What we have learned so far is that we can never relax, not even after a convincing victory like the one against Reading. Two consecutive victories in the Premiership against WBA and Reading implied that we may do something stupid against Wigan given that we hadn’t managed three consecutive victories in the Premiership this season.
It was a tough match. Wigan didn’t just lay down and surrender themselves. Au contraire. They tried to press our back-line as much as they could with McArthur constantly obstructing Cazorla’s attempt to recreate his performance against Reading. Despite the Latics’ efforts, we managed to snatch all three points and reach 3rd place thanks to our goal-difference.
Our first chance came after only nine minutes. After a decent move, Arteta gave a decent ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain who was on the right side of the attack. The English international ran into the box with the ball and fired it to the left side of the Al Habsi’s goal, but the goalkeeper from Oman managed to deflect the ball for a corner. If that one went in, perhaps we would have a more comfortable afternoon. Then it was Podolski’s turn to test his shooting ability but Al Habsi deflected the shot again. Theo Walcott – who again started as the focal point of our attack – had a chance a few minutes later but instead of taking a shot that was deflected, he should have passed the ball to Podolski who was waiting on the left side in a better position. There was suspicion of Walcott being offside anyway.
The Latics weren’t impressed with our initiative and almost went one up when Di Santo made wonderful pass with the outside of his boot to an on-running Arouna Kone. Kone was faster than Mertesacker, as expected, and ran into the box on Sczszesny’s right-hand side, but his left-footed finish was poor and the ball went wide. Our defensive line was too high at times so Mertesacker, who is not exactly Speedy Gonzales, had to compete in a sprint-off with Kone. The Latics had a number of crosses from Ronnie Stam but none of them turned out to be dangerous for us. It’s no wonder they are the team that poses little aerial threat in the league.
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Refereeing was pretty poor in the first half. Wilshere was booked despite the fact he made a clear challenge on Maloney. Our future captain was kicked and fouled every time he was near the ball but the referee failed to punish any of those fouls with a yellow card. There were a couple of scary moments when Wilshere was limping in the first half but it all ended well for him and us.
The start of the second half gave more entertainment than the closing minutes of the first one. After Wigan had an attempt via the left wing, Cazorla produced a decent chance for Walcott, but it seems that Cazorla’s assists are not the ones our attackers prefer before they score goals. Walcott’s shot was saved by Al Habsi so Cazorla didn’t get his fifth assist in the Premiership. Despite the fact he is one of the best players in the league when it comes to creation of chances for his team-mates, he has made only four assists so far this term.
In 58th minute we got a penalty. Walcott and Cazorla produced a decent combination on the right side of our attack with the former entering the box. While he was doing that, Beausejour tripped him and Moss pointed to the penalty spot. Mikel Arteta took the penalty and scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game. Arteta has scored three penalties in our winning streak and decided the winner in two out of three matches.
From that moment Wigan took control. Figueroa and Kone tested Sczszesny who did his job properly, but there was nothing that Sczszesny could do when a free-flowing attack from Wigan created an excellent opportunity for Jones. He fired a low shot aiming at the left side of the Sczszesny’s net, but the ball went just a little bit wide so the Latics didn’t get their equalizer. Wilshere was then fouled by Figueroa but Walcott’s decent free-kick went over the bar.
The last opportunity for the Latics came in injury time. Gomez had hit Gibbs’ hand with the ball. Some referees would point to the penalty spot but this time we were the lucky ones. The final whistle gave us a relief. With these three points we are now in third spot, 9 points behind second-placed City and with better goal-difference than Everton, WBA and Tottenham.
on a tough game…
It was a very different game [from Reading]. They stopped us from playing and they did that very well – especially in the middle of the park. We didn’t find the same fluency going forward. It was much more a win because we really wanted a result more than because we dominated the game. We had chances, but, especially in the final part of the game [it] was difficult to come out at the back and master possession. They had a lot of possession in the end but we really wanted it. It’s good because [we showed] more determination than domination in the final part of the game.
on Wigan’s penalty appeals…
I’ve just seen it [the appeal for handball against Vermaelen]. That is not a penalty. I haven’t seen the appeal against Gibbs. I have just seen Vermaelen [and] that is not a penalty. Honestly, the ball comes like that on the arm – you have to raise your hand. The Gibbs [incident] I didn’t see.
on three League wins in a row…
It’s good but not enough. We want more. I hope that gives us a bit more belief and confidence and that we can play with a much more positive environment. We had to show nerve and we did it. Overall, it gives us a week to prepare [for] the next game and hopefully at home we can continue to win our games. Away from home, our record is quite good. We have only lost two games – at Man United and Norwich – since the beginning of the season. It’s an important part of the season now.
on if the players will be off on Christmas day…
on if it’s better to have the time off…
I would prefer to play. When the team is on a roll, you want them to go out and play. Physically, it was a difficult game for us. Maybe we need a little breather because we played two hours at Bradford and then at Reading, and today [was another] physical game on a very heavy pitch.
on Walcott playing centrally…
I wouldn’t like to judge him on one game. For me he has the ingredients to play there. I wouldn’t like to judge him on one game. He did not have much service today, he was a bit isolated. He can always be decisive, even if he does not have the greatest service. Today he made the decision because he got the penalty.
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Wojciech Szczesny | 7.5: Made one poor kick, but managed to do his primary job well like a classy goalkeeper should.
Bacary Sagna | 6.5: There was too much space on his side for the opponents but, luckily, Beausejour didn’t use it. Apparently, Wenger wants to sign Dani Alves from Barcelona to replace the Frenchman.
Per Mertesacker | 7.0: He was left alone with Kone in the first half, but he did his best to limit Kone’s options in front of Sczszesny. Solid defending.
Thomas Vermaelen | 6.5: He broke his tradition of scoring against Wigan. He could have done better when Di Santo created a chance for Kone, the whole defensive line was too high.
Kieran Gibbs | 7.0: Had a better first half than the second. He tried to link up with Podolski, but that wasn’t so effective like it was against Reading. He nearly conceded penalty in the last seconds of the match.
Mikel Arteta | 7.5: Converted the decisive penalty again. He created a great opportunity for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the opening minutes and made a few good challenges to prevent some of Wigan’s attack.
Santi Cazorla| 6.5: He was considered as main threat by our opponents, which is logical after his performances on Monday and in most matches this season. His link-up play with Walcott preceded the penalty. McArthur stuck to him like glue for a majority part of the match.
Jack Wilshere |6.5: Was hit by a million challenges from the Latics. Didn’t deserve his yellow card and didn’t get any protection from Moss when opponents fouled him in the first half. I was scared that he got injured again, but he didn’t leave the field.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.5: One of the best – if not the best – player on the field. He was constantly threatening from the right wing though he made a couple of mistakes in the closing minutes of the first half. Had his shot blocked in the opening of the match. He is and will be an important asset for us provided that he keeps his form.
Theo Walcott | 7.0: Although Martinez accused him for buying the penalty, it should be said he deserved that penalty. He got a chance to play as central forward again and it seems that results are good. He went out of this game with an assist by his name.
Lukas Podolski | 6.0: He can do much better. Had he scored from the couple of shots he sent to Al Habsi in the first half, he would probably have repeated his performance against Reading. There is a danger that he will do ‘Old Theo Walcott-routine’ with hot and cold performances which is something we can’t afford. Had to chase Stam in the first half.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.5: Surprisingly went in instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain. Did fine.
Francis Coquelin | 6.0: Decent performance in last ten minutes of the match.
Laurent Koscielny | N/A: Short cameo but it’s important that he’s back.
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