Wigan 0 Arsenal 1: Just Enough in the Tank
The world of Arsenal almost came to an end when the team was embarrassed by fourth-tier Bradford City in the Capital One quarterfinal. Arsene Wenger needed a response from his team and the Santi Cazorla-inspired thrashing of Reading restored a bit of pride.
Wigan Athletic offered the Gunners a different prospect as they are a team renowned for their doggedness and ability to frustrate teams in their famous ground, DW Stadium. As expected, Arsene Wenger fielded an unchanged lineup from the side that ran riot against Reading with three points there for the taking.
So much fuss has been made about Theo Walcott and his abilities to play through the middle but Wenger saw it fit to give the Englishman the nod ahead of Olivier Giroud. Maybe it’s a ploy to make him sign his new deal that has been a thorn in Arsenal’s flesh all season long.
The bloke had stated that it was never about the money but he wanted to play through the middle. Friendly reminder mate, you’ve had two games in a row through the middle – so sign da fucking ting.
The game itself was a somewhat scrappy affair but both sides showed off glimpses of quality as the game progressed. Arsenal drew first blood when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was allowed to get a sight at goal. He fired the ball at Ali Al-Habsi’s near post but the goalie did well to parry the ball to safety.
Wigan soaked up some pressure before springing on the break. Arouna Kone had a great chance to tee up an unmarked Ronnie Stam on his right hand side but he invoked the spirit of Gervinho to dally on the ball before it was intercepted by Per Mertesacker. Maybe it’s an Ivorian thing – dallying on the ball when there better options elsewhere.
Lukas Podolski wasn’t having much joy on the left hand side and he got some jeers from the crowd when he killed a bird in the sky with an attempted shot on goal. He almost provided an assist for Theo Walcott but the Englishman’s shot was blocked by the Wigan rearguard.
The chance of the game arrived when Franco di Santo went on a slalom run before sending a sumptuous through ball to Arouna Kone. With Kone and Mertesacker charging for the ball, there was only going to be one winner and within moments, the Ivorian was clean on Wojciech Szczesny’s goal, only to miss the chance with a gaping goal in front of him.
Jack Wilshere was on the end of some rash tackles all game long, but late on, he was brandished a yellow card for a lounge at a Wigan player, despite getting to the ball first.
Arsenal began the second half on a brighter note and some good work from the right hand side was almost rewarded with a befitting goal the intricate play deserved, only for Al-Habsi to pop up with the goods yet again. Cazorla sent a delicious pass in behind the Wigan back line to the Ox that wasted no time in drilling the ball to Walcott’s path. The forward fired a one-time shot that was saved by the Omani goalie.
Shortly afterwards, Arsenal sprung an attack from the left but Kieran Gibbs’ aberration of a cross was contolled by Walcott on the right hand side. After a neat one-two with Santi Cazorla, Walcott was impeded in the box by Jean Beausejour, leaving the referee with no choice than to point to the spot.
Mikel Arteta placed the ball on the penalty spot and there was no Giroud to challenge him this time to play the penalty. The Spaniard dispatched the ball past Al-Habsi to put the Gunners one goal to the good.
Beausejour tried to atone for the penalty he conceded when he was free on the left hand side but his shot was as shocking as his performance all game long.
Arsenal had a chance to make it two when Cazorla fired a cross into Wigan’s danger area but Walcott’s dummy was intercepted by a defender. If the dummy was successful, Lukas Podolski would have had a clear cut chance at goal and we all know how clinical that German Machine is.
Maynor Figueroa let one rip from distance after a goalmouth scramble from a corner kick and Kone fired another goalward shot that was blocked by Szczesny. David Jones had a shot at goal that left Szczesny rooted to the spot but the ball missed by a lick of paint.
Wenger brought in some fresh legs in the forms of Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin for the Ox and Podolski. Ramsey took on the unfamiliar right position while Coquelin’s presence in midfield allowed Cazorla to drift to the left hand side.
Late on, Wigan had claims for a penalty when a shot fired straight at Gibbs was blocked by his arm but the pleas of the home side fell on deaf ears. Wenger didn’t want to take any chances, so he brought Laurent Koscielny for Cazorla to sure up things at the back.
The dying moments of the game were pretty much nervy from an Arsenal perspective, as there was this gut feeling that Wigan could creep in an equalizer but the Gunners had just enough in the tank to see out the attacking threat Wigan posed all game long.
In Wenger’s post-match conference, he spoke about the toughness of the fixture and threw more light on giving Walcott another shot through the middle,
“I wouldn’t like to judge him on one game. For me he has the ingredients to play there. I wouldn’t like to judge him on one game. He did not have much service today, he was a bit isolated. He can always be decisive, even if he does not have the greatest service. Today he made the decision because he got the penalty.”
When all things where gloomy a few weeks back, Arsenal’s second win on the trot has propelled them to third place for the time being, with Chelsea hosting Aston Villa today. A tricky tie against Newcastle comes up next and Arsenal’s mettle will be tested yet again.
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