LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Robin van Persie of Arsenal looks thoughtful during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic at Emirates Stadium on April 16, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
0-1 Di Santo 7'
0-2 Gomez 8'
1-2 Vermaelen 21'
Arsenal's chances of easing into 3rd place have taken a severe denting after Wigan deservedly beat the Gunners at the Emirates for the first time. Two goals in two minutes saw the Latics jump to a lead that they would never give up. The loss of Mikel Arteta in that period also meant Arsenal effectively lost their shape for the rest of the match.
It shouldn't have been like this; Arsenal started brightly enough, with Yossi Benayoun's header being acrobatically tipped over by Ali-Al Habsi. From the ensuing corner, though, Wigan broke with 4, against Arsenal's 2, with only Andre Santos being on the half-way line. Quite why Arsenal only had 1 back is a mystery; they got away with it against Aston Villa, but not here, with Moses finding Gomez, who slid the ball across to the free di Santo, who took the ball over Wojciech Szczesny and then slotted past a desperate Benayoun. Seconds later, it was 2; Moses wriggled his way past Sagna, slid the ball across, and in the scramble, Szczesny lost the ball and Jordi Gomez tapped in. Amongst all that, Mikel Arteta went off with an injured ankle, and was replaced by Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal immediately upped the tempo of the game, forcing Wigan back. Usually, that'd be bad news for Wigan, but their defending was composed and efficient; blocking Arsenal's passing lanes off, making them cross. One cross, from Tomas Rosicky to Thomas Vermaelen saw Al-Habsi beaten and Arsenal score, but after that, Arsenal seemed laboured in possession. Wigan's time-wasting, utterly unpunished by referee Andre Marriner, stopped Arsenal, but stopping Arsenal more was the slow movement of the ball and lack of creativity. Arsenal did press, but they didn't press in an organised fashion, which was largely down to missing Arteta. Aaron Ramsey was not able to competently replace him; he had no understanding with Alex Song, nor with Tomas Rosicky, and instead of dictating the tempo like Arteta usually does, Ramsey just slowed down play and ran into trouble. Wigan had 15 shots; the most of any side at the Emirates in the league this season. This was down to their ability to break quickly, and because Arsenal didn't have a midfield; at times Song was pushed up, and at times, he was the only midfielder back. Victor Moses caused Sagna problems, as did Beausejour, and Song often got overloaded in the middle with Gomez, Moses and McCarthy.
Theo Walcott was largely anonymous because he, and Arsenal as a whole, didn't know how to deal with Wigan's 3-4-3. Beausejour pushed Walcott back, and when he got past him, Figueroa was there to mop up. Because of the wing backs, Arsenal didn't get much out of the wide areas, and thus were incredibly narrow, making it easy for Wigan to defend. The fullbacks didn't provide width; Sagna, concerned about Moses, didn't get forward so much, and Santos likes to come inside, unlike Kieran Gibbs. As such, they began forcing it in the second half, which is why Arsene Wenger felt they lost their cohesion. The introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the centre of midfield was promising, but Wenger made a mistake in replacing Benayoun with Gervinho. If the Ivorian, who is in a horrible run of form, was to come on, then Walcott, who isn't as good a dribbler as Benayoun is, should've been replaced. As such, Arsenal lost a creative outlet. There were chances to level the score, but Arsenal either chose the wrong option, or, as Andre Santos did, missed. After 60 minutes, though, Wigan looked more likely to score.
A fully deserved 3 points for Wigan, and Arsenal must wonder how they can beat Manchester City one week and lose to Wigan 8 days later. It wasn't complacency; Arsenal came out of the gate strong, perhaps too strong, and never regained control after the loss of Arteta. Arsenal have a massive game this weekend; win, and third place is very attainable. Lose, and they might be right back in the race for 4th.