Who Do You Want To See Relegated?

May 20, 2011

This article has nothing about Arsenal but I just wanted to share my views on the teams fighting the battle for survival at the wrong end of the table.

Two out of Blackburn, Wolves, Wigan, Birmingham, and Blackpool will be joining West Ham in the Championship next season.

To be perfectly frank, I am disappointed that some good sides are struggling to survive. Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air and it will be a real shame if they go down. But if Fergie does play a full strength side they could struggle to get a point at Old Trafford, a result that will almost certainly condemn them to the lower division.

Wigan are another team that I like. They have the right approach to the game. I understand some people prefer to judge football games based on results in the next day’s newspapers but I prefer to make my opinions based on what I see. From that point of view, Wigan will be missed if they go down.

Wolves are a tricky one. The likes of Karl Henry running amok on a football pitch are hard to tolerate. But after some stinging criticism in the early weeks, Mick McCarthy has done a good job with his side and they have played some quality football without being overly physical. I think they deserve a place in the top flight.

Blackburn would have been my prime candidates for relegation if Fat Sam has still been in charge. But now they have new owners, Indians to boot, and have changed their playing style under Steve Kean. They are another team I’d like to see in the top flight with the young manager being given a full season to show his worth but if some team has to go down it might as well be Blackburn. It’s probably unfair but I think their fans deserve it for unabashedly supporting some of their previous managers and the violence perpetrated under those regimes. Some Gooners might also want to see them relegated as it might increase the chances of Samba being put on the market but I’m not a big fan of the giant so it doesn’t affect my thinking.

Birmingham are my top favourites for relegation. I can’t see a single positive about that bunch of thugs. Can the Tiny Totts do me a favour by thrashing them convincingly?

So my preference would be for Birmingham and Blackburn to go down but I have a feeling it will be Wigan and Blackpool fans that will be enjoying, if I can use that word, Championship football next season.

Btw, I did read that news about Denilson but haven’t yet had the chance to read the full interview. Undoubtedly though, if he can find a club, it will be a good start to the Arsenal summer. More on that once I get the time to read the full interview from a couple of sources.

17 Passes, 8 Players Involved In Arsenal’s First Goal Against Wigan

January 23, 2011

Arsene Wenger had a lot of nice things to say about the second goal against Wigan. And I’ve no doubt even the worst critics of Arsenal will enjoy that goal and can watch it over and over again. The pass from Cesc was incredible and the finish was a piece of art.

I was thrilled by that goal but fell in love with the first one. Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of details and this goal provided a great many.

The ball went out for a throw on the right just inside the Wigan half. It was from a misplaced pass as the visitors were trying to break. The time was just about 20:00.

Sagna took the throw and passed it to Cesc who had dropped deep. From Fabregas the ball went to Song who spread it out wide to Clichy. The full-back played it to and received it from Nasri. Then Clichy played it to Song who passed to Nasri. The Frenchman turned his man well and ran forwad with the ball before passing wide the RvP. The Dutchman ran with the ball across the pitch before passing it to Wilshere who kept possession by intelligently avoiding a tackle by letting the ball run across him. Subsequently the ball was passed wide to Sagna and Walcott. It came back to the middle and passed between Wilshere, Cesc, Nasri and Song once again. The seventeenth pass of this move was the assist from Song. When the ball hit the net the clock showed 21:00.

All this is brilliantly captured in this graphic created using the Guardian Chalkboards.

This reminded me of the last minute winner against West Ham in which we had 9 players involved and there were 15 passes. In this case, barring the centre backs and the Keeper, all players made a contribution.

Once again we can see the ball moving from the right to left, back to right, before returning to the left from where the assist came. Such goals show the importance of patient sideways passes and keeping possession. Highlights packages don’t show these but to me they form the crux of football. They also show the importance of movement. For instance, RvP first touched the ball on the left touch line. He then moved to the centre of the Wigan half before proceeding into the box. Fabregas collected the ball inside the Arsenal half but also contributed just outside the Wigan box. Similarly, we can appreciate the movement of Song, Sagna, Nasri, and others. All of this happened within a minute and seamlessly.

I haven’t been able to locate a video clip with all the passes. If you’ve seen one please share it. Till we get that we can enjoy it on chalkboards and on ATVO if you have it.

Speaking of video clips, in no relation to the above discussion, have you seen this goal by Roberto Carlos? I really miss that character.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Wigan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

January 22, 2011

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.

Individual Performances

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.

Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven For Another Wigan Game

January 21, 2011

This is the third time in seven weeks that Arsenal are playing Wigan. We can be sure there will be no surprises for either team. Roberto Martinez had respect and praise for Arsenal. Arshavin is hoping for a landslide victory while Arsene says any win will be a massive result.

I liked the way Arsene is looking at things. He knows there are 9 home and 7 away games remaining and results at home will make the key difference come May. I feel Arsenal will need 12 wins out of those 16 games and 8 of these will have to come at home. Tough ask but achievable, starting with a solid display against Wigan who have failed to score at the emirates in their last five visits.

Nonetheless, the visitors must not be underestimated. They’ve achieved some good results at home and are unbeaten in three away games. The Latics also have a tighter defence away from home having conceded 8 goals fewer than at home albeit with two games less. It’s easy to see why Wenger doesn’t share Arshavin’s desire of a landslide win but those who have seen the previous two encounters of these teams will certainly expect a full strength Arsenal side to take three points.

Tactically, we can expect a Martinez to use a 4-5-1 that he seems to favour. The attacking threat will come from the pace and skills of Rodallega up front and from wide areas with players like N’Zogbia running at the defenders.

Arsenal will have to avoid the organizational mistakes we saw at Wigan that left the defence exposed. They’ll also have to do much better on set-pieces. The height and presence of Szczesny might be an advantage on this front. If the Gunners can maintain the collective shape and defend free-kicks we could see the fourth consecutive clean sheet in the Premiership. That will be some achievement!

Defensively Wigan have not conceded more than one goal in any game since playing Arsenal. We can expect the visitors to be organized and hard working. They won’t park the bus but will get men behind the ball and press hard in the middle of the park. It’s a strategy that got them a win away to Spuds early in the season.

This tactic will rely a lot on counter attacks and that’s another reason Arsenal will have to maintain the right shape. The defensive midfielders will have to be close to the back four to win the ball back early.

I have a feeling that Arsenal’s attackers can have a good game in this one, especially if they get an early goal. For that to happen, the Gunners will have to start aggressively, press higher up the pitch, and win the individual battles. I feel we have enough quality in attack to convert some of the chances that will be created but we must hope the game won’t have a start similar to the City game.

I don’t expect to see many changes to the side that played against West Ham in the League. That means Walcott, Van Persie, Fabregas, Wilshere, and Clichy should come back into the team. Sagna should keep his place ahead of Eboue.

Preferred starting eleven,

Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Wilshere – Walcott, RvP, Nasri.

Arsenal have four successive home games now and seven of the next eight are at the Emirates. As Arsene said, the home form will be crucial and it’s time to make a strong impression. Usual Jinx disclaimer applies 🙂

Wigan 2 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

December 29, 2010

If you want to understand why many fans think Arsene Wenger makes major tactical mistakes watch this game again.

Eight changes to the starting line-up from the win against Chelsea showed incredible squad depth but it also showed Wenger’s tactical weakness. There were just too many players who had either been out for a long time, or were out of form, or haven’t really gotten games this season despite being fit thus showing their place in the pecking order. It was a message to Wigan that they had a chance and the Latics took it.

Of course, there is a strong argument that despite all the changes Arsenal should have won this game. The team made a poor start but got the rhythm flowing as the half progressed, converting a goal deficit into a lead by scoring two wonderful goals in the process. Chamakh and Arshavin had good chances in the second half to make it three, Arsenal were denied a clear penalty, and Wigan never seriously threatened the Arsenal goal. If someone wants to defend the team selection there is certainly an argument to be made.

The problem was Arsene compounded his initial mistake by his half time talk. I don’t know what Le Boss said but the team came out in the second half as if they wanted to have a training session in defending a lead! The high pressing that worked wonders against Chelsea and in the first half was abandoned as the players retreated into their half and invited pressure.

Wigan when pressed high up just didn’t have enough quality to bring the ball out and create chances. They looked dangerous on a couple of counter attacks but a little tactical adjustment with Eboue staying deeper would have negated the threat posed by N’Zogbia. Instead Arsenal abandoned  the only style they’re really good at and allowed Wigan to grow in confidence. Surely if Arsenal had fresher players they should have been sharper and playing with positive intent?

To make matters worse Arsene didn’t make any substitutions. If he wanted his team to drop deep surely introducing Walcott for any one of the front three would have been a sensible choice? Why not have a real attacking threat even if defence was the priority? For large periods in the second half the gunners had no forward looking options and none of the players was able to take charge.

It seemed to me that Le Boss did make a tactical decision of moving Bendtner to the left to provide better support to Eboue. This seems consistent with an overall shift in focus towards defending in the second half. Unfortunately, and not for want of trying really hard, Bendtner couldn’t do much better. Wigan got into some dangerous positions without having the final ball and on one occasion forced a big save from Fabianski.

Once N’Zogbia was sent off for a daft head-butt on Wilshere it seemed to me that Arsenal players started taking it easy. The off the ball movement was poor as no one really knew whether to go forward or to hold back. One might say the need for a leader was evident but I feel the players at this level need to know what is expected from them. To me the uncertainty in the minds of the players shows a lack of tactical clarity in the manager’s approach.

With the likes of Arshavin, Denilson, and Wilshere offering no physical presence or height in the box Arsenal were always going to be vulnerable on set pieces. One good delivery took two points away from Arsenal.

The most frustrating part is that this game was there for the taking. With due respect to Wigan the hosts would have been swept aside if Arsenal had shown more desire and tactical decisiveness.

I thought this game can be distinctly segregated into a few parts.

In the first part, upto the time Diaby was on the pitch, Arsenal were disjointed and failed to get the passing game going. Wigan were able to press Arsenal high up and looked threatening. During this period they were gifted a penalty by the ref.

It came from a good break forward by the Latics when Denilson tried a shot from outside the box that was blocked. The ball fell kindly for a Wigan player and he found N’Zogbia with acres of space as Eboue was caught up-field in the opposition box. There can be an argument that Denilson made a bad decision when he elected to shoot.

The Frenchman was able to run right up to the Arsenal box. Koscielny did a decent job of holding his position and slowing the run. Diaby was able to catch up but his half-hearted attempt at tackling was beaten by some quick feet from the Wigan winger. Koscielny tried to nick the ball and then tried to pull his foot back when he realized he’d missed the ball. N’Zogbia got a faint touch that appeared to be outside the box. The utterly incompetent Probert pointed to the spot. Ben Watson scored with a fantastic strike that Fabianski couldn’t stop despite guessing correctly.

In the second part Arsenal completely dominated the game. Roughly speaking, this period was the time from the introduction of Wilshere till the end of the first half. In this period Arsenal scored two fantastic goals. The first one was a moment of magic from Arshavin after Al-Habsi had done well to keep Bendtner’s shot out. The second one came when the Russian set up Bendtner who got a bit lucky but finished with confidence. At this stage it seemed that Arsenal could go on and score more.

Then came the halftime break and a switch was flicked by someone somewhere. In the third part Arsenal had no real attacking intent and didn’t have the right players on the pitch for defending a lead. During this period Arsenal had a couple of good chances but nothing more.

The equalizer came from a corner in the 81st minute. It was a brilliant set-piece whipped in with pace and height towards the back post. Sagna couldn’t keep up with Rodallega who rose high to knock it back towards the middle. Fabianski was covering the near post and the centre of the goal was completely free. Squillaci had been tracking the run of Caldwell and grappling with the Wigan defender. The Frenchman couldn’t get a good jump in as he was off balance and only managed to knock it into his own net. But given his position and the manner in which he reached that there wasn’t much he could have done. When the ball is allowed to drop so close to the goal the defender doesn’t have much of a chance.

I thought Fabianski’s position wasn’t very good. He wasn’t anywhere close to the initial cross and he wasn’t able to block the ball back. The bigger problem I thought was with the positioning of Chamakh who was idle in the middle of the box. Once he realized that the ball was going to the back post he should have dropped back to the line knowing that it will be headed across and that Fabianski won’t be in the centre. Since he wasn’t marking anyone his position doesn’t make any sense. I’d not really blame the Moroccan because I’m not convinced Arsenal do this even in practice. It’s one of the reasons I feel a different defence coach is needed.

In the final part Arsenal introduced Nasri and Walcott. The Frenchman should have won a penalty when his free-kick was blocked by the hands of the defender a la Cesc against the Spuds. There were some other half chances but it wasn’t enough.

Overall it was an extremely disappointing performance in a game that should have been won.

Individual Performances

Fabianski: One good save, decent sweeping behind the back four, decent distribution, could he have done better for the goal? I’ll have to see how other keepers defend a corner to the back post. Can’t recall off the top of my mind.

Sagna: Without the support of Song he struggled on the right especially when Wigan moved forward with purpose. Good work rate, couple of decent crosses, could he have marked Rodallega better on the corner?

Squillaci: Will probably get a lot of flak for the goal but most of it will be unjustified. Didn’t make too many other mistakes but struggled a bit on the physical side of the game.

Koscielny: Conceded the penalty even if it was dodgy. Made some other important interceptions and tackles.

Eboue: struggled against N’Zogbia but didn’t have much support initially. Decent job in an unfamiliar role but it was a poor choice to play him there with Arshavin in front of him.

The back five were not convincing in this game and struggled a bit, initially due to a poor midfield in front of them, and later due to unnecessary pressure resulting from lack of intent and movement up front.

Denilson: To be fair he worked hard and gave his all. Tried to be physical and put in some tackles. Didn’t offer enough going forward and looked vulnerable at times when put under pressure.

Diaby: Didn’t last half an hour, didn’t offer much even when he was on the pitch. Made one decent run with the ball but his off the ball movement was poor and didn’t help in bringing the ball out of defence.

Wilshere: Brought energy and intelligence to the pitch along with the ability to get into the right spaces to receive a pass. Created the chance for Arshavin in the second half with a good run and pass, gave the ball away on occasion.

Rosicky: dropped deep quite often to bring the ball out of defence, didn’t have many options up front as the movement was limited, can’t fault him for effort.

I thought the starting midfield was a very poor choice and didn’t have the right understanding or balance. The arrival of Wilshere made it better but Song was missed in this game.

Bendtner: Big improvement in terms of effort as he ran a lot, even worked hard on the left in the second half. Good strike that set up the first goal, took his goal well, had a few good turns and touches.

Chamakh: high work rate as usual, didn’t have a good understanding with Bendtner or Arshavin. Should have done much better in the box for the second goal but that might not be his fault.

Arshavin: had a few good moments, exceptional goal, good assist, didn’t offer much in the second half, should have been taken off.

Subs: Wilshere I’ve already covered, Nasri had some good moments and should have won a penalty, Walcott never got the chance to get in the game.

Arsene took a gamble in this one and it didn’t work out. They can still salvage something if they win at Birmingham. Normally, I’d have thought this game can be won while that one might be a draw as Birmingham are really hard to beat at St. Andrews. Now Wenger and his players must show that resting so many will at least yield some positive.

Thoughts On The Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Wigan

December 28, 2010

Ideally, I’d have preferred a week’s break after the Chelsea win just to soak it in. That would have been a nice way to celebrate the festive season. I can’t quite take my mind off that game. Hopefully, the players will not be in the same state.

I guess the best way to move on from a big win is to win the next game. The visit to Wigan gives Arsenal the chance to go joint top after Manchester United blew another lead in an away game. A five goal win might even see Arsenal in pole position but I don’t think it matters at this stage. Three points most certainly do and Arsenal must perform with the kind of discipline we have seen away from home this season.

Wigan are a team I like and Roberto Martinez is a good manager. They do have physical players like Thomas and Hendry but their philosophy is to play football. Tactically that should make things easier for Arsenal. When the opposition tries to keep the ball on the ground and move it around, it just gives the Gunners that bit extra because Arsenal’s defending on the ground is much better than their work in the air.

If all goes well, we should see some high quality football. I guess neither set of supporters will have forgotten the corresponding fixture from last season. Arsenal blew a 2 goal lead in the last ten minutes but unlike many fans I don’t think of that game as a bad performance. It was 20 minutes of horror preceded by 70 minutes of quality. Since that team was a highly depleted one, I see no reason why this year we can’t see fantastic football for 90 minutes.

Nevertheless, Arsenal cannot afford to underestimate a Wigan side that hasn’t lost at home in the League since the middle of September. We must also be wary of the curse of the Carling Cup. Having beaten Newcastle and Tiny Totts in the League Cup away from home, Arsenal lost to them at home. In the last round of the Kiddie Cup the Gunners beat Wigan at home and are now visiting them for a League encounter. It’s not logical but neither were defeats to the Barcodes or Spuds.

In some ways this is a tricky encounter and picking the correct starting eleven will not be easy. I’m thankful I don’t have to make these choices. On one hand there can be an argument for having fresher players like Rosicky, Chamakh, Arshavin, Diaby, Denilson, and Eboue in the starting line-up. On the other, one might say that Wenger should not tinker with a winning combination.

Le Boss will have to find the right balance based on form and fitness. Personally speaking, relying on the same people to do the job and allowing players to build some momentum sounds like the prudent choice. Unless someone like RvP is not ready for two games in three days or a youngster like Wilshere needs a rest, I’d not change the starting eleven except bringing Rosicky in for the suspended Cesc.

Walcott needs a run of games to show some consistency and Wigan’s style will certainly be good for him. Van Persie too needs games to settle into the central striking role. I’ll also like to see a stable partnership developing at the back. There is an argument for playing Arshavin in the absence of Cesc as the Russian has been one of the main creative threats for Arsenal. I guess it will be a tactical decision. Does Arsene want a dribbler like Nasri or some like Arshavin who can unlock the defence?

The starting line-up I’d like to see is,

Fabianski – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Rosicky, Wilshere – Walcott, Rvp, Nasri

Since there are two really tough fixtures in seven days after the visit to the DW stadium, a strong start followed by three substitutions around the hour mark would be perfect. If Arsenal have a two goal lead, Chamakh for RvP, Diaby for Wilshere, and Arshavin for Nasri will be my picks. Of course, this can change based on the way the game pans out.

Having said that, I’ll be really surprised if Arsenal don’t make more changes. Wenger has been a lot more flexible in terms of rotation this season even at the risk of a poor result. He must have good reasons for making those choices and we certainly can’t argue with his experience in these matters even if the results have been frustrating. I’ll be happy with any starting eleven as long as they don’t play Santa for the Latics.

Arsenal 2 – 0 Wigan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

November 30, 2010

I guess this was as easy a game as Arsenal will play all season. If it had been a non-Arsenal game I’d have stopped watching after 10 minutes or so. But because it was Arsenal I had to struggle through a shaky and hazy stream at the risk of enduring a headache later, which is now and I have a bad one.

I’m not sure if there is any point in analyzing a game like this so I’ll just mention some top of mind thoughts.

Arsenal could have scored a dozen goals in this one if the attackers, particularly Vela, had been clinical in front of goal and the officials hadn’t decided that this game will not have penalties.

Wigan will be in serious trouble come May if they don’t show a drastic improvement on what they did on the pitch in this game.

In the first half every big moment came through Van Persie who was on a different plane compared to everyone else. The Dutchman laid it on a plate for Bendtner and Vela who messed up the simplest of chances. Perhaps it was the weather.

The first goal came late in the first half from a good corner taken by Walcott.  None of the Arsenal players got a touch but their movement did enough to distract the Wigan Captain Alcaraz who turned it into his own net. I was impressed by Theo’s delivery from set-pieces.

After the first goal the game opened up a lot more and Arsenal created chance after chance in the second half. Van Persie and/or Wilshere were at the heart of most of the good moves. Vela’s movement was excellent but his finishing was just the opposite.

The second goal cushion was secured in the 67th minute. Van Persie slid it out to Vela whose cross found Bendtner at the back post. The Dane bundled it in, somehow.

Wigan tried to go forward but Arsenal did well collectively. On the other end chance upon chance was squandered and it saved the visitors from going back with a humiliating score line.

I don’t want to dwell on the missed chances or the lacklustre opening half hour. There were too many changes to the team and some players were clearly lacking match practice and confidence. This was a good result made even better by the spanking received by United. I think the home and away factor made a big difference in both games. Hopefully, we’ll get the second leg at home in the semi-final.

Individual Performances

Szczesny: Didn’t have much to do. Swept well and one good punch is all I can recall.

Eboue: Looked a bit casual and struggled against Moses. Not convinced he has the focus needed for this level. Almost gave a goal away with a terrible and careless back pass. Nothing worth noting in terms of attacking or defensive contribution.

Djourou: Read the game well and looked composed on the ball. Good physical presence. Covered the right side well behind Eboue.

Koscielny: Pretty much like Djourou. Excellent tackling.

Gibbs: Had some good moments on both ends of the pitch but also had a couple of wobbles at the back. Lacked match sharpness but looked promising.

On the whole the defence wasn’t really tested. They won’t find another team with such a weak and uncoordinated attack again this season.

Denilson: Had some weak moments on the ball but did well mostly. Stayed close to the defence for large parts of the game and kept the ball moving.

Wilshere: Pretty much like Denilson in the first half. Came up with some delightful balls in the second half after the game opened up.

Van Persie: Arsenal need him fit for the rest of the season, no doubt about that. Incredible vision and execution. Still not close to his best so will only get better with games. If RvP plays, I’ll be much more confident in the big games in December. Had an injury scare early in the second half!

Overall the midfield did alright but not as well as I’d have liked. We should have kept the ball better, moved it faster. They did a good job of supporting the defence and I won’t be surprised to hear that Arsene had a safety first policy.

Walcott: Had an on and off game. Good delivery on corners, not so good on crosses. Good movement but didn’t find enough space. Finishing lacked composure. Was double teamed by the defenders every time he started running with the ball.

Bendtner: Scored a goal but didn’t play anywhere close to his potential. Needs to do more on and off the ball.

Vela: If we leave the missed chances out the Mexican had an excellent game. Put in some good crosses, one led to the goal, another should have led to a penalty. His movement was excellent as was his positional sense and defensive contribution was decent. But he missed so many chances that it’s difficult to ignore them. Clearly lacks confidence and was probably thinking too much about impressing.

Subs: Nasri didn’t have to do much but missed a glorious chance, Eastmond did much better than he’s done recently. JET didn’t really know how to get involved.