Reaction: Wigan Athletic (H)

Podolski scores his first of two.

Podolski scores his first of two.

Arsenal secured an important 4-1 win against Wigan that swung the race for Champions League spots back into our favour. The Gunners began strongly before dropping off pace and getting punished. However, a quick 8 minute brace saw 3 goals netted in our favour. Wigan was relegated despite putting up a brave performance for the first hour.

 

First Half

Arsenal pushed hard early on, controlling the ball well and knocking on the Wigan defence. Walcott was especially active making most of the space on the right wing as Wigan pushed up every time they went on the offence. Wigan had hardly a sniff at goal as the Gunners retained the ball and poked it around to no effect. In the first corner of the match, Podolski nodded into the empty net as Wigan left him completely unmarked. The German scored his tenth league goal from an accurate header that evaded a mass of flailing bodies.

 

The German scored his tenth league goal from an accurate header that evaded a mass of flailing bodies.

 

With a goal up, Arsenal continued to push hard denying Wigan space in attack. Wigan was still unable to fire a shot at goal with their attacks quickly breaking down outside the Arsenal box. Gibbs did fairly well against Mcmanaman, restricting him to one good cross that was cut out by the center backs. At about the half an hour mark, Arsenal decided to defend the lead for the last 15 minutes, allowing Wigan to seize control of the match.

Wigan could not create any clear cut chances bar a good long dipping pass that Koscielny did well to acrobatically clear. However, just as things were against Man United, Arsenal conceded just before half time from a set piece. Dean made a controversial call for a free kick outside the box, Wigan’s second of the match. Maloney took it well and some blame must be attributed to Podolski who did not keep his head up when part of the wall. The free kick grazed his stooped down head and Szczesny could not do anything about it. 1-1 at half time and the crowd was disappointed after a strong start.

 

 

Second Half

Wigan emerged the stronger team having been lifted by the equalizer before half time. They were winning 50s-50s, showing better pace and strength and looked more likely to score. Arsenal had the usual trouble of having players spaced too far and wide. Passes were easily cut out and players ran into defenders with no options to slip a pass.

Wigan’s main threat, Mcmanaman, was then subbed off due to an injury. This gave Arsenal more freedom to play and liberated Cazorla from having to stay back and aid Gibbs. To be fair to the Gunners, Mcmananman was well marked throughout the game and besides one or two crosses in the first half, he was silent. Wigan had more luck finding space on the right and center as Wenger had clearly told the defence to crowd out the young winger.

 

Wigan’s high line together with the removal of their most pacey threat played right into Arsenal’s game.

 

Wigan’s high line together with the removal of their most pacey threat played right into Arsenal’s game. Santi was free to roam and gleefully rotated between Podolski and Walcott. That was how the second Arsenal goal was scored. Santi swapped to the right, Theo went central and Podolski took the left flank. Cazorla found himself in yards of space and sent a brilliant cross into the box. The onrushing Walcott bundled the ball past the keeper and into the net. There was no toe poke, just a flying Theo attempting to use his body to direct the fierce cross in. 2-1.

The game turned on its head as Arsenal scored two more in 8 minutes. Wigan pushed even higher with their backline going close to the center circle. Santi’s dinked pass to Podolski found the German in the midst of a haphazard backpedaling Wigan defence. He burst past the defence and lobbed the onrushing keeper to make 3-1. 11 league goals for Poldi.

Wigan looked beaten at this point but credit to them they continued to push. Their backline was ridiculously high at this point. Santi again turned provider as he slipped Ramsey through near the halfway line (yes, that was how high Wigan played). The Welsh cut into the box from the left with two to three good options to pass to. He had some guts to take it on his own from a tight angle and finally netted his first goal of the season. Ramsey may not be the most skilful or intelligent player we have but he has guts and belief – a never ending supply of that.

At 4-1, the game was over. Wigan looked beaten and their players were out of steam after a physically punishing FA Cup final. Arsenal made a host of changes to shore up the lead. The game played out without major events in the final 10 minutes and Wigan was relegated.

The Champions League target is well and truly on for Arsenal.

 

 

Mike Dean

Arsenal has a shockingly poor recent record with Mike Dean as referee. I won’t read too much into it. Yes, the data looks so lopsided it defies certain statistical considerations but correlation is not causation. Dean made a mistake in the free kick that led to the equalizer but he was rather fair in the first half. Dean made a few wrong decisions both ways. Some benefited Arsenal while some didn’t. Obviously, the one that will remain in the minds of Arsenal fans will be the equalizer.

 

Dean did not have a great game today but there was no obvious bias.

 

Dean started the second half with a little Wigan bias but it was not game changing. After the quickfire 3 goals scored, there was nothing much for Dean to do and he made the right calls as the game closed off. My point here is simple. Dean did not have a great game today but there was no obvious bias. He made poor calls for both sides. Arsenal benefited at the start and Wigan in the middle portion of the match.

 

 

False 9 or Giroud?

Now with Giroud back in the team for the final game, the question for the following few days will be whether to reinstate our French line leader or go with a false 9. Obviously, the four goals in this match will make most fans choose the later. I disagree.

Wigan was playing a ridiculously high line. With such a high line, speedy players like Podolski and Walcott benefited tremendously. It only took a touch outside the box to be through on goal. This very seldom occurs against Arsenal. Most teams we play will have two banks of four buried in their box. A line leader is needed.

 

Newcastle won’t be an open game like the way Wigan approached this match.

 

It is true that Newcastle has nothing to play for but they will want to close out their season in front of their fans well. They will sit back and attempt to hit us on the counter. A draw will look good on them. It won’t be an open game like the way Wigan approached this match.

There are counter arguments to the above. Maybe, our front three has finally clicked and have gotten some understanding. Why change something that has worked the past three games? Is Giroud ready to play after being out for three matches? These will be points that will be debated until Sunday’s kick off.

 

 

It’s in Our Hands

Win the game against Newcastle and we will finish fourth. If Chelsea loses, we will finish third. A Chelsea – Everton draw with us winning by a two goal margin will also allow us to finish third. However, it is foolish to think that Newcastle will be lying down waiting to be beaten. It is true that they have nothing to play for but they will want to end the season well in front of their own home supporters.

It will be a tight game. Things can change quickly. It’s all on us.

May the better team qualify.

 

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