Sunday, December 10, 2023

Wigan 0-4 Arsenal : an Ashford and Simpson performance


Match report (with goal clips)

I think that’s what you’d call back on track. A solid, unspectacular performance, not aided and abetted by a ridiculous, bought sending off early in the game, and a display that showed lessons have been learned from away days at Wigan before.

The team was as expected and although the home began very brightly – and probably should have scored but for the magic heel of Santos – it didn’t take long for us to assert ourselves and boss the game. We pushed Wigan further and further back into their own half and the goals were inevitable. The first came from Mikel Arteta. After Vermaelen drove forward from midfield he took it on and let fly from 30 yards. Al Habsi turned a bit Al Munia, it has to be said, but it was a quality strike from the dishy Spaniard.

A minute later it was 2-0. Robin van Persie’s corner found Vermaelen at the back post and his header crept inside the post where a defender probably should have been but wasn’t. So 2-0 at half time and Arsenal were comfortable, yet this was familiar territory. This time, however, there was nobody have a laugh and slapping the head of a fish-mouthed French defender, and not just because we didn’t have a fish-mouthed French defender.

The second half showed why this team has been on an upward curve in recent weeks. The professionalism and maturity of the players shone through. Wigan offered little, the occasional cross kept Szczesny vaguely involved, and rather than concede three, this time Arsenal scored two more to kill the game off completely.

While doing the live blog I was tempted to write ‘This is one of those moves that if we score from people will ask how many passes there were in the build up’. Sadly, I had one of those days yesterday where what I typed was delayed by half a second (due to some interference from the stream), and it seemed like an awful lot of hassle. I wish I had, because after 33 Arsenal passes Robin van Persie twisted two defenders and although his shot was saved Gervinho was there to finish it off (stat via @orbinho).

To cap it off Robin van Persie scored the fourth after something of a barren spell for him, one Premier League game without a goal. As usual it was Theo Walcott who set it up, another assist for him, another goal for the captain, and another three points for the team. Afterwards, Arsene said:

The confidence is there and you could feel that in the way we played today. I can only congratulate the team. They are growing and they are getting better and better. You could see there is something there to work on. Today we have seen some outstanding combinations.

Overall it was just the job you would have expected us to do. Wigan were pretty poor but it’s not as if that has stopped us dropping points in the past (not just to Wigan, I should point out). Four goals, a clean sheet and a game in which we pretty much dominated despite their start to the game. There weren’t any real stand-out performances, just a really solid team one.

As well as that it was good to see the goals being spread around a bit. Arteta from midfield, Vermaelen is such a threat (have we ever had such a free scoring centre-half?), and I was glad to see Gervinho get in on the act. I know he can improve, certainly in and around the box if he could find a better final ball more often he’d be really dangerous, but I’m sure the stats show that for all that he’s been involved in plenty of goals this season (scoring and assisting). As for van Persie, well, you just expect it now, don’t you?

It means now we’ve set ourselves up nicely for the game against Everton next weekend – which will be a much sterner test – and we can go to Olympiacos, leave a few players behind, and look forward to seeing how some of the youngsters and fringers get on in the Champions League.

Lots of talk this morning about Wojciech Szczesny who, after the game, shushed the Arsenal fans, then launched into a rendition of ‘By far the greatest team …’ (vid and GIFs here). What can you say about him? When I spoke before about him having ‘it’ I meant it in terms of his goalkeeping but when you reading him talking about what the club means to him he’s got ‘it’ as a Gooner too, which is just brilliant.

In other news The Mirror is reporting that Emmanuel Frimpong is set to join Wolves on loan, which makes a lot of sense to me. The Carling Cup exit might have expidited things but it’s clear he needs to play regularly to develop as a player. And with Francis Coquelin more ready to play understudy to Song then Frimpong getting regular football elsewhere will do him the world of good.

Beyond that not a great deal going on this morning, so it’s time for Match of the Day, coffee, the papers and a nice relaxing day before an exciting and hectic week to come.

Till tomorrow.

ps – I’m aware the video page isn’t working properly at the moment, my pals at 101 are working hard to sort things out. Will update when it’s all fixed.

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