Wigan 0-1 Arsenal: Mik nicks it

Wigan 0-1 Arsenal: Mik nicks it

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It’s not a game about which there’s a great deal to say. Wigan played quite well, certainly tenaciously, Arsenal stood up to them pretty well, had the better of the few chances that the game produced and won through a Mikel Arteta penalty.

We were unchanged from Reading but this probably has as much to do with Olivier Giroud being ill as much as anything else. Along with a similarly unwell Tomas Rosicky, the Frenchman didn’t even make the bench, and as the game went on you got the feeling this is one in which we could really have done with him. Theo Walcott up front is a buzz word, something that should trend on Twitter for a few moments and then everyone forgets about.

It’s not, in my view, something which suits him or Arsenal, and his ineffectiveness yesterday was plain to see. He’s not the guy to hold the ball up, he wants it behind the defence when the team need him to come short and lay it off, and physically it’s just not a role which he can play with any real success. Wigan yesterday were reminiscent of a Sam Allardyce Bolton side, snapping into tackles, leaving the foot in time and time again, and it was frustrating to see Jack Wilshere get booked for a fantastic tackle (which the Wigan players didn’t complain about, in fairness), then see Shaun Moloney commit foul after foul after foul without so much as a word from the ref.

On days like that you need a measure of physicality in your team, and an outlet to relieve some of the pressure. Theo doesn’t give us either, and the strengths he does have (his pace and his … erm … pace) are negated. With a more traditional forward yesterday I think we might have been able to lessen some of the pressure we were under, but that we didn’t isn’t Walcott’s fault, and he did win the penalty.

I saw @danlevy1 mention it in the same breath as Freddie Ljungberg and I think that’s spot on. He got in front of the defender, there was some contact and down he went. Soft, yes. Penalty, undoubtedly. After all, the ref pointed to the spot. Mikel Arteta stepped up, sent Al Habsi the wrong way and if it was something of a break then fine, I’m not complaining.

As the game wore on Arsene decided we have what we hold was the best policy. Aaron Ramsey replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was probably our best player on the day. Then he pulled off Podolski to chuck on the Coq, before late on throwing on Koscielny for Cazorla to increase the defensive mindedness of the team. Wigan had been pressing without creating too much and when they did Wojciech Szczesny was up to the job.

He changed direction well to save a Figueroa shot which deflected on its way towards goal, and then came out well to save with his legs from Kone when he’d created good space for himself. In the immediate aftermath of the game they’re not saves that spring to mind, but they were important and made with a minimum of fuss. He looks more and more solid as the weeks go by and it’s encouraging to see.

In the end we hung on well, Wigan had a lot of the ball and it was amusing to see late them on, as they pressed for an equaliser them, passing the ball from left to right back to left, looking at a wall of well organised Arsenal defenders. If it seemed familiar it’s because we’ve often faced that wall and been unable to find space, so it was nice to see the shoe on the other foot for a change.

Afterwards, Arsene said:

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.

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.

And look, sometimes you have to dig in and scrap one out. This isn’t a game which will win any awards for performance or excitement, but it will show three points for Arsenal and that’s the main thing. It’s also our third Premier League win in a row and while we’re still looking for consistency in our performances, that’s the first time we’ve done that since March last year, so that’s a good thing.

The tube strike means West Ham is cancelled and we don’t play again until the 29th, but going into the Christmas we’re sitting in third place. I can live with that, for now.

Right, not much more to it, last of the shopping to be done today. Have a good Sunday, back tomorrow.