Wigan 0-1 Arsenal: Lucky Arsenal escape a tactically confused Wigan
In what was a very scrappy affair on a rainy night at the DW Stadium, a lone Arteta spotkick was enough for Arsenal to pick up 3 points against a spirited but not so decisive Wigan. Arsenal moved into 3rd place temporarily, and Wigan dropped into their all too familiar zone of relegation.
From the initial team sheets, it seemed that the managers had gone with the same shapes as followed in earlier encounters. Wenger played exactly the same XI with Walcott again starting as the front man. Giroud and Rosicky were surprisingly missing from the bench too.
Wigan are in an severe injury crisis at the back with plenty of first choice defenders injured. So James McCarthy was deployed as the centre half with Figueroa and Boyce either side of him, in a makeshift defence as part of the 3-4-3. Jones and McArthur started at the centre of the park with Beausejour and Stam as wingbacks. Maloney started on the left as part of the front 3 that had Kone and Di Santo as the other 2.
Roberto changes shape within 2 minutes
Arsenal had steamrolled Reading mainly due to their midfield 3V2 domination and the immense space left for Cazorla. Roberto Martinez had initially planned to overcome a the similar problem of a man less in midfield by stretching play and playing Beausejour as the left wing back. This was supposed to pull away Cazorla there.
But with Cazorla and Wilshere’s initial combination clearly showing the way things would go on, Roberto quickly saw his mistake and brought McCarthy back to midfield. The Irishman was now positioned just in front of the now centre back pairing of Boyce and Figueroa, with the only motive to mark Cazorla out of the game. Though the initial proceedings after the change were still dominated by the Spaniard, McCarthy steadily played Cazorla out of the game.
John Beausejour, the confused full-back
In order to escape from McCarthy’s marking, Cazorla shifted to the right side of midfield and combined with Chamberlain. Wigan had Beausejour on this flank and it could be easily noted that the Chilean was the weakest link in the side.
He started as a wing back on the left but was shifted to a fullback role as part of a back 4. This gave him an additional defensive responsibility, and without an extra centre back to cover his post, his attacking instead seemed to be curbed.
But still Beausejeur’s natural attacking instinct left him out of position most of the time and this left Chamberlain and Sagna with all the freedom to attack down that flank. But Figueroa was able to cover very well on that end which reduced Theo’s influence on the pitch.
Theo forces the CBs back, invites Poldi central
Walcott made all the noises earlier to be played upfront as the main striker, but these last 2 games have been more sort of an anti-climax to all the buildup. Walcott has very few characteristics of a centre forward – due to his short height, he is almost never able to win headers against centre backs and also due to lack of body strength, he is also weak at holding up play with his back to goal.
The only advantage Wenger had today due to Theo was that both Figueroa and Boyce were stuck to Walcott throughout and rarely came forward in attack.
Walcott’s presence much ahead of the midfield provides space in between the lines for Wilshere and Cazorla to utilize, but here again Martinez’s tactic worked well. His initial change in formation had left the shape as 4-3-3 but the midfield 3 of McCarthy, Jones and McArthur were very deep, flat and rarely ventured forward to attack.
This left a great gap in between the midfield and attack rather than behind the midfield, and this was often taken advantage of by Arteta and Wilshere who were able to make runs from deeper midfield positions.
On many such occasions Arteta was able to play in Podolski and Chamberlain on goal, and the finishing left much to be desired. Podolski has been able to play much more centrally due to Walcott’s position upfront, and Chamberlain was also supposed to replicate that tactic as he did well against Reading. But Chamberlain stuck to his wing as he thought that beating Beausejour would be a much easier task, and got into Sagna’s way on a number of occasions; the French right back gave him a sound earful in this regard.
Second half, Gibbs on Di Santo
The second half saw much of the same, as Wigan were not able to put in the final ball after some impressive midfield play. Beausejour and Stam were the ones to put in the wayward crosses as the wide-men upfront were Di Santo and Maloney, who preferred to cut-in. Sagna was covering Beausejour on the right but Maloney’s resurgence in the second half left the right back with too much on hand.
On Arsenal’s left, Gibbs had his hands full with Di Santo pulling him all across the defensive line. Gibbs put in an impressive performance against the Argentinean forward, but his job was made much easier by Di Santo’s refusal to track back on that wing. With Gibbs having his hands full at the back, Podolski was left to track back Stam’s runs. The Dutchman was allowed much space to run by Podolski but the German intercepted the key passes that the full back tried.
Beausejour’s night worsened as he tripped Walcott in the box and Arteta calmly dispatched his 3rd penalty of the season. Arsenal, though not having deserved the lead in any way, held on to the goal preciously. Late inclusions of Ramsey and Koscienly, left Wenger defending his lead with an 8 man defense. Such a line was almost impenetrable but still some late shots by Gomes left the Gunner’s flustered.
Wigan have again slipped into the relegation battle as usual, but the spirit and energy they showed today in closing down every Arsenal player promises a much brighter future for the Lactics.
As Wenger said in the Matchday program, Roberto Martinez is definitely a Top 4 club manager.
I have waited quite long enough to say this, and finally, 1-0 to the Arsenal!
Top of the match: James McCarthy
Flop of the match: Johm Beausejour