Wigan 3-2 Arsenal. Yeah, really! Don’t you just hate football?

I kind of wish I wrote this match report at the final whistle, or closer to then, because I would have been all angry and scathing. Couldn’t summon the courage, though. But now I’ve calmed down, meaning I’m going to be all reasonable. Massive shame!

Anyways, huge game this was. Let’s set the scene. On Wednesday, we’d effectively blown our title challenge after Sp*rs decided to finally end their winless streak against us in the League, leaving us 6 points off the lead. Then Man United won at Citeh, making second place difficult. Thought it was all done and dusted, then Sp*rs decided to become World-beaters (or whatever it is you need to be to beat Chelsea), throwing us a lifeline. If we took it, we’d be just 3 points off the lead. Would we take it?

Team news for the game:

Fabianski

Sagna – Campbell – Silvestre – Clichy

Eastmond – Diaby

Walcott – Nasri – Rosicky

Bendtner

Almunia was dropped (code-name: wrist injury) for the unquestionably and aptly re-named Flap-ianski, Theo for Eboue, Eastmond for the injured Denilson and Silvestre for the also injured Vermaelen. The question was whether Arsene would start Robin, but he felt a bench-role would be better, especially as he had a bit of ‘muscle reaction’. On the bench too, was ‘new kid on the block’, Conor Henderson- reserve player, ofcourse.

Wigan are no push-overs, espeecially with wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, but one would have thought that our starting XI would be able to do the business.

Wigan started quite decently, but after the first 5-10, we sort of took over. Theo was seeing loads of the ball, but we couldn’t find the net. There wasn’t much to report about the first half really. Few half-chances for Wigan, but they were struggling to hit the target. Clichy then took a free-kick, but his effort was weak and went into Kirkland’s arms comfortably. We actually ought to have had a penalty, Theo’s cross hitting a Wigan player’s hand, but no one, except Theo, made much of a fuss. Bendtner had a sharp chance from the immediate corner, but Kirkland made an equally smart save, low to his right.

The goal finally came through Theo, and it was a great goal. Bendtner with a gorgeous pass sent him on his way, and he did brilliantly to hold off the defender and slot it past Kirkland. One-nil, 5 minutes to go. Lovely. Theo could have had a second one shortly, but his effort at a curler went just wide!

Half-time then. Well-deserved lead, but still a lot of work left to be done.

Couldn’t bear to watch the whole of the second half again, ATVO highlights being more than enough! Either way, the last 10 minutes seem etched in my memory! Hopefully not for long…

Anyways, we started the second half in the best possible way, if you discount the penalty we almost conceded. Didn’t think it was a penalty for all it’s worth. The tug by Nasri on Watson was minimal, more than anything. Very reminiscent of that by Vermaelen which led to him being harshly sent off. The referee rightly ignored the shouts and 90 seconds (apparently) later, we were 2-nil up! Kirkland saved from Diaby, then we forced a corner on the right.  Nasri took it and found Silvestre’s head, directing it into the bottom-left corner!

Points sown up! Erm, I’m pretty sure football’s 90 minutes plus extra-time, not 50 minutes!

N’Zogbia could have made it 2-1 shortly after, but he passed it straight to Fabianski, after being one-on-one! Being 2-0 down seemed to liberate Wigan and they began to pile the pressure and sure enough, 10 minutes from time they equalised through Ben Watson. Good goal. Poor defending. Arsene was about to substitute Theo and Rosicky for Eboue and Merida before the goal, but he made them after the goal. Didn’t matter though, as it was all Wigan.

8 minutes later and they got their (deserved) equaliser through Titus Bramble. You know you’re in trouble when Titus Bramble scores against you and is named Man-of-the-Match! You’re in even more trouble when the goal is a gift! Nasri had earlier cleared off the line from a corner, but another corner later, Flap-ianski ‘catches’ the ball then inexpicably drops it onto Bramble’s head, right in front of goal! He gladly accepted the gift. Like WHAT?! And you thought Almunia was bad, right? A right joke!

Two minutes to go and sure enough, Wigan won it in injury-time! Great great goal by N’Zogbia, but LOOK at the defending! I know defenders are meant to be in a line, but I’m pretty sure they mean horizontally, not vertically! Anyways, N’Zogbia picked the ball on the right near the penalty box, cut inside with no one closing him down, before hitting a beauty in-off the post!

Arsene brought Robin on after that I think, but really, it was game over already! Was expecting our customary goal in the last 10 minutes, but we’d morphed into Wigan, them into us! AMAZING! Full-time, game over, title challenge over, season over.

Unbelievable, but the harsh reality is that Wigan wanted the 3 points more than us. Shocking! Yes, they’re fighting for their survival, but we had an excellent chance to actually push on in the League! After being 2-0 up, we hit the cruise-control button and we just couldn’t get out of it. Kind of like what happened to Barca at the Emirates a few weeks ago, at West Ham earlier in the season, difference being that we, along with West Ham, didn’t find equalisers and Wigan did this time. The number of times we’ve relaxed at the wrongest stage this season, one would think we’d have learnt by now. Very shocking. One could argue injuries or whatever, but there’s NO excuse for blowing a 2-goal lead for the second time this season, even going one better and letting them score the winner. Ridiculous, unforgivable, sickening, disgraceful, humiliating and other such similar thoughts!

Our defence started okay-ish- Sol excellent, Silvestre doing well (shocker), but it all went to pieces at an alarming rate. It’s got to have left Arsene scratching his head! Not only the defence, the whole team went to pieces!

Oh Diaby, you do realise you’re actually on a football pitch? You’re meant to pass the ball to your mates in Red! The past few games have simply passed him by and he’s merely been a passenger. Disappointing, as he was hitting good form but he seems to have hit a brick wall, instead! Sort it please, yeah?

Apart from Diaby, Rosicky’s been slated a bit, but I kind of have sympathy for him. He’s been industrious, so it’s not effort his lacking, just performance. He’s one hell of a player, but he hasn’t been of late. I noticed he was everywhere today, making loads of tackles, but he’d back it up by losing the ball. Hard-work undone.

Theo did really well, shame he came off when he did as he may have had a positive say towards the end. Eastmond was impressive and it’s a real shame we ended up losing as it won’t help his confidence much. Nasri and Bendtner did OK, but we needed more than ‘OK’ from them. Huge room for improvement next game. No one really stood-out, apart from Sol at the start and Eastmond (all things considered) and they’ve all got to take long hard looks at themselves and acknowlegde that the performance was unacceptable.

Credit to Wigan, though. How ironic, that the player who started it all- Ben Watson- is an avid Arsenal fan, his parents even having season tickets at the Emirates. Hang your head in shame, mate! Just messing. But yeah, his goal started it all, and huge credit to Wigan to turning us over like that. A sentence one would have expected never to write! They wanted it more and they got it. They didn’t even have to resort to underhand tactics! Well-played.

Arsene was understandably furious and rumour had it that he ordered the coach to drop the players at the train station, so they could get the train with the fans. Don’t know if it’s true, but I wish it was! They deserved to get some stick from the fans in person! As long as it wasn’t over-the-top, ofcourse.

His reaction:

“I believe that we were not focussed and were not disciplined and we got caught. We were a bit unlucky as well but overall, in football you have to keep focussed for 90 minutes or you risk or a bit much, especially against a team who has nothing to lose and fights not to go down. They will not give up and in the end we were punished.”

“No, I never thought the game was over. I saw that we were having difficulties keeping the ball and creating opportunities. When you do not create chances in football you are in trouble. After we went 2-0 up our game lacked cohesion and discipline and I always felt that we could be punished.”

When asked who he thought would win the League:

“I don’t mind and I don’t care.”

I think we all feel that way, Arsene!

Title gone, but now we’ve got to try and hold on to 3rd. What a massive change of fortune, right? Arsene acknowledged this too, saying:

“Spurs can catch us, Manchester City can catch us. We have to win at least one game.”

We’ve lost 3 games in a row, all away games. Next up is City. Glad it’s at home, as we might as well not turn up! I’m going to the game and in all honesty, I’m not looking forward to it- for now at least. I do hope the lads perform exceptionally well and restore some pride back into the club. I still love you Arsenal, irrespective of an appalling display.

But yeah, onwards and upwards… :)

  • Shawn

    i think we will lose that game if arshavin and song dnt play and it we don’t start van persie . . . this is a very sad time, not sure if i’ll watch that game before i know the score . . . Are any of you coming down for the world cup? specifically to the matches in Durban(where i live)?

  • jeffvip

    song is the main player we miss… our midfield didnt win any ball as we used to, not to say bad bout eastmond but Song really did exceptionally well. no ball no game

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    World Cup? Unfortunately not, for me…
    Hope Song’s fit for Saturday. Robin should start, but I doubt Andrey’ll be fit…

  • Yemi

    There are some phrases i hate using
    1.) I saw this coming
    2.) I just new it would come to this
    3.) Didn’t I say so ?
    But how can i not say these ?

    (Coment 6 on Wigan vs Arsenal Preview…)
    Kuka says on April 17th, 2010 at 8:11 pm :
    Spurs have just “played us” back into the title hunt……. Thank You Spurs. Now go win at Old Trafford, and your favors to us will be complete…

    Am rooting for Stoke too, who are always a difficult team to break…..

    We are literally back in the race…….love this league

    (comment 7 on Wigan vs Arsenal Preview…)
    Yemi says on April 17th, 2010 at 10:00 pm :
    @ Kuka:
    Only if we take maximum points against wigan

    (comment 31 on Sp*rs vs Arsenal Preview – Van Persie’s Return…)

    Yemi says on April 15th, 2010 at 9:40 am :
    .
    .
    .
    .

    On a scary very scary note,i took a Look at the logs, we are just 9 points ahead of City, The have a game in hand and we still play them. That means even the 3rd spot is not home and dry for us yet. If they win the game in hand, beat us and maybe beat manu, We are suddenly level on points. We therefore need to decisively take out wigan which wont be easy cos the are battling the drop…….

    Were is the season ending for us?

  • Berth

    My opinion, Wenger should raise his game and improve people he is working with. Cant imagine when a simple decision look complex. Am tired and getting bored in Arsenal forums already.

  • tom G

    we always want to blame someone when something goes wrong. it’s completely understandable, especially when we pay hard earned money, and we genuinely love our team – which, for the most part, people who contribute to this site clearly do.
    the truth is that injuries have messed up our season. just looking at the reverse fixture will tell you that. 4-1, should have been more, RVP, Fab, Verminator, Gallas, etc.
    but it is also true that injuries can never be used as an excuse. the club is bigger than the players, the squad should be big enough, etc etc.
    what the manager has to do is get the team in a position to win things, no matter what, within the parameters of the club. well, has he? League Cup, he has a different use for. OK. FA cup – shame, this season, it really seemed to be too low on the list of priorities. should we have done it differently? I don’t know. CL? well, we went out to an amazing team at under full strength, no shame in that, can’t really fault the manager there. I also feel we were unlucky, played well, got it right tactically, were up for it, not daunted, mentally prepared. in all, credit to AW. PL? well, when you think what Chelski (in particular) and Man Ure have spent, to have been in with a shout at the title with a few games to go is proof that he is doing the job well. so is he the right man for the job? no question in my mind at all. despite everything, whatever anybody says about deserving it, we were in a position to win things this season. after that you need other things too, like luck, no one can deny that, though when we need someone to blame, it is easy to forget.
    Yesterday? definitely a bad moment, difficult to explain, an awful game. serious? completely. on the back of it, some players have to be deemed to be not up to it and moved on imo. but in the big scheme of things? we have to be honest and say, this season we have been done by injuries which no club could survive, and still, with a few games left, have been in with a shout. not the manager’s fault, on the contrary, it’s him that has got us to a position where we might have done something.
    The future? I know it’s not all about the future, but things look positive for next season, provided we hold on to third position. we have the core of a great team (bar GK imo), we do have a great squad and some top top youngsters coming through. crucially, we finally seem ready to spend – and one thing we know, is that if Arsene is happy to spend, we can actually afford to. that’s the manager getting the club in a position to win things year in, year out, and makes talk of sacking him ridiculous in my view.

  • tm17

    @ Tom G: Finally someone that make sense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Yemi

    @ tom G:
    We are always in a position to win something, but burn out close to the end. We were top 2 seasons ago till went to b’ham then things started happening.

    How many times have we been in the CL semis ?

    What we are saying is for Mr arsene to please add the few players left to make the team world beaters.

    Let us take a cue from barca, The core of their team is home made, But they still bring in one or two players when the home made cannot cover those positions satisfactorily.

    We undoubtedly have a great team, We are on the high, but we have also seen defects in the team. Plug the defects and we are OK.
    CB, DM, CF and i am tempted to add GK. But i think vito and sc…zy(can’t spell his name)should be given a try. Flappyhandski did make some great saves but when the heat turned up, he was found wanting

  • Yemi

    I think the boss made just one mistake yesterday. He either underestimated the work eastmond or DM position was doing or overestimated the the ability of whoever was to take over from young craig.

    Diaby should have been out of that game instead of eastmond.

  • Yemi

    *Cover for young craig

  • ny

    @yemi

    yes Diaby should have been replaced.

    Also please lay off Almunia.His positioning is bad.But at the same time he makes saves that no other GK in the world would do.Remember his full body block against Messi,Xavi,Pavluchenko etc.Nobody risk their life like Almunia .

    A new GK may not make positioning mistakes but surely will not make unbelievable stops like Almunia.Parting with Almunia may be easy but to get such a committed player is very difficult.

  • Kuka

    @YEMI – Nice one mate. I honestly think Spurs did us a massive favor and was hoping that the players were watching that game as I was. I was extremely excited to see the twist, turn into our favor and I just didn’t realize that the players who were probably watching, were probably the ones out injured. Deep down my heart, I thought We could win at Wigan given the life-line we had and I remember mentioning to SAM, that at 2-0 might just get some more goals and close the goal difference. Now I know. Unless we have 3 points, no one has done us a favor yet.

    …I watched the Wigan game and even at 2-0, I felt we had been gifted the game. I did not get the feeling that we had a real leader who commands the respect of the team on the pitch. One thing that Arsenal is able to do and do it well, is keep possession. The least I expected from them was to at least keep the ball. Even that they could not do. Conceding a goal was OK for me, as Wigan probably deserved something from the game. But at 2-1, I honestly and rightfully so, thought Arsenal would push for a third……but they could not even get the ball out of their own quarter.

    ……The Goal Keeping situation for us is a sad one. It really is. But in addition to that, we do need a leader on the pitch. I watched Dawson (both at the Arsenal and Chelsea) game and was was quite impressed. He never stopped talking. Not only did he lead by example, but he literally commanded the other 10 spurs players on the pitch. He rallied them all over the place. I have seen Terry and Rio do the same for Chelsea and united respectively. I have seen Gerard do the same too for liverpool. I have seen Henry do the same for Wolves etc etc etc. A common aspect between all these players is that they are key to their teams. These are the players that everyone listens to and they command respect within the team.

    …..LEADERS: Am sorry, Fabregas is a great player and an awesome captain, but am not sure that he commands the dressing room. He can rally the team through “playing well and leading by example”, but he cannot command them to submission when we need an important result. Campbell tried to do that at Spurs, but you felt that his position at the club is temporary and probably the rest of the guys just don’t listen to him.

    …..Unfortunately for us, leaders cannot be bought into the club. They have to be groomed. 100% of the leaders in all the top players have been with those clubs for at least 5 years, or are home-grown players.

    …my fear is that we are now suffering a “stigma” which has been brought upon us by “ourselves”. A few weeks back, Ballack said that “Arsenal has become so easy a team to beat”. That really hurt, but unfortunately, its true. We have also gained a reputation of loosing steam when we need to be the up. Unfortunately there is evidence to show for that. We have gained reputation for being an “injury” prone team and sure enough and finally, we now have a reputation of dropping points and giving away leads at a crucial time of the game”………That again is so TRUE.

    ….This might be a controversial question, but I will ask it anyway:

    Does the Premier League mean the same thing to Diaby as it does to Rooney? Do all the players really appreciate the domestic leagues in which they play in?

  • Kuka

    *I am not English for those wondering, but I strongly think we need strong English Players at Arsenal. Players who have an understanding of the pride that comes with winning the English Premier League, the FA Cup and Carling Cup. The spin of all top clubs in Europe is founded upon a strong crop of Locals, off course except Arsenal and Inter Milan

  • goonerman

    Im going on forums and people are saying we have to buy 6 players to have a chance next season but lets be honest that will never happen and neither do i expect it to, like some say we have a great team core and we just need the additional few players to add something to the team.

    Also i have to admit even though not having english players doesnt bother me to much i do think an english player if you can find the right quality naturally has more passion and desire than a foreign player! naturally players like arshavin,diaby and a few others probably play football to win a champions league trophy not a premier league medal but an englishman would most want to win a league medal over anything else!

    this season is not over by any means becuase we have to secure our third place in the league which really means getting a couple more wins but also half of wengers mind must be planning for next season, with chamackh seemingly in the bag for some reason these are the other players id love to have at the club even though it is unlikely they are all players that we could surely afford and we could attract.

    Chamackh- quality striker even though he is not prolific in front of goal he has huge experience and can hold and head the ball very well which will surely make our attack pontent enough to hurt most teams

    Melo- wenger tried to ge thim last summer and failed but he has allready hintdd he is keeping his eye on him for the summer coming, he adds strength fight commitment and energy and alot of teams would struggle against a midfield of melo an song while letting fabregas work his magic

    Cahill(ENGLISH)- tall,strong and has some pace, he may only play for bolton but he is improving every year and is even on the edges of the england squad for him to get the chance to play for a club like arsenal after playing for the likes of villa an dbolton would be huge for him and the commitment you would get from him would be great.

    Hart/Lloris- either would be great but im assuming Lloris would be the mor expensive option either way they would both be tricky to get but either one is young and full of talent who could only get better year by year.

    basically i was bored and needed to get the pathetic result off my mind and these additions could only strengthen us!

  • Yemi

    @ ny:
    I am not taking anything away from alumina cos he lays his life online. But If you can’t position yourself well and concede cheap goals, do we stick with that ?
    I think one of the things lacking is that when you have ur position tight up with no competition, There is a problem. Remember the rivalry between alumina and lehman ? I think manone (albeit his few appearance) can give that kind of challenge. And can even spur alumina into greater things.
    I think another problem is that both flappy and alumina are not heading for the world cup so they don’t need to impress anybody. Unlike james did against Villa with capello in the stands

  • Yemi

    Andy Scott also has this to say about our fourth keeper(Saw this on tribal football).
    Brentford boss Andy Scott has hailed the form on-loan of Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

    The young Pole has been impressed with the Bees this season.

    Scott said: “His performances suggest that he would not be out of place in the Championship or even the Premier League. It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it.”

    He added: “Arsene Wenger rates him very highly so it’s unlikely he will be staying with us beyond the end of this season, but he has done a tremendous job.”

  • Nick

    Wenger has said a few times that he sees Szczesny as out future #1. Question is when is the “future”? We need to get him back as well as Wilshire. I think they can both contribute a lot next season.

  • Nick

    Just read that Wenger is trying to sign Gary Cahill from Bolton to replace Gallas. Wants to sure up the deal ASAP so he doesn’t get a call up for England and have his value increase significantly.

  • Kuka

    I think this is where we get it wrong. It’s a great idea for us to sign Cahill. But we should not let Gallas go. He still has at least a season in him xnd he could be massive cover for us. I hope Wenger sought his future ASAP. That is what we did with Gilberto and we never got cover

  • Nick

    I’m definitely not saying let Gallas go, I just want him to sign Cahill and have them both available. Since Gallas age is starting to show with injuries, it may be nice to have him there to mentor, as cover in case of injury or have Cahill in case Gallas is injured. It’s all gonna come down to their contract talks. Gallas wants a 2 year and Wenger only likes 1 years for the older lads.

    Anyone else other than me love to see James Milner come to Arsenal? I think he’s sure to win PFA young player of the year award and then Man U. will go after him. I think he’s a very solid player with a very bright future.

  • devday

    @ Nick:

    Just imagine Milner and Cesc ahead of Song…
    And just imagine Cahill and Vermaelen in central defence…

    We’d be unstoppable…

  • Francis

    My thoughts are as follows:

    Send Fabianski off for a loan spell to rebuild his confidence. Like Almunia he is a good shot stopper…but his judjement, handling and anticipation leaves much to be desired.

    Hart will cerainly be a good additon…bit i;d still keep Almunia. Have Szcesny as 2 or 3rd choice behind Hart.

    Cahill will be a good signing but wenger should not let Gallas leave. Problem is at Gallas’s age he’d probably want to start every game. Whilst Cahill needs the games to develop even further.

    Song and Melo combination will be a cracker…dont know if that will happen. Definitely need some extra zip and tenacity in addition to Song in the middle of the park. Cos in certain games it would be wise to play 2 strong holding midfielders as opposed to 1.

    I remember times when arsenal used to play on the counter nearly every game…where we had Gilberto, Vieira & Edu all playing…Wenger is not averse to that…as he has done it before. Prior to that we had Parlour, Petit & Vieira combo

    @ Dev i dont think we need Milner…yes he has drive and passion but i think we have players who can do the job in his position right now.

    Ramsey isnt far off, Diaby needs to get seriously fit…cos he has all the ingredients. It’s not easy for players who have to juggle positions every game. It comes down to discipline cos Diaby is a forwad thinking player but has been asked in the last dozen of games to curtail that…believe me it’s not easy. Playing defensive midfield is not his natural position…though he appears to have the physical attributes to do the job.

  • Sam

    It’s telling when Wenger is worried for us to get a win from our next 3 games!

  • Pissed off

    AM for Milner, Hart, Chamackh and Cahill all the way. After the deal then close the cheque book.

  • jeffvip

    Hart and Cahill is enough for us to get trophy next season…

  • Pissed off

    ….and Chamackh and Milner.

  • Gooner Get Ya

    Is the lack of desire a combination of young players getting paid far too much money considering they have not actually won anything…could be a factor. We always pride our wage structure for being low but it’s not low for a 20 year old!! have We have backed ourselves into a corner…if a player is 27 and world class he would see these 20 year olds on 60k a week and is offered 80k max would you come to us!!! It is like an office junior getting 30k a year but the MD only getting 40k. On the flip side we do tend to get first pick of any young talent due to big bucks and 1st team football.

  • goonerman

    @Gooner get ya- i really dont think alot of our 20 year olds are on money like 60k, maybe a couple. you say a experienced 26 year old would come and think why am i on 80k well when he looks around him and see’s that world class players like van persie,fabregas,arshavin and gallas are on 90k then he should be happy hes getting 80! we have a wage structure and i think if we offer wages like chelsea we will kill ourselfs in the long run but i do see wenegr hitting the 100k mark to try and keep someone like fabregas.

    i would be interested to see what a team like tottenham to will do if they get 4th place in the league becuase their highest played players like modric and a few others are probably only on 60k and if they think they can attract world class players then im afraid they are going to have to raise the wages to 90k themselves and with their new stadium surely they are going to have to tighten up like we have done for the past few years, we have a magician in wenger who can get a team in the champions league year after year net spending nothing, tottenham could find it really hard for the first few years of getting their emirates stadium replica!!

  • Gooner Get Ya

    @ goonerman

    my point was our wages structure is too high for the younger players that have not proved they deserve it i.e. Win something. I believe we have one of highest total wage bill in the league so our youngsters must be on a fair amount of money for that to be true.