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Arsenal 1-2 Wigan Athletic (Wigan fan's perspective)

Tuesday 17th April 2012
Well, where the heck do I begin dissecting this one? I'm fast running out of superlatives for this team right now. A side that has struggled to win consecutive games for nearly three years is now making a habit of going on the most remarkable of winning runs. After a stunning win over Manchester United last time out you'd have forgiven most Wigan fans for praying for a draw or even a narrow defeat, but this team is capable of anything right now.

Wigan took the lead after they broke in numbers from an Arsenal corner. Jordi Gomez found himself in acres of space and when he looked up and saw Franco Di Santo unmarked in the middle he laid a perfect ball across to the big frontman. As Szczesny came rushing out to meet him, the ball looped up into the air and Di Santo was first to stab the ball into the empty net and give Wigan the lead on seven minutes.

Wigan's joy turned to ecstasy just over a minute later when Victor Moses sent Bacary Sagna dizzy with one of his trademark mazy runs into the box. His ball across goal was flicked goalwards by James McArthur. As Szczesny tried to gather in stepped Jordi Gomez to prod home the loose ball at the second attempt and double Wigan's advantage. You could hear a pin drop inside the Emirates as the Spaniard ran away to celebrate!

From that moment on many would have thought the visitors would park the bus in front of the goal. For a few minutes after going in front Wigan squandered various great opportunities to put the ball into the box and extend their lead.

Once Arsenal settled and found their feet they started to get near the Wigan goal more often and you started to feel it could be a long night. Al Habsi made a stunning save from a Benayoun header. It would have been an unlikely way to score for the Israeli, but only great reflexes from Al Habsi kept Wigan's two-goal lead in tact.

Thomas Vermaelen it was that eventually pulled a goal back when he scored from a cross by the impressive Rosicky. With over an hour to play Wigan had to dig in keep their concentration, keep their shape and keep their heads. They did exactly that with a stunning rearguard action.

Without doubt Arsenal had their chances to pull level, Djourou came closest in the first half with a shot just wide of the post. In the second half Van Persie's burst into the box to set up Andre Santos who perhaps ought to have tested Al Habsi, but his shot also went wide.

As Arsenal pressed for the leveller it seemed Wigan were the more likely to get the next goal. Moses broke through one-on-one with Szczesny and just when it looked like he would go on and round the 'keeper and put the game to bed he shot too early from the edge of the box and his tame effort was easily saved. He had the time to take it further and put the game beyond any doubt.

Moses ran Arsenal ragged all night and made one of the best defenders in the league in Bacary Sagna look ordinary. Wigan's system, pace and trickery on the break caused Arsenal enough of a headache to not commit too many men forward in search of the equaliser and ultimately that was something that never came.

It's a measure of this young Wigan team and how far they've come that only 18 months ago I feel they would have caved in and lost this game comfortably. In the end, although their goal came under some pressure in the latter stages, Al Habsi rarely had a save of any significance to make and Wigan held out for a quite remarkable win.

The win was remarkable, but so too was the performance. Wigan have now gone to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates in the space of four weeks and played the home side off the park. When you throw in that stunning, unexpected home win over Manchester United you can see why Wigan fans are living on cloud nine and riding the crest of a wave that shows no signs of letting up.

Some things after the game soured a good night. Robin Van Persie refused to shake the hand of Gary Caldwell after the Wigan skipper won a late tussle with him in the box. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wouldn't admit his side were outplayed for long periods, which is no real surprise from him. His touchline antics were an embarrassment all evening. You can't fault what the Frenchman has achieved in his Arsenal career but he lets himself down so badly with his behaviour and comments at times.

I know what I saw, and it was another incredible Wigan display worthy of three points and no bitter, blinkered Arsenal manager can tell me otherwise. In my opinion the 2-1 scoreline almost flattered Arsenal on the night.

For Wigan it's a fifth win on the road, an amazing stat for a team fighting relegation. All five wins have been 2-1 victories. Wigan became the first team since Southampton in 2001 to beat Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive matches. That's quite a stat in itself and is a measure of where this team is at right now.

This run of fixtures that looked so very daunting (Liverpool away, Stoke at home, Chelsea away, Man United at home, Arsenal away) has resulted in no fewer than TWELVE points being picked up. It would have been more but for some questionable decisions at Stamford Bridge. If a clairvoyant had told you that four weeks ago you'd have told her she was in the wrong job!

I'm trying not to boast too much about the way things are going currently, the job is far from finished. But the finishing line is starting to appear on the horizon and it's hard not to boast on the back of such sensational results and performances as these. To beat a Man United side on the back of eight straight wins so convincingly and then outplay a team like Arsenal in their own back yard having won nine of their last ten, who wouldn't sing from the rooftops about that?

This team deserves all the praise it gets right now and I just hope they don't take their foot off the gas having worked so hard to climb out of the bottom three. A five-point cushion looks healthy with four games to play but it could so easily change with one bad result. Although Victor Moses was named the man of the match it could have been any one from eleven. Various players had arguably their best performances in a Wigan shirt, including Antolin Alcaraz, who was calmness personified throughout.

Back to the capital on Saturday for a trip to Wigan's bogey side Fulham. You wouldn't put it past this group of players to go and win there either, on current form. A fifth win from six would surely make the club virtually safe from the dreaded drop. One thing is for sure, this club will keep on fighting until they've given everything they've got and until the very last whistle on May 13th against Wolves.

Arsenal:  Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74), Vermaelen, Santos, Arteta (Ramsey 9), Song, Rosicky, Benayoun (Gervinho 61), Walcott, Van Persie

Unused Subs:  Fabianski, Squillaci, Gibbs, Chamakh

Goals: Vermaelen 21

Wigan Athletic:  Al Habsi, Boyce, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Beausejour, McArthur, McCarthy, Gomez (Diame 86), Moses, Di Santo (Sammon 75)

Unused Subs:  Pollitt, Stam, Watson, Jones, McManaman

Goals: Di Santo 7, Gomez 8

Starman: Victor Moses

Attendance: 60,060
Stuart Alker

Total articles: 31

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