Arsenal 4 (Podolski 11, Walcott 63, Podolski 68, Ramsey 71) – Wigan 1 (Maloney 45)
Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
So, things are a lot clearer and brighter this morning, as Arsenal trounced an exhausted Wigan side 4-1 to emerge as favorites to finish in the top 4 along with Chelsea, and consigned the Lancashire side, who had won the FA Cup less than 3 days earlier to life in the Championship next season.
There were no surprises in either lineup with Arsene Wenger opting for only one change to the side that won at QPR, Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left back. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez named the same lineup that started against Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
The game, billed as a must win game for both sides, for completely different reasons started in Arsenal’s favor. Wigan, looking to plot the great escape again were immediately on the back foot, as the Gunners started in earnest in their bid to pip Sp*rs to 4th spot again.
Cazorla had the first shot on goal, as a Walcott cross bounced right in front of him, and the diminutive Spaniard’s header glanced narrowly wide. Arsenal didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal. A Santi Cazorla corner was headed in by Lukas Podolski as Per Mertesacker created enough of a diversion for his fellow German to escape the attention of his marker James McCarthy and guide ball home delicately.
Kieran Gibbs almost made it 2-0 when a Bacary Sagna cross across goal whizzed past him. Wigan were defending astutely, only allowing the Gunners to take shots from distance. Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott both had their shots blocked by the defence.
Wigan, however slowly settled into the game, and got a passing rhythm going. Their first opportunity of the game came when a long ball played over the top nearly reached the bustling Arouna Kone, but only for an acrobatic challenge from Laurent Koscielny to clear the danger.
Wigan now were enjoying some good possession, albeit with little penetration. Arsenal had a rare great chance to make it 2-0 when Koscielny failed to score from less than 3 yards out. And Walcott rightly had a goal disallowed for offside, having been played in by Cazorla.
Like in previous games against Fulham, Manchester United and QPR, Arsenal failed to build on impressive starts and closing out the game, and Wigan sensed their chance was coming. Mikel Arteta and Shaun Maloney went for the same ball, with the Scot making the most of a touch from the Spaniard.
Off the resulting free-kick, Maloney whipped in an accurate free-kick, that snickered the fingertips of Szczesny but the Pole wasn’t able to stop the ball from ending up in the back of the net. Scores were level at half-time, and it was Arsenal’s carelessness and profligacy more than anything that offered Wigan hope of survival.
Wigan came out in the second half bristling with confidence, and almost took a 2-1 lead. Some brisk in interpassing played in for Kone on a one-on-one with Szczesny, who made himself big and averted any danger.
James McCarthy then provided more cause for concern for the Gunners’ defence when he had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside. Arsenal, however slowly created some chances of their own.
First, Cazorla had both his close range efforts stopped by Joel Roubles, deputizing for Oman international Ali Al-Habsi, before a Rosicky shot went just wide of the post. Lukas Podolski’s header was on target but easy to catch for Roubles. Theo Walcott surged clear of Wigan’s defence, but with either the goalkeeper to shoot at and Podolski to tee up, he decided to shoot, and Roubles managed to clear the danger.
The Gunners took the lead on 63 minutes, when Cazorla’s inch-perfect cross from the right fell right at the feet of Walcott who poked the ball past Roubles, who clumsily challenged for the ball with his feet. And Wigan were doomed when just 5 minutes later, a Szczesny goalkick was in turn headed up by Podolski and Cazorla to eventually set up the former who toe poked the ball into the net. 3-1 to the Gunners.
Wigan’s relegation was sealed 3 minutes later, as Aaron Ramsey latched on to a through ball, again from the magical Cazorla to create space for himself and shoot into the roof of the net.
Wigan tried, through Argentine international striker Franco di Santo, to rally with a couple of shots, but it was a case of too little, too late and too much for them as Arsenal held on to the 4-1 scoreline and send Wigan packing downwards.
Plenty of positives then. Let me start off with the attack. Though they looked toothless in the first half, a second half blitz ensured the 3 points, and you have to wonder what it will take for them to be more consistent with their scoring. Walcott now has 21 goals, to add to his 17 assists, which means he has contributed to a total of 38 goals this season. Podolski brace takes him to 16 goals and 11 assists for the season, while Cazorla’s quadruple assists takes him to 12 goals, and 15 assists for the seasons, a total of 27 goals each to which both have contributed. The suspended Olivier Giroud is not lagging too far behind, having scored 17 himself, and further assisted 12 goals.
Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky were superb yesterday, and the Welshman capped of an impressive month, with a fine goal. Mikel Arteta looked a bit weary and is a doubt for the important clash against Newcastle on Sunday. Thomas Vermaelen is being tipped to start in his place in central midfield.
The manager seems to have found the right combination at the back, with Koscielny and Mertesacker proving to be a more than reliable centre back pairing, and it will be interesting to watch how the Vermaelen situation will be dealt with.
So, 3 points and 4th spot. A win on Sunday will ensure qualification for the Champions League. As for poor Wigan, they become the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated the same season. Testing times ahead for the club and it’s fans!
Jai Arsenal 🙂