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Wigan Athletic 0 Arsenal 4

This was described to me at about 5.30 on Saturday morning as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers game. "Wigan away, Wigan away, Wigan away now." With the wind and rain audible on my window pane as the alarm sounded, the prospect of the first journey "oop North" since Blackburn in September lay ahead. The weather upon our arrival in Lancashire was the definition of dreary. Howling winds pinned back the overgrown bushes next to the away supporters` car park. The sky was greyer than gravel and the light peppering of rain took on an arctic force carried by the gale.

Attempting a pre match drink in the marquee next to the away end proved to be an enormous mistake. 35 minutes to get served and £3.65 for a pint of the black stuff. People in Lancashire are always at pains to point out how much cheaper booze is in that part of the world compared to London. Wigan did not extend those economics to their visitors. (I bet Blackburn fans paid less). In any case, we made our way through to the North Stand with the throng of 4,500 Gooners. The atmosphere, much like the game itself, struggled to settle into a captivating groove in the opening stages.

Wigan made a fast start and probably should have found themselves a goal up inside 5 minutes. Steven Gohouri`s long ball found Connor Salmon, who touched the ball down to Victor Moses. Moses found David Jones on the left hand side, whose cross was pawed away by Szczesny. The rebound fell invitingly to Jordi Gomez with the Arsenal keeper grounded. Yet somehow, Andre Santos flicked out a boot to deflect the effort wide. It was a crucial moment in the match. Had we found ourselves a goal down, the game and possibly the result could have been much, much different. Fine lines and all that.

But slowly Arsenal began to dominate the game, with Wigan sinking almost involuntarily into their own half. Arsenal hadn`t created a chance of note in the 28th minute when Vermaelen was given all the space in the world to saunter forwards from midfield and shift the ball right to Arteta. Arteta again found a Wigan midfield backing off and just begging him to shoot. He took the invitation from 25 yards; his shot seemingly providing a routine save for Al Habsi. But the Oman keeper changed his mind at the last second and decided to try and catch the ball, in cupping his hands he allowed the ball to squirm through much to our surprise at the other end of the ground.

The general consensus was that Wigan could be there for the taking with another goal before half time. As it turned out, the team responded in less than 2 minutes. Van Persie`s hanging corner made its way to the back post, Thomas Vermaelen leapt like a salmon to beat Connor Salmon in the air and head the ball in via Al Habsi`s unprotected near post. Arsenal`s first goal in over 100 corners. Vermaelen`s 4th of the season, making him more deadly than Torres and Chamakh combined.

The Gunners had the game in a chokehold. Whereas in the past you`ve had the impression that, where Arsenal are concerned, they`re more likely to have it by its ankles, dangling it from a window. But the greater maturity in the side has told significantly in recent weeks. It could have been 3-0 before half time when Gervinho probed in from the left and found an excellent ball to van Persie in a crowded area; the Dutchman took the shot first time and Al Habsi showed sharp reflexes to beat it away. Walcott collected the rebound but curled it over with his left foot.

The second half looked to be unfolding in a fairly routine manner for Arsenal. Their rhythm was only suspended via a quite outrageous refereeing decision. Steven Gohouri and Gary Caldwell collided with one another contesting the same ball; van Persie eked the ball out towards Ramsey. Ramsey smuggled his way into the area. Just as he was about to shoot, Gohouri, in his desperation, both tugged and tripped Ramsey simultaneously. Mark Clattenburg waved play on. A cowardly decision because he knew he`d have to send Gohouri off and one borne of pity for the hosts. It`s a call I very much hope he has to explain to his superiors tomorrow morning, because that was inept beyond belief.

Arsenal`s sense of injustice, married with Wigan`s relief saw Wigan up the tempo for a few minutes. Mohammad Diame cut in from the left hand side and arrowed a long cross shot just past Szczesny`s post. Arsenal however, were impervious to the brief flurry of Wigan belief. They crafted a 33 pass move http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KZjiOa7qkQ&feature=youtu.be to lull Wigan into submission and kill the game off. Arteta`s searching pass found van Persie, he deftly touched to Song first time on the edge of Wigan`s area. Song responded to van Persie`s movement, instantly playing him back in. Van Persie`s feet in tight situations must be approaching the quality and deceptiveness of Lionel Messi`s, shimmying past Gohouri, before feinting his way inside Caldwell. The right footed shot was beaten away, but Gervinho was on hand to scuff the rebound into the net. Gervinho ain`t always pretty, but he`s usually effective.

Wigan rather collapsed and you got the feeling Arsenal could have had as many goals as they wanted. Song and Ramsey played an intricate 1-2 on the edge of Wigan`s area. Song was taken out by Diame but Clattenburg played a sensible advantage, the ball squirmed through to van Persie. He once again shimmied past Caldwell, but was slightly off balance when he sent his right foot shot spinning wide from close range. But the Latics couldn`t keep van Persie out for long.

Koscielny played a smart, first time through ball to Walcott in the channel. His pace left Caldwell beleaguered, the Scottish defender diving in desperately with no avail. Once clear, Walcott had the sangfroid to look up in recognition that his angle wasn`t the best for a shot. Of course van Persie applied the run (and the smart stop when he realised Gohouri was tearing back towards his own goal line), Walcott pulled the ball back and van Persie applied the right foot finish. It`s a combination that produces results very regularly and the captain as very keen to point it out in his celebration. Van Persie is now four goals short of Shearer`s record for league goals in a calendar year, he has five games to do it. Though it should be pointed out that he has already bested Shearer`s goal average for 1995, even if he doesn`t score again in 2011. If you listened to the chant from the away fans, van Persie will slay the record. "He scores when he wants, he scores when he waaaaaaaants, Robin van Persie, he scores when he wants."

Yossi Benayoun had time to see his lob cleared off the line after Coquelin`s through ball. But all in all, Arsenal made it an easy afternoon`s work. It`s true that Wigan that never got near Arsenal, physically or otherwise- as the 33 uninterrupted passes prior to Gervinho`s goal shows. However, that sort of dominance hasn`t prevented us from crumbling before. The hallmark of this Arsenal side is their intelligence and willingness to do the dirty, unglamorous jobs. Yesterday`s performance wasn`t vintage. We just exploited every weakness Wigan showed without fuss. At full time, Wojciech Szczesny, presumably bored by his underdeployment; approached the Arsenal fans, instructed us to shush, before launching into a rendition of "We`re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen." Perhaps naively given scars accumulated in the past few years, you get the impression Arsenal means something to this group of players. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 6.KOSCIELNY, 4.MERTESACKER, 5.VERMAELEN, 11.A.SANTOS, 17.SONG (39.Coquelin `74), 8.ARTETA, 16.RAMSEY, 14.WALCOTT (30.Benayoun `74), 27.GERVINHO (23.Arshavin `74), 10.v.PERSIE(c). Unused: 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski, 26.Frimpong, 29.Chamakh.






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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 4 2011

Time: 4:27PM

Your Comments

Theo has been immense. it was fitting of the captain to lay plaudits on him. The supply for all of VP's goals have been through Theo
e dubbz
How come MOTD missed the clear penalty against Ramsey? Morons.
Sajit
e dubbz, Gervinho has been responsible for a fair few supplies to d skipper as well. L D makes a good point about our low goals per corner kick count. The team has to improve in that stat; it's even more curious when you see that we have Mertersacker who needs to be making his presence felt in those situations, whether defending it or attacking it. He seems to prefer making a nuisance of himself around the opposition goalie, which is a job for a smaller man, in my view. All round, a flawless professional performance by the lads.
Naijagunner
Lol @L.D. Vermaelen "more deadly than Torres and Chamakh combined" is about right. Hahaha!
Naijagunner
The team is developing well, building confidence and showing that they are willing to graft and grind out wins. The patience in the play right now inspires confidence and I can almost bet that if this team goes 2 goals up against any side, it is unlikely we will see any dramatic come-backs, like vs Wigan 2 seasons ago. The accuracy of our passing game is returning with only the speed of the passsing needing to be restored to the top notch levels we have come to know. December will be vital to affirm our top 4 placement aspirations this season. The top of the table is reverting to a more "acceptable" and familiar look; only one team there spoils the picture for me and the sooner they are knocked off that perch, the better -).
Naijagunner
You mean the scum from across the road right? Somethings got to give. They have had all the luck in the world so far.
Sajit
Walcott is really coming of age. van Persie is rightly drawing some plaudits, but Walcott is making it easy for Rob. Thanks for telling us what the words to that chant was too, I was trying to make it out. I like it!
Rocky7
The team seems to be bonding better then it has done in the last couple of seasons. I can really see a comradere that i think has been missing.
FuiKaka
Sajit, it will be too much to expect that, knowing what we do that our recent rejuvenated performance is egg in the faces of most of the media. Anyone notice how the commentators were almost willing Wigan on and appeared to offering coaching tips to the team (not much help when they aren't in the dugout), all to remove from the game we played.
Naijagunner
i think one of main reasons to our rejuvenation is that we are going back to the basic. everyone is doing what they are supposed to do dutifully i.e. gervinho & walcott attacking the fullbacks and supplying crosses like true wingers to our hitman rvp without crowding out the box (we used to have cm-converted wingers. now at least we have forward-converted wingers who are more direct); ramsey & arteta willingness to run from box to box and shoot from distance (not to mention their mazy passes & fantastic vision); song providing a solid shield right in front of the defence; a back four that are strong in the air and do not play high line defending dangerously (we never had that since the legendary 4) and last but not least, a safe pair of hands that gives confidence to players in front. i reckon that we are less prone to counter attacks lately because koz & santos are more displined as fullbacks. i believe gervinho & walcott’s ability to take on a few players when they are on the move has greatly reduced our risk of being counter-attacked because our fullbacks are now making less unnecessarily overlapping runs which exposed us in the past.
Joe_@**
Wigan's tactics were quite poor, having just one striker up front with no service the entire game. But this was a solid performance from the Arsenal. This was the 1st goal from 179 corners, which is an amazing stat, but at least something seems to be improving in this aspect. There needs to be at least a threat from set pieces and corners, and that has happened with Vermaelen coming back into the side. I've sang praises of Theo before, he continues to deliver the final ball, continues to contribute defensively as well. To add to Joe's point above, one more basic that this team has added is the defensive cover that the wide players offer, in Gervinho and Theo, which is a huge improvement from previous seasons and contributes to an assured defence.
prits
Talk about luck. The Geordies are beginning to feel the pressures of staying in the top four. They have not been lucky with injuries in the past week. Wenger says the most consistent team will pick up the title and i believe injuries will play a big part in the positions of the top 6 as it stands. I don't think its too much to ask but I wish for an injury free season to our key players. Cos whether the media want to admit it or not, Arsenal is not a one man team. Theo and Gerv are key to our attack. We started records more clean sheets when Verm resumed playing and the midfield has a more solid and defensive look rather than the rampant, shapeless, attacking look we have seen in yesterseasons. Well done lads
Guyfox
Dare I say we look a better side than last year with Cesc, Nasri et al? Szczesny is obviously a better goalie than we've had recently. For all Nasri's technical ability, bar the spell last season, he seldom hurt the opposition enough, so Gervinho is an improvement on him. The only one we really miss is Cesc, but you could argue we relied on his 'A' game too much and now we're more balanced in midfield/attack creativity. Santos for me is preferable to Clichy and Mertesacker is a calming influence at the back. Arteta adds the maturity we've been missing in midfield. The question I keep asking myself is who will Wilshere replace when he's back??
Gooner_Vin
Wilshere will rotate with Arteta / Ramsey when he is back. Right now, there is no breather for Arteta or Ramsey, with only Coquelin a replacement for Song, and Benayoun an occasional starter.
prits
Gooner Vin Fair points that you make, but in reply to your ending question, don't forget that there will be injuries and suspensions between now and Wilshere's return.
grouvillegooner
Robin may score when he wants but Arsenal are going to win exactly the same s amount of silverware as Wigan that's diddly squat.
Laticus
Sure, we'll always rotate, but who would be our first choice 11 if all were fit? Also, is anyone else thinking we should get Anelka as cover for RvP given he's handed his transfer request at Chavksi?
Gooner_Vin
 

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