Arsenal 4 – 1 Wigan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

There were no surprises in Arsene Wenger’s team selection and, thankfully, there were none on the pitch either. It wasn’t a perfect game from the Gunners but an eight minute spell of exceptional efficiency and clinical finishing settled the game midway through the second half.

It followed patterns that we’ve seen in many recent games so I won’t dwell on them. Arsenal controlled the opening exchanges and dictated the tempo early on. But they didn’t really convert that into quality chances and the goal came from an unexpected source, a corner. Wigan’s defending was terrible and will probably be identified as the chief reason of their troubles this season. In most other Arsenal games, I’ve seen such corners gobbled up by the Keeper or easily header clear by the defenders. Balls put in so close to the goal have rarely troubled the opponents leave alone result in goals.

In this game it came all the way to Podolski who was left unmarked. The German showed good composure even when the manner of scoring was not his speciality. How many headers has he scored in his entire career?

The hosts slowly relinquished control over the tie after the goal. Wigan started seeing a lot more of the ball in advanced territories from midway through the first half to the end. But Wenger’s team remained defensively compact and dealt with any danger. Szczesny was largely untroubled.

Only that one ball over the top of the defence comes to mind but Koscielny found a way to clear the threat.

I thought Arsenal were defending with a clear 4-1-4-1 shape which seemed a change from their usual approach as Arteta sat really deep in midfield just in front of the defence whereas the other midfielders formed a line a few yards in front of him.

The Spaniard’s positioning meant it was difficult for Wigan to build anything through the middle and Kone’s influence was minimized as he can drop deep to receive the ball and hold play while other join in.

The discipline of the four in front of him and structural integrity achieved through that also limited openings for Wigan to exploit. It’s worth noting that the visitors actually had more possession, played more passes, and had greater passing accuracy than the hosts, but they couldn’t create many chances.

Their goal came from a soft free-kick. I’m sure Arsene would have complained about it if points had been dropped. Maloney’s strike was superb but I was surprised Podolski didn’t jump. I’d think the wall needs greatest height at the far end where the goalkeeper would find it hardest to cover. Anyway, that’s one for the coaches to analyze.

Wigan came out with greater purpose in the second half as if their late equalizer had instilled genuine belief. Kone had their best chance early in the second period when a seemingly fortuitous one-two put him through. Szczesny did well to close the angle and made a convincing save.

Arsenal were not really getting control of the ball or territory in the second period but they started exploiting the space behind Wigan’s defence, particularly with attacks originating down the right side behind Espinoza.

First, Walcott fed Cazorla who couldn’t score with two good attempts, probably the only blot on his otherwise impeccable worksheet for the day. Then Rosicky played Theo in behind but he could not find enough power or precision with his shot after choosing to ignore Podolski’s run that was marked well by Boyce.

Soon after, the Gunners did take the lead. This time it was Cazorla making a run down the right. It’s worth noting the interchange of positions between the players as Theo had gone central with Podolski wide on the left. Arsenal played eight passes in the build-up to that goal and stretched the play horizontally before going vertical. Nonetheless, it was again terrible defending and goalkeeping that cost the visitors.

If that was bad defending, very little should be said about the mess they created for the third. Szczesny’s long ball was headed into the danger area by Alcaraz. Meanwhile, Scharner had dropped a good five yards deeper despite no Arsenal player making a run. Cazorla’s header was deftly cushioned but completely unchallenged. In the same manner, Podolski’s clip was predatory and superbly executed but way too easy for this level.

The fourth came from a simple ball down the left flank that caught the entire Wigan defence unawares. Espinoza played Ramsey onside. The Welshman’s finish was emphatic and brilliantly disguised.

The Gunners could then relax as the visitors had lost their appetite for the fight they were clearly losing.

All teams face the problem of balance. Wigan have troubled the Gunners when they’ve been able to defend deep for long periods. I was surprised they opened up so soon in this game. Playing it tight and throwing everything forward in the last 10 minutes would have been a much better tactic for them. Their confidence in the second half proved their undoing. Kone’s missed chance was also vital. At 1-2 up they could have reverted to a deep defence and might have shut the Gunners out as they did last season.

That Arsenal conceded was not a surprise, but I was impressed by the way they limited the visitors’ chances despite conceding possession. The team’s defensive shape and the choices made by individuals was commendable. As was the manner in which they covered for each other. There were times when I saw the likes of Gibbs and Walcott pop up deep in the Arsenal penalty box on the right side to make tackles and recoveries. A good defence has to be a team effort and the Gunners seem to be improving slowly but steadily.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Don’t know if the coaches will fault him for the shape and positioning of the wall. Good save from Kone. Distribution was average.

Sagna: Most of Arsenal’s threats came down the right and the Frenchman played a good unobtrusive supporting role as he was there to help but stayed out of the way of the creative players. Had very little to do defensively in the first half as Wigan focussed on the other flank. Received useful cover from teammates in the second.

Mertesacker: Made some important tackles around the edge of the box and his positioning was consistently good. His only mistake was probably the occasion he went to ground to make an interception near the centre line. It opened space up for Wigan and resulted in McCarthy’s goal that was just marginally off-side. Didn’t see as much of the ball as he usually does because the Gunners conceded possession.

Koscielny: Made a couple of big interventions in the box. Should probably have scored from the corner that fell to him invitingly. Steady game on the whole.

Gibbs: Did a good job on McManaman and kept Wigan’s most creative player quiet. Passing wasn’t as reliable as Arsene would want from his full-back and made a very limited contribution in the attacking areas.

The back five had a good game without being spectacular, but they didn’t really have to produce anything special. The team defended as a unit and they remained well protected for most of the game.

Arteta: Gave away some fouls, one of which resulted in the Wigan goal, but you could wonder if another referee would have called those. Passing was below par but it was his positioning and tendency to drop back into the defensive line which often plugged crucial holes and forced play away from the danger zones.

Rosicky: Showed good energy, particularly early on. Defensive contribution was noteworthy from a discipline point of view as he protected some central areas that Wigan seem to favour. The quick turn and through-ball for Walcott was the most eye-catching moment of the game for me.

Ramsey: Here, there, everywhere, and pretty effective. Saw a lot of the ball and made telling contributions at both ends of the pitch. Took his goal really well while constantly looking/faking to cut the ball back.

Cazorla: Four assists! And different ones too. I wonder if he’s ever picked up an assist with his head before. Was a constant source of inspiration for the Gunners that turned lethal once Wigan pushed up and lost control over their shape and distances. Defensive work rate on the left was also exceptional and he helped deal with McManaman (Is it a coincidence that Arsenal picked up three quick goals soon after the youngster was taken off?). MotM in my opinion.

Walcott: Picked his moments to move inside carefully and stayed wide often to exploit the space available. This Wigan defence, particularly in the second half, was perfect for him as they were wide open with huge gaps between the lines and individuals. Credit to him for using the opportunity as he linked well with Cazorla and Rosicky. Converted his chance without a fuss, even if there was an element of luck to it. Defensive contribution deserves a mention.

I thought the midfield deserves bulk of the credit for this win not only because of their contribution to the goals but also for their effort in front of the defence. A while back it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine this Wigan side playing one-twos and constantly exploiting the gaps in front and behind the defence. In this game the midfielders cut out almost any opportunity for the visitors to develop their combinations and thus left the back four with a very manageable task.

Podolski: Took both his goals really well to reaffirm his status as the best finisher at the club. Still far from his best in this role but the goals should help his confidence and that of his teammates. His horizontal movement was good and he often dropped back to add bodies in the middle.

Subs: They came on after the game was virtually over.

Wenger: Should be pleased with this win. The performance was far from ideal but it carries some encouraging trends forward. The team certainly looks much more balanced than it did at the start of the season. However, one big test still remains before any real plaudits can be handed out.


18 Responses to Arsenal 4 – 1 Wigan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. That was a good game for Carzola..he did well..bagging four assists in a game is an achievement for him..this was only done by Fabregas in 2009 against Blackburn..that impressive,he should keep it up !@the magic man

  2. saminator says:

    why do the gooner bloggers keep forgetting that podolski’s form is down to an injury he has not been suffering for much of the season? saying so because you say the goals he scored should help his confidence which does not seem to suggest that his form is because of the injury….

    • santori says:

      It’s also down to understanding because he hasn’t played terribly much in the CF role.

      On one occasion in the match, Walcott put in a great ball into the 6 yard box but Podolski hadn’t quite made the run close enough. You could see Walcott giving him some feedback.

      I think it boils down to being familiar with each other. Our issue contrary to the media’s claptrap has never really been about spending. We’ve spent 55m two summer’s past and 40m last summer. not chump change by any means.

      rather we have continuedly bled experienced and quality players and had the issue of intergrating new ones.

      Therein, these sort of hiccups must be expected. If Podolski begins to understand better what the men on the flanks are going to do, he will be able to better anticipate and poach goals.His finishing is lethal when need be.

  3. Jacob says:

    My favourite moments of the game were, Koscielny’s clearance, Szczesny’s save, and Cazorla’s assist for Walcott, I also liked how Ramsey tricked the goalkeeper with his eyes before finishing. On the conceded goal, the angle from which I saw the replay gave me the distinct feeling that it took the slightest of nicks off the wall. I’d also noted the goalkeeper got a hand to it, though it wasn’t good enough. But all that is to take nothing away from the execution of that free kick.

    We seem to be making a habit of scoring early! Which to me is slightly more effective than alcohol and nicotine in calming the nerves. I think we have some impressive stats from this season on the our results after scoring early. Maybe some of the more statistically inclined on here have more details to support, or discredit, my observation. I also think we have a tendency to sit back after scoring early. Something I noticed in this game, as well as against QPR. I’m not sure if that’s down to a sense of uncertainty on the part of the team or part of a the gameplan. However, given Wenger’s tactical leanings and how he likes to play, you’d think he’d want them to add to their tally instead of defending a narrow lead for a majority of the game. This tendency to sit back also has the effect of negating the calming effect I’d previously referenced, and inducing a progressively worsening case of heartburn as the game wears on. However, I’m happy to be proved wrong by our defence each time. As @arse2mouse put it “Just one goal has come from open play since the game at White Hart Lane”. So all in all, I’m feeling generally positive all round. This will soon be replaced by a sense of dread come the weekend. But one must enjoy life’s fleeting pleasures whenever possible.

  4. jcloud says:

    I watched the game in NYC’ “Blind Pig” bar, an Arsenal’s fan club’s main place. It was a lot of fun and noise. Everybody sang throughout the game.:)

  5. Ashwin Gunner says:

    Cazrola was exceptional. I feel Theo also had a very good game. There was a moment in the game. when Cazrola took a corner and Wigan counter attacked. Sagna missed his marker but , Theo with his pace came to Arsenal’s box and defended the ball. He had a great game. A game full of passion.

  6. Bradster says:

    I always love reading your blog. Great even write up not favouring or attacking players you like and dislike.
    I must say you did call it!
    At half time I thought it was going to be the call that we would drop points but thank goodness it was the other call where we spank them by 3.

    • santori says:

      Wish the blog was written slightly earlier though.

      Would love to see some sort of breakdown on the second half of our campaign versus the first, and where we have improved our play. Perhaps this summer?

  7. Induct says:

    I tink Arsenal’s gameplan s to score early sit back and counter d opponent only dat in d previous matches Giroud has bin wastefl n Poldi stil getting to grip as a cf. D best moment was Walcott 40yards run to stop wigan counter attack. Even d Wigan attacker was surprise wen dispossessd. D Most Improve player Walcott. Well done Desi gooner

    • santori says:

      Podolski is clinical where Giroud’s asset is more as a battering ram/can opener.

      I feel Poldy can be more effective if he learns to stay slightly closer to the penalty box and make runs into the 6 yard box, particularly if he sees the wingers (Walcott) over lap to the bye line.If he does that, he may well end up an effective poacher for us.

      We will certainly need another striker, preferably someone quick who can add speed to the apex. I would also prefer someone who can bring a touch of the sublime back for us.

      Whilst Jovetic will be a fine addition with youth on his side, I personally prefer Higuain if the money works out as being not that much more.

  8. Sammer Arsene says:

    Great piece. I enjoyed every moment of the match wiith Koscieny’s clearance and Szczesny’s save being the highlight. And my boy Ramsey, you are yet to see his best. Overall, I’m proud of all our players, it was a great team work. Bring on Newcastle!

  9. Fidelis says:

    Good work Desi. Before the game against Wigan you said that either Arsenal would win by a great number of goals, or they would lose the match. You were wright mate.

  10. femzo says:

    Nice piece. and I hope you have learnt your lesson about underestimating your team It’s funny to me you have notoriously neglected to reaffirm your position that we will drop points to Newcastle now that have succeeded in thrashing Wigan.

    I also refuse to give you any credit for your predictions. I feel you covienently sat on the fence by saying we will drop points or win by a large margin if they collapsed, well Wigan played very well but still got beaten because you forgot about our strong end of the season determination to finish at least forth.

    • santori says:

      We all have knots in our stomache with the team these days.

      Our predicament could have been better avoided if we were slightly stronger in our bargaining last summer.

      Can’t say I blame Desi for having a bit of the hoodoos that it could go belly up any moment.

      I did feel we were going to get something like a 4 goal win but it could so easily go the other way. Had Szsc not gotten that big hand in the way, we may have struggled and be reading a different narrative.

  11. santori says:

    Several things aided us.

    1) Wigan’s defense was porous and they came at us to their detriment, particularly after our second goal, their legs gave way.

    2) We were solid defensively. I believe Wenger has mentioned that we have picked up as many points as United since January. Surely this is a foundation to build upon.

    3) I mentioned several games ago of the similarity between Arteta and Ramsey. Both are more cultured passers of the ball where Jack and the ever present Diaby have capability to beat their man.

    In this case, given their strengths, it was crucial to be able to play to our strengths and release our speedy assets on the flanks quicker (efficient transition as oppose to slowing the build up by passing down the line) Aided and abetted by slightly more space, Rosicky and Santi led the way in splaying the ball effectively with crosses to our wingers thereby allowing us to stretch Wigan more effectively.

    4) As much as Wigan have been hyped as an attractive and attacking team, they have only scored marginally more goals than Sunderland. MacMannaman was impressive and GIbbs was fleeced several times. But the quality cross from him less so.

    5) Walcott was having quite a game. Defensively, he tracked back on a number of important occasions and going forward, he picked the right crosses. Still a lot of bluster about Bale being world class with 20 goals but what price Walcott whom although lagging behind in goal tally (13) has 10 assists now to his name as oppose to a paltry 4 for the Welshman?

    One more game to go. I was expecting a big win at Wigan as we were due it. I think if we go to Newcastle with the same spirit, we may end the season with another big win, and importantly CL (St Totteringham’s day)

  12. Adeyeye Olasunkanmi says:

    That was my best game of the season.

  13. […] Sagna: Most of Arsenal’s threats came down the right and the Frenchman played a good unobtrusive supporting role as he was there to help but stayed out of the way of the creative players. Had very little …read more […]

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