LONDON UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 22: Robin Van Persie (R) of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Theo Walcott (L) after scoring his third goal in a hat trick during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic at the Emirates Stadium on January 22 2011 in London England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Arsenal defeated Wigan Athletic today on the strength of three Robin van Persie goals in front of the Emirates Stadium crowd. It was the Dutch striker's first hat trick in an Arsenal career spanning seven seasons, and his six, seventh, and eighth goals in 15 matches across all competitions this year.
The match was, in all truth, dominated by Arsenal. According to Orbinho's twitter feed, Aresnal had 63% of the possession, outshot Wigan 24-3, and had ten of those shots on target, while Wigan had zero. It was the third match out of the last four in which Arsenal managed double figures in shots on target.
From the off, Arsenal were threatening Wigan. Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, and van Persie all had great early chances before the latter opened the scoring after 22 minutes. Alex Song held up the ball on the left, looking for an opening, and as Steve Gohouri came out from right back to challenge him, van Persie moved into the empty space. Song threaded a pass into that space, van Persie ran onto it, turned, and rifled a shot beneath the valiant-but-overwhelmed Ali Al Habsi.
The Gunners did not let up in their assault after the opener, but Al Habsi and their own lack of finish kept a second goal from materializing. Their best chance at a second came in the 34th minute as Theo Walcott broke free through the middle with only Al Habsi to beat. Fabregas was racing up on the left, and Theo opted to try to feed his captain rather than shoot himself. Fabregas was in a better position to score, but Walcott's pass did not lead him enough, and the Wigan defense was able to recover and make a last-ditch tackle. It looked like it was to be one of those days for Arsenal as Al Habsi continued to make saves, and halftime arrived with Wigan only a goal down.
Wigan made two changes at the half, Ronnie Stam coming off for Franco di Santo, and Mohamed Diame off for James McArthur. At first, it seemed to help, as the latter made an immediate impact, trying to lob Wojciech Szczesny but putting it over the bar. Aresnal's passing early after the break was a little suspect, too. Nasri was limping a bit after a dubious Wigan challenge, Walcott was limping, and Johan Djourou was holding his shoulder. But all three ran off their injuries, and Arsenal's form came back in a big way.
Fabregas got a quick free kick from Song, and immediately looked up. Being Cesc Fabregas, he saw van Persie starting a run thirty yards away, thought "yep", and floated a ball which came down at exactly the spot van Persie was running to in between Al Habsi and the Wigan defense. Being Robin van Persie, the striker didn't even think--he just lashed a volley straight into the back of the net, and it was 2-0.
David Beckham, in the Emirates crowd, clapped politely and raised his eyebrows.
Arsenal looked comfortable again, their central attackers having combined for a goal, and came at Wigan some more. Jack Wilshere had an effort go just wide after threading his way around the Latics' midfielders. Hendry Thomas saw yellow for a challenge on Alex Song. Cesc Fabregas tried to score from his back after tripping up on the edge of the box.
As Arsenal rained chances down on Al Habsi, the best chance for van Persie to complete his hat-trick to that point came as Fabregas was hauled down in the box after running onto a through ball. Gary Caldwell received a red card for his trouble, a last man tackle, and van Persie stepped up to the spot. Normally a reliable lower corner penalty taker, van Persie instead yipped his effort a foot over the crossbar and fell to his knees.
Wigan were now on the look for a way back into the match, and Di Santo headed over the bar. van Persie immediately came back down to the other end and lashed a curling effort off the side of the post. Wenger readied his subs, and Andrei Arshavin came on for Samir Nasri. Alex Song saw a shot go just wide as Marouane Chamakh was readying to come on for van Persie, but Robin wasn't done.
Fabregas, again, laid a perfect ball over the Wigan defense, this time for Walcott. Walcott got a touch, shielded the ball from the Wigan defender, shielded it some more while he was held, shielded it some more, and van Persie simply stole in and crushed it home off of Al Habsi's hands with his right. It was as good a pick and roll as you will see in the Premier League this year, and the Dutchman celebrated his hat-trick with clear relief and joy as he walked off, replaced by Chamakh. Arsenal saw the game out uneventfully after that moment without further incident.
It was a deserved three points, and an important three, too, as Manchester United won again, smashing Birmingham City. Goal difference could potentially be an issue, and one hopes that Arsenal will show more ruthless finishing going forward, because United certainly are. But it's still three points, and another clean sheet and dominating performance.