…As Arsenal steal an undeserved win.
On a day when Slade’s Merry Christmas rang out over the tannoy, there was no festive cheer towards referee Jon Moss at full time, after an inconsistent display including the awarding of a penalty for a soft challenge by the hapless Beausejour on Walcott gave Arsenal a victory they will consider a gift.
Wigan displayed a paucity of resources, being forced to change their formation to 4-4-2 to compensate for the lack of centre backs, with Figueroa joining captain Boyce in the centre and with regular wing backs Stam and Beausejour dropping back to play right and left back respectively.
Jones , Maloney and Di Santo were recalled to facilitate this new line up, with the injured Lopez and dropped Gomez and Boselli making way for the former three and as befits a new line up, the Wigan team looked shaky in the first fifteen minutes as Wiltshire drove forward unchallenged time and again and last ditch tackles from Boyce and Figueroa were needed to break up the Arsenal attacks.
The first real chance came to the visitors when Arteta was allowed to run unchallenged from his own half and his clever ball let in Oxlade Chamberlain but his fierce shot was well saved by Al Habsi who shortly afterwards had to be sharp to deny Podolski.
Wigan gradually grew into the game with McCarthy and man of the match David Jones driving forwards looking to free Stam and Beausejour out wide but both wide men had an off day with the quality of their crosses, although the torrential rain and slippy pitch may have had an influence on this.
Unusally for Latics their first chance was the result of a direct through ball down the middle when Kone found himself one on one with the last line of defence but with Stam streaming up unmarked on the right, the big Ivorian opted to shoot from distance much to the disapproval of the home fans and the ball was easily saved by Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
As befits a game played in monsoon conditions chances were few and far between and the first real moment of controversy came when a cynical challenge by Wiltshire on Maloney was met with only a yellow card when a red may have been more appropriate.
Di Santo was a constant menace to the Arsenal defence and following an Arsenal attack, the Argentinean broke and fed Kone who outpaced the away defence but showing possibly a lack of confidence not to mention composure, he shot badly wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Depsite the conditions both sides eschewed the option of long balls and continued to play the ball on the ground but with Arsenal’s players seemingly dropping to the ground somewhat theatrically ( with a foretaste of things to come) , Mr Moss continued to earn the ire of the home fans with his constant awarding of free kicks to Arsenal.
Half time drew to an end a half which was short on quality chances but high on quality play but the Wigan fans were left wondering whether the Kone miss would come back to haunt the home side?
Within two minutes of the kick off it nearly did when Oxlade-Chamberlain ghosted past Beausejour for not the first time in the afternoon and fed Walcott whose shot was superbly saved by the Omani international.
Wigan hadn’t been involved in a goaless Premier League draw for thirty games and it became thirty one when Walcott got past Beausejour on the goal line and the Chilean international’s challenge which looked a fair one was adjudged to have been a foul by Mr Moss, who had no hesitation in awarding the penalty which was taken by Arteta who sent Al Habsi the wrong way and Arsenal had the lead.
This was the catalyst for WIgan to up their game and with McArthur closing Wiltshire down, Wigan looked the more likely to score but all too often the final ball went astray either being overhit or passed behind the supporting player. When Wigan did pressurise the Arsenal goal , Jones hit the stantcheon behind the goal ,Figueroa blazed over and a couple of goal mouth scrambles saw Arsenal relieved to clear the ball, one of these saw the Wigan fans and players scream for a penalty for handball against Gibbs but Mr Moss compounded his disaffection with the Wigan public by waving the claims away.
During this period of Wigan pressure , Mr Moss further bemused the Wigan public by sending Di Santo off the pitch presuamably for a blood injury but with the player desperate to get back on , Mr Moss refused to let him back on until the ball went out of play some three minutes after the player was ready to return.
The full time whistle brought a chorus of boos for the officials’ performance, in a game with few chances between two evenly matched sides and it leaves Wigan rooted in the bottom three for Christmas and desperately in need of a goal scorer and the return of their injured centre backs.
Line up and Player Ratings
Al Habsi……8 , some superb saves, back to his best
Stam……6 not his day
Boyce…..7, best performance for some time
Figueroa…..7.5 , cool and composed
Beausejour…..5, out of position and had a game to forget
McCarthy…..7, player well
McArthur…..7, closed down his more illustrious opponents.
Maloney……7.5, Always looked dangerous, unlucky to be withdrawn.
Jones……8.5, never stopped running or probing, Man of the Match.
Kone…..5, looks low on confidence, poor finishing, needs a goal
Di Santo……7, worked hard, unlucky to be withdrawn
McManaman for Di Santo…..6, a few nice touches.
Gomez for Maloney…..n/a, too late to have any influence
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