Arsenal moved back into the top four this evening after a 4-1 win against Wigan at the Emirates this evening.
Arsene Wenger made just one change from the team that beat QPR with Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left back, meaning Lukas Podolski continued in the central-striking position, flanked by Walcott and Cazorla.
In a game that both sides had to win Arsenal started brightly, keeping the ball well and forcing Wigan backwards. The home side had the first real chance of the game when Walcott got down the right, and pulled back a cross which bounced just in front of Cazorla. The Spaniard couldn’t get his foot on it so stooped for a header which went just wide with the keeper rooted to the spot.
But Arsenal were ahead just a couple of moments later; after a good Theo Walcott cross forced a corner, Santi Cazorla aimed his set-piece for the near post, looking for a Mertesacker flick-on. Nobody touched the ball, it bounced to Podolski inside the 6 yard box and he had the simple task of nodding home to make it 1-0.
Kieran Gibbs came close to doubling the lead when he almost got on the end of a Bacary Sagna shot from distance which was dragged beyond the far post, while Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta both saw shots blocked by resolute Wigan defending.
Aaron Ramsey, fed by Cazorla, poked wide on the stretch at the near post, before Laurent Koscielny was forced into Arsenal’s first real rearguard action, cutting out a ball over the top as Kone threatened. A Shaun Moloney free kick hit the wall as Wigan enjoyed a good spell, and the same player saw his shot blocked after a positive run across the Arsenal penalty area.
Laurent Koscielny should have extended Arsenal’s lead in the 38th minute but the centre-half somehow poked a Cazorla corner wide from just 3 or 4 yards out, and when Walcott put the ball in the net the flag was rightly raised for offside.
Referee Mike Dean twice waved away clear fouls on Santi Cazorla, before awarding a free kick to Wigan in a dangerous position for exactly the same kind of thing. Shaun Moloney went down like a ton of bricks and Dean couldn’t wait to blow his whistle. Moloney’s earlier effort hit the wall, this time he skimmed it just over the Arsenal players and inside the near post. Wojciech Szczesny got something on it but not enough to keep it out and the teams went in level at the break.
Mike Dean left the pitch to chants of ‘cheat’ from the Arsenal fans, but despite the bad decision to award the free kick, Arsenal’s last 15 minutes were careless, they invited pressure onto them and Laurent Koscielny’s miss a few minute earlier proved very costly.
The second half started as the first left off with Wigan creating a fantastic early chance. They played their way through our defence, in tight areas in our box, Kone was one on one with Szczesny, and he smashed a shot which the keeper saved from close range. Strong hands from Szczesny stopped a certain goal.
Wigan then had the ball in the net before the offside flag ruled it out, before Arsenal almost went ahead. Cazorla was twice denied by Robles from close range before a Rosicky shot drilled just wide of the far post. Lukas Podolski got a header on target but it was easy for the keeper, and the German was ignored by Theo Walcott who saw his near post shot saved.
But it was the England man who put Arsenal ahead in the 63rd minute at the start of a devastating period of play from Arsenal. Sagna played Cazorla down the right hand side, the Spaniard rolled in a perfect ball across goal and Theo Walcott’s run saw him get on the end of it, and poke it home underneath the keeper. 2-1.
After some great defensive work from Walcott, and just 5 minutes later, Arsenal were further ahead. A long ball from Szczesny was headed out, Cazorla headed it back in, Podolski stayed back onside and lobbed it over the keeper to make it 3-1.
Wigan heads went down and Arsenal took advantage to extend the lead even further. Santi Cazorla played Ramsey free down the left hand side, he took it on, into the box, and with two Arsenal players waiting for a pass, he gave the keeper the eyes and tucked it home high into the net. 4-1.
Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Rosicky and Podolski and although it looked all over for Wigan, sub Franco di Santo twice went close with a shot from distance and a header from a corner.
Despite their best efforts it was game over and the game reached it’s inevitable conclusion. Wigan go down, Arsenal, more importantly, are back into the top four and a win against Newcastle on Sunday will secure a top four spot and, at the very least, a qualification round for next season’s Champions League.