Despite the award of a free kick for a non-foul that led to an undeserved Wigan equaliser to Podolski’s early strike, Arsenal bit back in the second half to score 3 goals in a 15 minute spell and trounce championship bound Wigan.
As the rain came down in relentless sheets on the red corner of North London the Arsenal faced up to a Wigan side fresh from a giant killing of Roberto Mancini’s former team, Manchester City.
The neon lighting around the Ashburton Grove stadium combined with the heavy bursts of rain to give the look of a Blade Runner inspired backdrop but with a cool autumnal feel despite it being mid-May.
With all but the ever injured Abou Diaby available for selection the major choices for Wenger would have been whether Gibbs and Flappy would return to the starting XI at the expense of Monreal and Chesney, with the latter having done nothing to deserve being dropped, in the event the return of Gibbs was the only change.
Wigan’s support were squeezed into one block, rather than the three away clubs normally get probably due to their supporters opting for the Wembley fixture of their 2 London dates in the space of four days.
As the game kicked off the Wigan danger man McManaman was given license to run their right wing however it was clear early on that Gibbs had the measure of him – Kieran’s anticipation of his interplay with Maloney prevented anything of consequence developing offense wise for Wigan.
While there was a little tension in the air around the stadium Gooners would have done well to realise that Wigan’s defence has been leaky most of the season and so it was to prove. A cross into their box was headed in, with little challenge from the Wigan defenders, by Podolski to put the good guys one up fairly early. Due to Arteta losing the toss we attacked the North bank in the first half, and not the second as is usual, so my view on the goal was a distant one as I was in the Clock end lower tier.
The rain carried on saturating the players and the pitch and possibly Mike Dean’s brain as he gave the first of two Wigan free kicks for fouls of what seemed to be of minimal contact and close to the edge of our penalty area.
The first of the free kicks went into the wall and ricocheted off in my direction to the right of the goal but the second 30 seconds before half time beat Chesney’s left hand.
The sense of injustice of an equalising goal coming from the “Dean effect” galvanised the crowd and the aforementioned official and his team left the pitch to a justified chorus of boos and whistles.
The atmosphere at the stadium could have gone one of two ways in the second half – either nervous anxiety or defiance and support of a team that deserved to be winning. It went the second way and it has to be said the way the crowd got behind the team and didn’t let the officials get any respite from home crowd pressure or the timewasting by the Wigan players (the goalie, who was given the countdown, or the player who got booked for slowing down the taking of the corner) go unnoticed.
The Arsenal were now attacking the goal in front of me and it seemed the team were being energised by the crowd to get the win that was rightfully theirs with Cazorla being effective in decisive bursts.
All of a sudden he was running towards me, down our right wing, and a cross was slung in towards Theo. At that point time appeared to slow:
Oh, it’s bobbling around in there, wouldn’t it be nice if Theo got onto that, but wait the goalie has ploughed into him, that’s a penalty surely, never mind it’s a goal now as he’s bundled it in!
It was nothing more than Arsenal deserved and the crowd felt the vindication of taking a lead that was lawfully theirs.
About 25 minutes or so to go, would we hold onto the lead? Moments later, all of a sudden Podolski latched onto a through ball from Santi, who I think took advantage of napping by the Wigan defence to send in a quick cross, and Lukas duly lobbed the floundering Joel in the Latics goal.
Relief! A two goal buffer, one that this more defensively resilient Arsenal would surely hold onto. However yet another telling through ball from Santi set off Rambo on a marauding left wing run, which just as I saw the whites of his eyes he flashed them to the side and curled in a delicious goal past the keeper who was expecting him to cross, and made it four goals for Arsenal. After another lung busting performance in a dynamic midfield the supporters to a man were elated for Aaron, who thoroughly deserved to score
A few late subs saw Jack return; he suffered his first foul (one that Dean even called) after being on the field for five seconds and our skipper come on after Oxo.
4-1, a decisive score line and one that started the exits of the bedraggled Wigan supporters to begin their long journey up north to Lancashire, where they would contemplate life in the Championship come August. To the Arsenal supporters credit when the Wigan team went to clap their fans at the final whistle they also applauded the team and their remaining fans.
The chants of “We’re coming for you, we’re coming for yoooo—uuu, Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you” rang out at fulltime and while the job is not finished the home season ended on a high note and the lap of appreciation was warmly received and all thoughts would then be focused on final fixture against Newcastle.
It’s been a rough old season and your humble scribe hopes you enjoyed this season’s reports and looks forward to a win on Sunday to salvage a season that started off inauspiciously.
By Charybdis1966, on Youtube and Twitter.