Wigan 0 – 1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

“…but any win will suffice if a big one doesn’t work out.”

Three points are better than one which is better than none at all. That’s pretty straightforward and I doubt there’s much debate on that.

The quality of football is a different matter. After the big win against Reading I’d advised caution. Sure, Arsenal looked like a free-flowing team in that one. Many moves had delightful combination play that involved different players. But it’s always tricky to judge how much of such a performance is down to the attacking team’s qualities and what proportion of causality can be ascribed to the defensive team’s weaknesses.

This time Wenger went with the same starting eleven but it looked like a completely different team out there. Such evidence shows majority of Arsenal’s impressive attacking play against Reading was a function of the home side’s frailties. Arsenal have the attacking talent but it has only come out when the opponents have allowed them the opportunities to dictate the play. All through the season we’ve seen the attack struggle when they Gunners have been challenged in the central third of the pitch.

Wigan did that fairly effectively. As expected, Martinez played more of a 3-5-2 rather than a 3-4-3 with clever adjustments when his side didn’t have the ball. I particularly liked the way their midfield moved across the width of the pitch when defending. The positioning and decision making of their wingbacks was also appreciable. Even when Arsenal did have spells of possession, Martinez often left Di Santo and Kone higher up the pitch. It’s not often that Arsenal have lesser possession than the opposition, make fewer passes, have a lower passing accuracy, and create fewer chances all in one game. As Roberto Martinez said after the game,

When you play against Arsenal and they’re running the clock down in the second half and making substitutions to try to cope with the threat we had, it’s a real compliment.

The Latics deserve credit for their tactical flexibility, hard work, and discipline. Unfortunately, these can’t always be a substitute for genuine quality in the final third. Both sides were weak in that regard but the Gunners had a slight edge. It wasn’t a game where either Keeper was very busy or forced into many great saves.

Arsenal did have their moments, particularly when they got in behind on the right side. Oxlade-Chamberlain got into promising positions on a number of occasions. His final ball, too, was much better than it has been in the past.

Unfortunately, Walcott wasn’t able to beat the goalkeeper on one occasion and curiously attempted a dummy when a shot on goal was the obvious choice on another. You could see his thinking as Wilshere was getting into a good position behind him but the defender was always going to clear the ball if Theo left it. These are the times when you realize scoring tap-ins from such positions is not as simple as it looks.

Wigan too had their moments, Kone had the best chance of the game in the 24th minute when he simply sped past Mertesacker, but his shot was tame and off-target. Other than that, Wigan were guilty of wasting promising positions with poor quality passes or wrong choices. Often their attacking players popped into spaces between the lines and played intricate one-touch football. This led to balls being played out to advancing wingbacks in space. Then nothing. Either the cross was horribly misdirected, or it went straight to an Arsenal player, or the run-pass coordination was missing and a player was caught off-side, and so on.

Arsenal’s defending wasn’t great but the defenders held a good line and the players seemed to be on the same page with their decision making. They also made some useful blocks and clearances. This proved enough.

The winner came from a penalty. Roberto Martinez called it soft and said Theo “bought the decision”. I can see his point of view, sometimes such calls aren’t given. But to me it was a clumsy foul and there appeared to be a shove in the back, so I think it was the right call.

Wigan had a couple of late shouts for penalties. I haven’t seen the replays but neither looked a penalty to me in real time. That said, I’ve seen those kind of decisions given. Given the distance the ball travelled, it really boils down to the refs general mood, which is a regrettable aspect of the game.

Wenger’s team have climbed to 3rd in the table but any euphoria around that is about as meaningless as the hullabaloo over the 10th spot they were in a short while ago. Too many teams are bundled up in a tight space in terms of points. There are four tied at 30 points and below them Chelsea have two games in hand with 29 points on the board. In a couple of weeks it can all be upside down again. Consistency matters.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Despite Wigan’s competitiveness in the middle of the park, it was a relatively comfortable outing for the Pole. Made a good save from Kone and a couple of other routine ones. Wasn’t tested aerially.

Sagna: Had a very busy game on the right. Most of it was about hard work and keeping things simple. Contested many aerial duels, which were often a battle for territorial gain. There were times when he didn’t get enough cover, particularly when Beausejour broke forward.

Mertesacker: Was caught out for pace once and it could have been fatal. Made a number of useful clearances in the defensive third. On the whole he did a decent job of protecting the central area in front of goal.

Vermaelen: Another one who made useful clearances and protected the central area. Decent game, nothing noteworthy in a positive or negative way.

Gibbs: Saw less of the ball than Sagna but I thought he played higher up the pitch at times. Very similar to his usual style, nothing new to observe over what has been said in previous games.

The defenders had a respectable game. There were spaces in the wide areas but I thought the decision to concede those was tactical and the fullbacks were instructed to tuck in narrow. The back four minimized clear-cut opportunities and used the offside trap effectively.

Arteta: Calmly taken penalty, although, I must say, it wasn’t placed in the corner. Did Arteta see which way Al-Habsi was going or was this just luck? Typically hard working game in front of the defence and reliable passing. Also created a good chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain early in the game.

Cazorla: Was involved in the build-up of many of Arsenal’s chances. Played Oxlade-Chamberlain into excellent positions on the right, created a good chance for Walcott in the box, and so on. Lost the ball on a number of occasions though, could probably have done better there. Defensive work also has room for improvement.

Wilshere: Had a very average game. Pushed up the pitch quite often but didn’t have any sort of an end product in the advanced areas. Sometimes made the wrong choices like running into a crowd or picking the wrong pass. Can’t question the effort but he’s had better days.

This was a tough game for the midfield. Wigan were able to push up the pitch and pressed with intensity. The Gunners saw enough of the ball but their creative threat was limited to a few opportunities from the wider areas. Defensive work rate of the midfield was good and they provided useful cover to the defence, particularly late in the game.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Put in a number of dangerous balls into the box after being played in behind on the right. With better finishing he could have had an assist. But overall contribution was quite limited. Could have done better with a good chance early in the game when he went for the near post. Didn’t see as much of the ball as he could have with clever movement and he lost the ball quite often, particularly when seen as a ratio of touches. Often left Beausejour free.

Walcott: Won the penalty. Also tried getting into meaningful positions in the box but his poaching skills clearly need a lot of work. When the midfield is struggling under pressure, a lot more is needed from the striker but Theo couldn’t offer an outlet. Late in the game his presence was almost nonexistent. Don’t see this experiment lasting too long in the near future.

Podolski: Didn’t find as much time and space as he did in the previous game and he was a tad hasty with his pass/shot when he did find some room. Greater composure and impact is expected from the experienced players.

The attack had its moments but those were not enough to seriously trouble the Wigan goalkeeper. Even the moments they had were more of an individual nature. There were some gaps at the back that could have been exploited with better choices and understanding.

Subs: Ramsey almost played as an auxiliary right-back late in the game, Coquelin was enthusiastic with his tackles, Koscielny didn’t spend much time on the pitch.

Wenger: The search for balance continues. Looks like he’s decided to push his team higher up the pitch. I like the way Arsenal were trying to defend on the halfway line for most of the game. There are no easy or obvious answers for Le Boss this season.

21 Responses to Wigan 0 – 1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Alex says:

    Wel done d gunners

    • santori says:

      We’re back up to 3rd/4th.

      A bit of consistency and improvement could see us close the gap on Chelsea.

      So much for crisis.

      • santori says:

        …title challenge is another issue.

        We will need reinforcement.

        1) A striker (pacy but with good situational awareness)
        2) If Walcott goes,a creative wide player
        3) A ‘defensive’ mid to cover both Arteta and Diaby. In essence Arteta’s positional sense but without compromise to Diaby’s physical presence.

        2 out of these 3 requirements will see us more competitive to the top. Otherwise… it’s third spot challenge for us.

  2. Kunle says:

    To me arsenal players do play individual football on d pitch instead of team work.for instance walcot wanted d glory alone,when cazorla passed a thru pass to him inside d box,instead of him playing as a team he wanted his name to be on d scorechart,when he could easily pass d ball to podoski to try d keeper bt instead went 4 Goal.what i love manu players is 4 there team work,they play as a unit bt arsenal playerrg play individually.

  3. jeff says:

    I’m still not convinced with walcott’s new role.. i thought he did struggle to play in the centre..

    • santori says:

      Not the best option. Podlski was a bit anonymous again and I thought he would have been better in Walcott’s spot where is physicality and efficiency in setting up for a shot would come in handy.

      Wigan knew we were deploying Walcott and decided to defend deeper thereby negating him the space he needs to be effective. This is the problem. Walcott is useful in some circumstances when space is ample but not in most.

  4. Gerry Lennon says:

    I would just like to post a quick note to AW on substitutions.
    1, If you want to save a young player from burn out, but happens to be MOTM, then replace with similar.
    2, If you are replacing said player for a more defensive option, then bring on a defensive midfielder.
    3, When achieving a good balance in the side with Podolski and Gibbs and you want to remove half of that duo because of potential defensive frailties, then bring on a defender.
    Most will understand the point I am making. It is not Ramsey’s fault that he is not a natural winger, or a natural defensive midfielder. Coquelin was the probably the right choice in so far as we were coming under pressure. Santi could then move out on the right and be a threat(if you are determined never to play Arshavin again?), with the double defensive cover of Arteta and Coquelin.
    The replacement for Podli, when they were really pressing should have been Kos – it was in the end, only it should have been done earlier – in the second left back position, therefore allowing Gibbs to be a forward moving outlet.
    Replacement for Santi – Arshavin!?!
    I said before the match that Wigan would be up for it, and a win is a win. But please, it did not need to be that hard in the final 20 minutes did it?
    Congats Alex on MOMT. Just remember, he is thinking of your long term future … Think of Jack’s year out? Believe me you will be fine.
    Thanks Desi for allowing me to vent my frustration after just watching on the player. Cheers

    • santori says:


      Ramsey is not a bad player. he is young and improving but Wenger seems insistent on forcing him into an unfamiliar role for which he possesses little natural attribute for.

      Arsharvin could be played with no detriment to using Santi at the same time. Podolski simply shifts into striker with Walcott to RW (if Wenger wanted to pull off Chamberlain for whatever reason)

      • santori says:

        That said, looks like we are very much post Arsharvin for whatever reason so we need to loo ahead this Jan to possibly bringing someone in who can play with the same manner of vision and passing (without the bad parts)

        Young Konoplyanka at Dnipro looks an interesting option being able to play right across the midfield.

  5. Dave says:

    I thought your assessment on the ox was like you was waching a different game, he was our man of the Match, he put a good shift in and was the most dangerous player there, if we had OG in place if Walcott he would have made use of the crosses.

    • santori says:

      I think Desi was highlighting his weaker points but Chamberlain was by a mile our stand out player (going forward) albeit jack and Arteta put in a massive shift. Vermaelen was also solid and Metersecker (except when he was turned but to be expected)

  6. Humphrey Udenze says:

    Good analysis. Arsenal were very poor yesterday, but we’ve seen a lot of ‘beautifu games’, and if willing ugly is the way we’re ready to support them all the way. Again, I think whenever Theo (playing central forward) and Poldoski (playing on the wings) are in the same match, they should interchange wings because Poldoski is more of a natural goal scorer than Theo.

  7. Spec says:

    “…but any win will suffice if a big one doesn’t work out.” with the incosistency in the team at the moment, any win at all, any 3points in the bag, works for me.

  8. Nick from Portugal says:

    ARSHAVIN, come on Arsene, think about it. He is obviously been frozen out, all the way back to Russia? Look at assists statistics per minutes played in 2012, he is so far ahead of the rest it is laughable. Tough tough game yesterday, Wigan had really done their homework, missed Giroud.

    • santori says:

      Yeah looks like he is being gift wrapped at our expense.

      frankly he is no more a defensive liability than Ramsey whilst providing more incisive passing and vision.

  9. santori says:

    Audition #1 : Theo Walcott for Striker

    Verdict : Well, we seem to have Giroud unavailable but I didn’t think Walcott suited it. Fair he won a penalty but otherwise failed to give us enough of an edge in that area. In truth, I would dstill prefer to see Podolski given a shot there (no pun) particularly as he is very efficient with letting off his shot.

    What this all disguises (poorly) is our need for another striker. I would like to see someone with pace but with technical skills AND positional/situational awareness to boot. A bit more size than Walcott may also be helpful.

    Audition #2 : Chamberlain RW

    Carried the most threat for us with his clever robust movement and direct running. I’m not sure if Walcott moving central is good for him honestly. Simply put, whilst Chamberlain has a bit more to go to get to Theo’s level, he isn’t that far off and is improving at a far quicker pace than Walcott did (given games).

    As I mentioned before, it will be great to keep Walcott but really, he is replaceable. I don’t think we should entirely rely on the younger wingers (Walcott, Gnabry, Ryo) stepping in and likely, we will benefit from one other player who can play with technical verve wide but also cover Santi. However considering the pace of improvement, it will be sooner than later that Chamberlain starts to meet Walcotts level.

    Audition #3 :Ali Al Habsi Keeper

    I don’t think Wenger will move for a keeper. Mannone as a back up is reasonably good if unimpressive but there is also a stable of younger keepers coming through the ranks to consider.

    That said, the Wigan keeper IMO is one of the more underated keepers in the PL leading the league with 105 saves and a good shot stopper.More importantly, he wouldn’t cost terribly much.

    Audition #4 : Wenger

    not sure why Wenger continuously attempts to convert players to suit his system rather than consider their better attributes and suit them (the attributes) to the system.

    Again, we see Ramsey coming into an ineffective position out wide. More perplexing is the gaffer’s decision to pull off the singularly effective Chamberlain thereby closing out our biggest threat going forward. As mentioned before, Walcott in front to me seems to miss the point when Podolski could also be shifted in and Arsharvin used out at LW (thereby retaining Santi in the middle)

    I presume Giroud is still ginger with the knock. Rosicky similarly was conspicuously absent. But there were better options IMO.

    • AP says:

      think most such decisions – moving out Ox, not having both santi and arshavin on pitch together etc. really is about loss of possession and tracking back (or defensive focus, if u will)…sit back, get bodies behind the ball when closing out the game…maybe erring on the side of caution this season…and if i remember well, we probably havent conceded as many late 1st half/late 2nd half goals this time (swansea exception, and maybe that prompted such drastic defensive focus agnst another free playing team)…

  10. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi…

    I have said it before, and Arsenal confirmed it. Until the January transfer window where I EXPECT Arsene to be active and fetch ‘balance’ for this talented team, then we simply have to grind out wins, Wigan was ‘the’ classic example of what we need to do till then.
    I see an narrow win against Newcastle….then if we do business early, we can have Adrian/Cavani and Mvilla/Capoue/Wanyama in the line-ups against Mancity Chelsea and Liverpool. If we do business late like we like to (or if we do NO business) then sorry guys but it will be busy Thursday nights at the Emirates next season.
    I hope Wenger is not hoping to ride his lick this time round. I see lots of talent in the current squad am CRAVING to have it balanced to get the best out of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. ST says:

    24th minute chance for Kone was identical chance to one Reading had last Monday. The problem playing a high line is the pace of Mertesacker who will generally get out run.

  12. naj says:

    Why do people keep saying Wigan played 3 at the back? It seems like many have gotten their analysis quite wrong.

    The key person here in question is McCarthy, he did NOT play in defence – even Martinez said it. I had said they played a flexible 4-3-3 and i was confirmed to be right.

    Martinez and a wigan player Jones both said they used 3 in midfield. Martinez said: “our midfield 3 (J’ McCarthy, J’ McArthur and David Jones) took on 3 of the most technically gifted players in Europe and stopped them from playing.”

    This confirms two things: Mccarthy didnt play at the back and maloney wasnt in midfield either. He was part of the forward 3 but he played deeper than Kone and Di Santo.

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