Wigan 2: Complacency Creeps in Yet Again
As expected, the atmosphere in the Emirates was vibrant as the relegation-threatened Wigan came to town. Since that disappointing home defeat to Manchester United in January, the Emirates has become a fortress with juggernauts like Tottenham, AC Milan and Manchester City incurring the wrath of the Cannon.
In a game of numerous milestones, Alex Song geared himself up for his 200th Arsenal appearance while Mr. Consistency, Bacary Sagna was set to grace the club with his 150th Premier League appearance.
Wojciech Szczesny had recorded four clean sheets in his last five games while the back four of Andre Santos, Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou and Bac the Man was Arsene Wenger’s 18th defensive combo this season.
Early on, Vermaelen let one rip from distance but the ball drifted wide. After some intricate passing play, Sagna swung in a deep cross that was headed goalwards by the Isreali Rabbi, Yossi Benayoun but Wigan’s goalie, Ali Al-Habsi made a top-drawer save.
Against the run of play, Wigan got on the score sheet when a misplaced header from Sagna upfield saw the Latics launch a swift counter attack that put Arsenal on the wrong foot. An incisive through ball from Jordi Gomez saw Franco di Santo clean through with Szczesny.
The goalie did his bit to put the forward under pressure but the goal-shy Argentine forward dinked it over Szczesny before guiding the ball to an unguarded net. That was his first goal in 17 games or so.
Arsenal’s cause wasn’t helped when the ever-present and reliable Mikel Arteta suffered an injury only to be replaced by the Arsenal’s newest scapegoat since Andrey Arshavin’s departure, Aaron Ramsey.
It got a whole lot worse when Victor Moses showed off some goal footwork to evade Sagna and drill a cross that was converted by Jordi Gomez after a stroke of fortune on his side. Certainly not the start Arsene Wenger and the fans envisaged after just seven minutes of play.
Rosicky flicked the ball for Benayoun who nodded the ball to the top corner but Al Habsi came up with the goods for Wigan again. There was no denying Arsenal again when Rosicky sent in a lovely cross that was headed home by Vermaelen.
The goal injected some life into the Emirates and the fans believed that they might witness one of those Bolton (4-2) or Blackburn (6-2) nights. Vermaelen, who was having a storming game attacked the ball from a corner and it fell kindly to the player in the right place at the wrong time, Johan Djourou. However, his effort missed by a lick of paint.
Andre Santos fired a shot from the left, forcing Al Habsi to make a save but his parried effort evaded van Persie and Theo Walcott. Moses had the better of Sagna before firing a shot that was saved by Szczesny. Victor Moses had another glorious from a Maynor Figueroa throw-in but he blasted the ball straight at Szczesny.
Wenger withdrew Benayoun for Le Forehead. After countless minutes of more frustration, he brought on the Ox for Djourou. The Gunners huffed and puffed but Wigan built their defensive house with bricks, unlike Blackburn that built theirs with twigs and Tottenham with straws.
The last noteworthy highlight from an Arsenal point of view was a blatant shove on Walcott by Figueroa but the ref was having none of it. Arsenal had scored seven goals this season after the 85th minute but there was no late drama at the Emirates, just sheer frustration.
Szczesny (7.0) conceded two quick-fire goals but still made important saves to keep Arsenal in the contest.
Sagna (6.0) was torn apart by Victor Moses and even got a head bashing for his troubles.
Djourou (6.5) wasn’t half bad but he could have done better with his effort on goal.
Vermaelen (8.0) was a fighter at the back and scored a brilliant header. He has now scored more goals against the Latics (4) than any other team in his career.
Andre Santos (7.0) showed off his attacking verve and did okay defensively.
Song (6.5) tried to be too elaborate with his passing when a simple short pass to the next man would have made more sense. I’m happy he notched up his 200th appearance for Arsenal though.
Rosicky (9.0) was in imperious form and was behind every meaningful attack Arsenal offered. It hurts to know that he’s 31, as he unfortunately spent his best years on the treatment table instead of the pitch. He had an 83% pass accuracy, 87 touches, six through balls, four long balls and one assist (via @YoungGunsBlog)
Walcott (5.5) was a peripheral figure on the pitch and couldn’t even skip past Beausejour throughout the game. Back to his inconsistent best.
Benayoun (7.0) was denied twice by excellent pieces of goalkeeping from Ali Al Habsi. Had he scored against Wigan, Arsenal would have been the fourth club he would have scored Wigan with. He has scored the Latics in his West Ham, Liverpool and Chelsea days.
Van Persie (7.0) had a few good touches here and there but his goalscoring crown is heavily threatened by Manchester United’s Shrek, that has more future penalties to convert.
Ramsey (6.0) killed the tempo of the game with his annoying ball retention skills. Mikel Arteta was sorely missed and its unfortunate to know that the Spaniard was seen wearing a protective boot and using clutches.
Gervinho (5.5) had little or no impact on the game and offered absolutely nothing in the final third. The way his form has waned is a serious cause for concern.
Chamberlain (7.0) was very direct in his play and sent in a few good crosses that weren’t converted.
Well, we are back to that familiar bitter feeling a defeat brings and as expected, Gooners went haywire on Twitter raining the usual curses at the scapegoat Ramsey and his cohorts.
It’s worth noting that the initial damage had already been done before Ramsey arrived on the pitch but I have a big hunch that Akon released the remix of his hit track, Blame It On Me and featured the Welsh captain.
The quote of the day goes to my pal, Chuma Enwezor,
@Chumzeerox: “What shall it profit a club to win Manchester City and loose to Wigan”
In other news, this humbling loss was Arsenal’s 10th defeat in the Premier League this season. Clearly not good enough.
Complacency crept in yet again, a familiar occurrence at Arsenal Football Club.
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