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Arsenal 2 Wigan Athletic 0

A mixture of an early week tube strike and a carpet of snow sprinkled over the capital in the last 48 hours has turned London into something resembling the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah. London folk are an incredibly panicky people, deeply engendered by routine. Any threat to the comfortable humdrum is regarded as the sighting of the first three horsemen of the apocalypse. It was therefore disappointing, but not surprising to see so many empty seats at the Grove last night for a fixture that was sold out a long time in advance. I expect at the very reasonable prices (£10 lower tier, £20 upper, £5 for kiddies and old codgers), people are more likely to consider their tickets expendable. But suffice to say had this been a Champions League semi final taking place in the snow, people wouldn`t have regarded it as a problem. For all the talk from the fan base about taking the competition seriously this season, the stay aways confirmed that this is still very much 4th on our priority list.

Arsenal went with a very attacking 4-4-2 line up, with Vela and Walcott manning the wings and van Persie playing a withdrawn striker role behind Bendtner. It`s a formation we`ve moved to late in games we`ve been chasing this season and it`s not really clicked on those occasions, so trying to build some resilience by utilising it was perhaps a forward thinking idea. Arsenal took as little as 90 seconds to forge their first chance. Robin van Persie swung a devilish free kick in from the right hand side, Wigan tried to push up and play offside to no avail and Nicklas Bendtner was left with a free header, but he had perhaps too much time and space to think about what he was doing and ended up not connecting at all. Thereafter, Wigan were well drilled and organised enough to render Arsenal`s advances somewhat impotent as the Gunners struggled to create. But a piece of van Persie ingenuity created the most inviting of openings shortly before the half hour mark. As Jack Wilshere played the ball into van Persie with his back to goal, the Dutchman`s impudent flick set Carlos Vela clear. Vela was already close to the keeper when he received the ball, so he was quite correct to attempt his trademark lift over the keeper, but the execution erred slightly and the ball drifted wide.

A fairly soporific half was brought to life as the opening period ambled towards conclusion, Eboue powered down the right to deliver a cross to the front post where Vela flicked a header just wide of the far post. The pressure told four minutes before half time, Theo Walcott whipped in a teasing left wing corner, Bendtner looked poised to flick it on but missed, which perhaps wrong footed Alcaraz, as the ball cannoned off the Wigan skipper and into the net. Note to other top flight clubs, Arsenal are still the only side in the Premiership classy enough not to announce the name of an own goal scorer. Arsenal should have had cause to work the larynx of the stadium announcer on the cusp of the interval, yet another gorgeous van Persie pirouette set Carlos Vela completely through on goal, but he stumbled comically as he collected the ball. He needs a goal very badly. Wigan`s sole opportunity of note came from a Ben Watson corner, Koscielny`s clearance cannoned towards goal off of Boselli but Szczesny showed great reactions to claw the ball out, van Persie sliced his clearance onto the roof of his own net. The biggest and most sustained cheer of a very chilly night came with the announcement that Wes Ham were leading Manchester United by two goals. Wembley winked just slightly on the horizon. Arsenal`s tempo was slightly more pleasing in the second half and the visitors were restricted to creating the square root of sod all upfront.

Walcott became more involved in the second half; he careered to the by line and delivered a cross which Nicklas Bendtner headed over. But the home side virtually made the result safe half way through the second half with a wonderfully worked goal. Wilshere fed van Persie again, who shifted the ball left to Carlos Vela. Vela slid a first time cross across the six yard area which Nicklas Bendtner gratefully scooped into the net. Wigan never looked likely to get back into the game and Arsenal didn`t look like letting them back in either, for the first time in eons, the last quarter of an Arsenal game was not spent gnashing teeth and clenching fists. Indeed, Arsenal should really have made the score line more respectable. Firstly, when Vela played Theo Walcott through on goal and Walcott opened out his body but curled his Henry-esque finish narrowly wide. Secondly, when Denilson`s through ball found Samir Nasri who skipped around the keeper but saw his effort cleared off the line by Callum Mcmanaman. News poured through of Manchester United`s 4-0 implosion at Upton Park, leaving Arsenal hot favourites to claim the League Cup. But we have seen already this season that unexpected results have become something of a norm; so no need to start reaching for the silver polish just yet. The performance was a controlled and professional one. One might find some angst in some of the finishing yet again (Vela was guilty in this regard, but in fairness, still had an effective game) and more pleasing was the resolution of Koscielny and Djourou. Wigan played to hit Arsenal on the counter attack, but Denilson and Wilshere did not over commit and were able to repel Wigan`s rather blunt attacks. The likes of Walcott, Bendtner and van Persie got some much needed minutes and Kieran Gibbs still looks a strong challenger for the left back slot. The competition now represents a good chance to get a monkey off our backs and provide a launch pad for this squad. I just hope that, if we don`t win the trophy, the stay aways don`t accuse the team of lacking the appetite for it.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 27.EBOUE, 20.DJOUROU, 6.KOSCIELNY, 28.GIBBS, 14.WALCOTT, 15.DENILSON, 19.WILSHERE (40.Eastmond `73), 11.VELA, 10.v.PERSIE c (8.Nasri `73), 52.BENDTNER (41.E.Thomas `82). Unused: 3.Sagna, 23.Arshavin, 49.Shea, 50.Nordtveit.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday December 1 2010

Time: 12:07PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
I guess most would take anything that comes our way but you know the competition ain't worth much when even Wigan can't bring themselves to take it too seriously. Still if we can continue to win without having to put in any energy sapping performances ourselves then it's a competition that could still raise an ironic cheer.
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01/12/2010 13:47:00

We've got to go for it if only to shut up the media who take great delight in reeling out the old stat that "Wenger hasn't won a trophy in 6 years" (Even though it's actually five). So yeah, not the most prestegious piece of silverware, but with us in with a shout for all competitions left this season, it would be a good starting block. That said we need to stop talking like we've already won it, because we know how it ends when our club gets complacenet.
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01/12/2010 14:22:00

Gutted that Nordvieldt didn't get a run out, Eboue was effin terrible and has been for a while.
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01/12/2010 14:57:00

Agreed, Eboue has had a very poor campaign this time around. Last season he had nudged himself to the point of being picked for home games and Sagna for away games. Right now, I wouldn't have Eboue washing Sagna's kit.
Little Dutch
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01/12/2010 15:06:00

I was not too sure why they brought Nasri on. Game pretty much safe at 2-0 considering Wigan had no attacking threat, and with fabregas out seeemed like a pointless risk. Its not as if he needs the minutes, maybe he was too cold on the bench.
Report Abuse
01/12/2010 15:25:00

Theres still a problem with the 5 tickets... pitch invasions. At least 5 14 year olds ran on for absolutely no reason. Even after the final whistle! I know our kids normally get a run out in the CC but I think that was taking it too far.
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01/12/2010 16:26:00

Bit concerning that one pitch invade was able to get all the way over to AW unchallenged. Questions should be asked internally amongst the security folk when Eboue is tackling pitch invaders. (Better than he was tackling opposition wingers as it turns out).
Little Dutch
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01/12/2010 16:30:00

"Even after the final whistle!" - well that's just good manners, shirley?
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01/12/2010 16:38:00

Eboue's legs were camoflauged in the snow last night. If he can't see them he can't control them.
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01/12/2010 16:39:00

I guess we are a well mannered bunch. Or maybe there is a small contingent who are really really excited about the CC this year.
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01/12/2010 16:40:00

Nice showing from Vela. Granted he lacked his usual deft touch in front of goal but he remained involved in the play, looked dangerous when running at defenders on the left and supplied a sublime assist on Bendtner's goal. Encouraging.
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01/12/2010 16:48:00

I'm gutted you didn't even rise to the nod to Lesley Nielsen :'(
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01/12/2010 16:49:00

Maybe he was, Paul. There are some players who need their "engine oiled" frequently to avoid stuttering. Lol. As for Eboue, he has been shocking and I smelt trouble when he began to proclaim that he was not too worried about being a squad player (or something like that) as long as the team is doing well. No football player should be saying that when the drive is to play always. He seems to have resigned himself to being Sagna's 'kit washer' rather than his rival for a place. That cannot be good for him or the club.
Report Abuse
01/12/2010 17:32:00

Sorry shewore, I got it but I couldn't think of another one to drop! Apparently Arsenal are issuing lifetime bans to the 5 teenagers who ran onto the pitch last night.
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01/12/2010 17:48:00

ok ok, dont call me shirley.
Report Abuse
01/12/2010 17:49:00

I was about to post "They are well mannered, but don't call them Shirley. RIP" ... but you didn't give me chance.
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01/12/2010 17:54:00

I don't think those boys would've run onto the pitch if we were still chasing a winner. Boys will be boys. I wasn't close enough but didn't Wenger try and stop him and didn't Eboue offer his thermal shirt thingy to stop the last one. Eboue what a character!
Report Abuse
01/12/2010 19:14:00

So Ipswich it is. Could have been worse. But the last thing we need now is complacency.
Report Abuse
02/12/2010 05:25:00

The thing that worries me about the invaders are the stewards. I'm upper tier so the ones near me obviously weren't to blame, but I've been saying for a while that they seem to be more interested in making friends with the Season Ticket Holders (like myself) than ensuring the safety and security within the ground. On a seperate note, I think the draw puts even more pressure on us to win this thing now!
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02/12/2010 09:21:00


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