Sunday, 18 April 2010


Wigan Athletic 3 Arsenal 2
After the midweek defeat at White Hart Lane had all but destroyed any slim hope of Arsenal pressuring Chelsea for the Premiership title, certainly no doubts remained after the visitors self-destructed at the DW Stadium this afternoon. Arsenal's injury torn side included 19-year old Craig Eastmond, a player not even officially listed as a member of the first team squad. The youngster defended well although Van Persie, was surprisingly left on the bench. When this season ends with the Arsenal trophy cabinet empty once more, some of Wenger's team selections are likely to be called into question. The Arsenal faithful who followed their team to Lancashire will be wondering why the Dutchman was not introduced until the closing minutes after he had contributed so much in so little time against Spurs. By then it was too late and Arsenal had cheaply thrown away a two goal lead to a resilient home side that was fighting for survival in the top flight. 

The flowing nature of the game promised to produce plenty of goals as both teams capitalised on the other's poor defensive work and misplaced passes. Wigan should have capitalised early after Fabrianski failed to intercept a ball that flew dangerously across his six yard box. The Pole, called in to replace Almunia who Arsenal claimed has a knee injury, lacked confidence and looked poor.This merely highlighted Wenger's need to buy a reliable 'keeper. Moments later Arsenal were awarded a free kick just beyond the Wigan penalty area. Clichy, who has scored only once, was an unlikely candidate to take the kick and the defender's effort went lifelessly into Kirkland's hands. The visitors had a worthy call for a penalty after a Wigan defender appeared to strike the ball with his hand but referee Lee Mason failed to react and Bendtner should have done better with a strange half volley that Kirkland and a defender jointly scrambled away.

With the game still even Arsenal were lucky not to concede when Diaby headed a corner that Fabianski should have taken with ease but fluffed. It certainly wasn't the Polish goalkeeper's day and it seemed only a matter of time before he would make a costly mistake. However Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal after latching on to a pass from Bendtner before beating two defenders and slicing a fine shot beneath the hands of the diving Kirkland. It had taken more than 41 minutes to end the deadlock even though Rosicky had a good effort saved in the 34th minute after Arsenal had started to take command. Two minutes after scoring Walcott deserved a second after driving a powerful angled shot beyond the reach of Kirkland but also inches wide of the post from a back-heeled pass by Bendtner.

The second half began with a penalty claim from Wigan when Watson claimed to have been pulled back by Nasri. The referee had a clear view and waived play-on but Watson should have been yellow carded for diving. At the other end Diaby, continuing his period of poor form, wasted a good opportunity to increase the Arenal lead. But with only three minutes into the half Arsenal were awarded a corner on the right which Silvestre, unmarked on the penalty spot, rose to head powerrfully passed Kirkland. From then on it should have been plain sailing for Arsenal who should have capitalised on Chelsea's defeat at Spurs. Instead they allowed Wigan back into the game. N'zogbia wasted an effort when, this time, Fabianski pulled off a fine save. Just beyond the hour, Watson forced another good save from the Arsenal goalkeeper, and five minutes later a mistake by Diaby almost let in Rodallega. Titus Bramble was then booked for bringing down Walcott as he darted up the right flank. 

Arsenal should have increased their lead but instead they began to look slack. With ten minutes left of normal time, Arsenal's grip started to wain allowing Wigan to cease the opportunity to pressure their defence. Substitute Victor Moses was given too much space and allowed to put Ben Watson through to score. It was time for Wenger to replace Walcott with Eboue; Rosicky with 20-year old Spaniard, Fran Merida. Arsenal immediately attacked and in a quick passing movement with Ebou, Nasri forced a sharp save from Kirkland. In the closing minutes Watson almost scored the equaliser but Nasri blocked his shot on the line but another Fabianski error let Bramble in to make it 2-2. It should have all ended there, but The Latics had the bit between their teeth and 30 seconds into stoppage time N'Zogbia received a cross from Rodellaga to hit a fine 30 yard drive that went in off the post and this time Fabianski could not be blamed.

No comments: