Dominant. Impressive. Delightful to watch. I guess that was the most one sided game Arsenal have played for a long, long time. Wigan aren’t one of the league’s high fliers but any team would have struggled against Arsenal in such sublime form. But for some excellent saves by Al-Habsi and a couple of missed sitters this could have been a cricket score. I’ll happily take 3-0 anyway, thank you.
Some of the football played by Arsenal was mesmerising. Chances came at a regular interval like local trains in Mumbai. Unlike inside those trains, Arsenal found a great deal of space in attacking areas as Wigan didn’t park the bus. The visitors tried to press in the middle but Arsenal’s movement and passing was just too good for them.
Nasri was the first to test the Wigan keeper in the 4th minute. Walcott laid it on a plate for RvP after the same duration. Al-Habsi knew he was in for a big game and was showing that he won’t give in easily. Theo again found an Arsenal player free in the box in the 15th minute but Fabregas’ strike was blocked by a defensive lunge. This chance was set up by a beautiful diagonal ball by Clichy that put Walcott in behind. Minutes later the England international had his strike saved. In between all these chances Arsenal had plenty of corners and free-kicks.
At this point the believers would have felt that the first goal was just a matter of time. It arrived in the 21st minute after a spell of possession. Song played a lovely through ball to RvP who finished on the turn after being played on-side by Figueroa.
The Gunners continued to push forward and chances to double the lead were created almost at will. Walcott passed even when through on goal, Nasri didn’t generate enough power when he only had the Keeper to beat, and Cesc had some shots saved. At the end of the first half Arsenal had 13 shots, 8 on target, but only 1 goal to show for two thirds of possession and complete territorial dominance.
Martinez must have felt his side was still in with a shout even if they didn’t deserve it. The Latics manager introduced a second striker, Di Santo, and one of his key players returning from injury, James McArthur, at the start of the second half.
For the first five minutes after the restart it looked like Wigan will provide a fight and Arsenal struggled to get the ball moving. But the Gunners woke from their slumber soon enough and regained control of the game.
The second goal cushion was achieved in the 58th minute. Song took a quick, short free-kick. Fabregas controlled the ball, looked up, and dropped it on a penny for Van Persie. The Dutchman timed his run perfectly and volleyed it home. RvP generated a great deal of power on that volley without striking it very hard. Those who follow Cricket will know the concept of timing and this was a wonderful example of timing in football. Those who have played both games will know this was much tougher than timing any shot in Cricket. Van Persie made it look easy but it was another magnificent goal.
After the second goal Arsenal eased off a bit but the chances kept coming. Fabregas won a penalty and Caldwell was sent off for DOGSO in the 70th minute. I’m not sure of this but I think it came from a perfect through ball by Song. RvP had a chance to get his hat-trick but hit it over the bar.
Down to 10 men Wigan gave up all hope of coming back into the game and played for damage control. Arsenal took it easy as the pace of the game dropped.
No match with RvP is complete unless the striker rattles the woodwork. He did so minutes after missing the penalty.
With five minutes to go the Dutchman did complete his hat-trick. Cesc played another delightful ball for the run of Walcott who wasn’t able to take it in his stride. The youngster did well to hold off the pressure from the defender while Van Persie came and finished it off with his right foot.
In the whole game, Wigan only managed three shots with none on target. I thought it was a complete team performance from Arsenal with all the players doing well.
Szczesny: Had a picnic.
Sagna: Good work up and down the right. Showed good understanding with Walcott.
Djourou: Read the game well, showed composure when needed. Rarely troubled.
Koscielny: Same as Djourou.
Clichy: Excellent. Looked like the Clichy of old. Good interceptions, couple of lovely diagonal balls, did well against N’Zogbia.
The back five were very solid and never looked like conceding. Fourth Premiership clean sheet in a row and one that was fully deserved.
Song: Strong in tackle and tracking back, provided the final pass on a couple of occasions.
Cesc: On another day he might have scored 3. Opened Wigan up time and again. Looked like he was enjoying himself.
Wilshere: Steady game. Kept it simple. Had a couple of exciting moments in the second half.
The midfield owned the pitch with their movement, passing, tackling, and interceptions.
Walcott: Made some perfectly timed runs, excellent intelligent crosses, could have had a hat-trick of assists, should have scored when he got through.
RvP: He’s back. Now he must stay! Excellent runs and finishing, put Walcott through with a delightful ball on a counter-attack, should have done better with the penalty but it was the only blip and an uncharacteristic one at that. Was this his first hat-trick for Arsenal? I recall a number of braces but no trebles.
Nasri: excellent movement, got into scoring positions, worked the keeper on most occasions, created openings for others as well.
The front three showed telepathic understanding and provided the midfield with plenty of forward looking options.
Subs: Arshavin tried but will take time to regain form, Denilson was strong in the final few minutes, Chamakh had a nice jog.
United have, as expected, carried on with their home form. The Tiny Totts needed a late equalizer to get a point. Man City have just lost at Aston Villa in a game where Hart gifted the opposition the only goal of the game, Tevez missed a sitter, and Yaya Toure looked like a bigger, slower, insanely expensive, and utterly useless version of Denilson. Arsenal are second now and looking set for a strong charge.