Arsenal 4 Wigan Athletic 0
Having not played at home for some three and a half weeks, it was almost as if the season were starting again in balmy late summer sunshine. If it felt as though an age had elapsed since the last visit to the Grove in terms of time, in terms of incident it had been several lifetimes- giving us plenty to chew over with our pre match pints in the Arsenal Tavern. The club had even had time to do a little light redecorating, with the "Legends in Arms" mural visible from the North Bridge- an animation featuring Bastin, Brady, Adams and Henry linking arms and eras. The sense of time passing once again encapsulated, albeit pictographically on this occasion. The lower tier now features pictures and quotes of Messrs Bergkamp, Chapman, Wenger and Wright. Strangely, I couldn`t see a picture anywhere of a beaming Adebayor with the quote, "Double My Money or else I`m off" underneath it. No doubt he`ll be bleating to the press any day now about his admission and how he "can`t understand it."
We settled into the game very quickly, obviously scenting the chance for a straightforward three points without the need for diving controversies, ludicrous own goals or undue antagonism. With the Latics leaving Rodallega forward on his own, Gallas strode forwards with purpose, slipping a ball into the right channel for Eboue, his pull back found van Persie at an awkward angle and he clipped his shot wide. It wouldn`t be the first time a centre half would stride forward to great effect in attack. The Gunners were warming up and Fabregas split the Wigan defence with a ball to Eduardo on the left, his cross reached the back post where Eboue tried to punch it into the net and was cautioned for his trouble. The very amusing and ironic sight of Fabregas going down clutching his head only for Eboue to pick him up off the ground was an irony not missed by many. Presumably he would have had sage words for his captain along the lines of "Up you get you big Jesse; you wouldn`t see me rolling around like that!" It was a matter of time before the floodgates opened and Arsenal`s new found danger from set pieces bore fruit once more. Van Persie swung in a wicked delivery and the Verminator climbed uncompromisingly to bullet a header past Kirkland. Though it would be suspect defending of a set piece that would nearly lead to an equaliser, Koumas` delivery was initially misjudged by Mannone, but he recovered well to claw Boyce`s header away, a scramble ensued but Arsenal survived.
Eboue was at the heart of most of what was threatening about Arsenal and he should have scored shortly after when Fabregas slipped another tantalising ball between full back and centre back for Eboue to home in on goal, but his radar was culpable as he dragged a shot wide of the far post. The Gunners would get even closer to an elusive second on the stroke of half time. Fabregas again the architect, clipping a ball into van Persie inside the area, the Wigan defence was slow in stepping up, leaving him onside as he chest trapped the ball, swivelled and scuffed his volley agonisingly wide with Eduardo sniffing around like the penalty area bloodhound we know him to be. The home side had made easy work of the first half with Wigan sitting too deep and not prepared to press the ball. These were both mistakes in evidence at the beginning of the second half which prompted Arsenal`s second goal. Vermaelen carried the ball forwards from his own half, with no challenge he manoeuvred the ball to Eboue on the edge of the area, Eboue tucked it back and Vermaelen clipped a nonchalant first time shot into the top corner with his left foot for a finish one could describe as "van Persieesque." The goal also moved Vermaelen to the summit of Arsenal`s top scorers` chart, with his centre half partner Gallas in behind him on 3.
It was not long until Arsenal had a third. Van Persie again held the ball up excellently on the edge of the area, played the ball into Clichy running down the right, he checked the ball onto his favourite left foot and played another in a series of excellent Arsenal crosses to Eduardo, the Crozilian`s effort cannoned off the post and Eduardo displayed his striker`s instinct by connecting with the rebound which was taken into the net via the instep of Eboue. After the events of this fixture last year, Eboue just had to score and it capped a fine match for him, his ability to create space either with his dribbling or his relentless running at the Wigan backline was a source of consistent nuisance. On this occasion, when he was substituted he was given a standing ovation and deservedly so. He also became Arsenal`s 14th different goal scorer this season, an impressive statistic that demonstrates the fluidity of the new system. Though I would say the lack of protection for the full backs, still evident yesterday, remains a cause of concern. But the Reds were in the mood and Alex Song nearly became scorer number fifteen when he went on a mazy run past three Wigan defenders before steering a shot onto the base of the post with his left foot. It was a remarkably similar effort to the one he registered against Wigan in Lancashire last season. Wigan thought they had a barely deserved consolation, Jason Scotland turned in the box, Mannone pushed his shot onto the post with Scharner tucking home the rebound, albeit from an offside position.
Arsenal applied a coat of gloss to the score line in injury time. Bendtner received the ball on the right hand side; he whipped in an excellent low cross which a still grimacing Fabregas turned into the net cleverly with his instep from close range. A more intentional turn of the boot than Eboue`s effort was anyway! It had been a simple, no nonsense win and a clean sheet to boot. Wigan made it simple for us as the occasion got to them and they did not press the ball as an away side needs to at the Grove. That Vermaelen and Gallas were so often allowed to begin attacks with such comfort and Fabregas was given license to thread and weave passes whilst Eboue hammered at their full backs and van Persie`s hold up play left Wigan with persistent fouls on him as the only recourse, the visitors were quite simply overwhelmed by Arsenal`s precision in attack. It is the turn of the young players next, having not had a home game in so long, the Gunners find they don`t have to leave London again until next month`s trip to Holland for AZ Alkmaar and a good chance to work up a head of steam as they save on the air miles.LD.
Team: 24.MANNONE, 3.SAGNA, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 22.CLICHY, 17.SONG, 4.FABREGAS(c), 2.DIABY (16.Ramsey '66), 27.EBOUE (7.Rosicky '73), 9.EDUARDO (52.Bendtner '73), 11.v.PERSIE.
Unused; 18.Silvestre, 19.Wilshere, 28.Gibbs, 53.Szczesny.