Wigan 2-2 Arsenal: Hot and cold Arsenal again capitulates to late Wigan pressure

For many, the performance of Arsenal in tonight’s match against Wigan will recall a sense of déjà vu. In April of this year, Arsenal, despite being 2 nil up against Wigan, threw the game away with some lacklustre defending allowing Wigan to score three second half goals. That signalled the end of Arsenal’s title challenge and leaving many fans disillusioned.

Despite being stronger this season, the Arsenal’s annoying habit of throwing games away still crops up from time to time, most bitterly against the likes of Spurs at the Emirates a month ago. It’s not unfair to say that the team swings like a giant pendulum, thoroughly out performing champions Chelsea one day, then struggling against teams fighting relegation, such as Wigan. It’s terminally frustrating and something title winning teams don’t do.

N'Zogbia's sending off raised Wigan's intensity

Takling points will revolved around Wenger’s introduction of eight new players into the starting line-up. It was inevitable that certain players would not be available, such as Fabregas who missed out through suspension. Van Persie and Song were left at home and a bunch of fringe players brought in to give some first choice players a rest. Bendtner unusually started up front with Chamakh and Arshavin, while Diaby, Rosicky and Denilson got the nod in the middle, and Eboue and Squiallaci coming in at the back. Many will say, not without justification, that so many new faces were a bridge too far for Arsenal. I sympathise because I felt that a strong performance against Wigan would partly banish the demons of that torrid game back in April.

It certainly was a hodge-podge Arsenal performance for the first half an hour, as a fairly ordinary Wigan side seemed intent on pressurising Arsenal, particularly at the back. Both Squillaci and Koscielny were caught out and Arsenal was lucky to escape unpunished. However, after Wigan converted a dubious penalty (not much contact and outside the area), Arsenal came back to life, with the maligned of late Arshavin scoring with a magnificent volley, and providing a crucial pass to Bendtner, who managed calmly stoke the ball into the bottom right corner. Arsenal looked in a good position to go on and kill the game, with several good chances falling to both Chamakh and Arshavin.

Arsenal dominated possession for the majority of the second half with Jack Wilshere in particular making some incisive passes and forward runs, but the team were unable to convert their dominance into tangible points. The game turned ugly, with N’Zogbia, in a moment of insanity, head butting Jack Wilshere and earning a red card for his troubles. This was the key turning point of the game, with Arsenal being unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and a fired up Wigan eager to force their way back into the game.

Some sloppy defending allowed Wigan a crucial corner, with a perfect back post cross allowing Rodallega to head back across goal, forcing Squiallaci to head the ball into the back of his own net. Fabianski was perhaps guilty of being drawn out from his line, leaving the goalmouth wide open for Wigan to nick a drawn result. The referee missed two crucial penalty calls for Arsenal, one for an arguable foul on Walcott, and a blatant handball in the Wigan penalty box. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Arsenal should have killed this tie off long before.

Many will talk about the squad rotation, but two issues I would like bring up. Firstly, Arsenal’s inability to defend set pieces and corners is still worrying. This isn’t a recent trend, but something that stretches back seasons and is a continual source of frustration. I believe Arsenal are guilty of conceding more goals than any other premier league team from these plays this season. While there has been some improvement in defence this season, we’re still a centre-back away from a perfect team. Questions over why the centre back pairing was rotated after the Chelsea win remain to be answered.

Secondly, something that I feel is important but not often discussed is Wenger’s use of substitutes. He seems to me entirely reactive rather than proactive with the use of his attacking weapons. He only introduced his second half subs after Wigan equalised last night and I believe it’s a trend that has occurred throughout the season (another pertinent example is the bizarre substituting of Nasri for Van Persie late in the Spurs game). I’m no premier league manager but even I could see that Wigan began to gain ascendency in the ten minutes before the goal. Why were Nasri and Walcott introduced when this became obvious? At least this might have been the elixir to pin back Wigan.

You may disagree with me on that final point, but the fact remains that we’re on the back foot again despite the heroics at the Emirates against Chelsea. The team now find themselves in third and face two tricky encounters in the next seven days against Birmingham and Manchester City. I hope the pendulum will swing in our favour for these encounters.


“Hot and cold Arsenal again capitulates to late Wigan pressure” is a guest post by Darragh Murray.



  1. Maybe arsenal need to respect lesser teams as well. then they could be more compact defensively like chelsea?

  2. You raised good points.
    1st – the whole squad had no game for 2 weeks due to bad weather, which means the players weren’t that much exhausted (after the Chelsea game). Hence, at least the back four (and in particular Djourou) should have started the Wigan game. I also commented on this matter just before the game (on your Chelsea win post) that AW should get his rotation right. 8 changes were just too much.
    2nd – I have always said that AW is reactive in using his subs, as you put it, and it’s also a problem that dates back several seasons. He brings on the subs usually after the damage has been done. Had he introduced TW & Nasri on 70 minutes, it would have given Wigan something to think about & definitely they wouldn’t have committed forward with full force.
    It was a very silly way to drop 2 points – under no real pressure & against a team that rarely scores.
    Let’s hope everyone at the team learns from the failings of 2010 (& the seasons before) and make 2011 a brighter year for all of us!!!

  3. I concur with u and all the points u have raised are all but true. The fact that AW is reactive is clear. The game agaist Westbrom at The emirates Arsen despite having possessed tremendous talent on the bench waited untill Westbrome were 2 nil to the good. Spurs game u did mentioned and wigan the oither nyt. Making 8 changes to a premier side is for me the worst decions some1 of AW calibre to make and he did paid the price.

  4. Does wenger know who his best defensive pairing is? Because it doesn’t look that way.

    As far as tactics are concerned wenger is one of the worst i’v ever seen.
    How could you rest so much players from a winning team, at least the defense should have remained unchanged.
    I remember some seasons ago wenger did this same thing by resting players for a potentially more difficult game, I think the first game was a cup game against Man united who mind you played a full strength team and promptly won 3 or 4 nil, wenger had rested most of the team for a league game, did you know what happened?
    When the game started everyone thought that arsenal should be the fresher team, well i remember what happened, arsenal played as if they had played four games before & promptly loss the match.

    My point is play for what you see especially in the league.
    I know wenger would say his players are injury prone, BUT at least keep the defense and in particular Djourou, What is wenger seeing.

    Anyways, his decision will only be justified if arsenal win against Burmingham.
    This game will be very difficult MU are a better defensive team compared to us bay a long way and they had plenty problems up there. So good luck wenger.

    And please wenger take my stupid advise PLAN more for your opponents because they will be planning for us, technical ability only can’t win you anything it’s a combination of things.

    We have had defensive problems particularly on set pieces for about five years now. no wonder we have not won the league, and these problems have not being addressed.

    Something must be wrong with wenger’s brain and sight, OR he is an absolute idiot.
    Any manager worth his pay would have dealt with this already.

    And please don’t mention vamerlyn cause he was responsible for letting engogg score on us against liverpool AND i can show you many other bad mistakes he made.

    BUT, when you go to $10 store what do you expec,t were getting what wenger paid for.

    Good luck guys am not angry at the players, wenger is the one that should take 75% of the blame because of the freedom he has being given at arsenal.

    Go Arsenal………

  5. Thanks for the insightful information Andrew and also to Kel. The points you raised Andrew are significant and if Arsene Wenger were to take into mindful consideration these two points, there would be some change in the flow of Arsenal’s wins. Proactive is better then reactive as you have mentioned Andrew, but for some reason, Mr. Wenger fails to see that and fails to utilise his bench appropriately. As a result, Arsenal have been playing an 11 man game against a 14 manned opponent in many games and this has been the root of unspectacular results, namingly this match against Wigan. The point about set-pieces truly is increasingly frustrating as year after year after year, Arsenal fans watch the ball find its way into the back of the net from free-kicks, corners etc. Chelsea and Wigan. Both games we conceded off set-pieces. Luckily against Chelsea it wasn’t as fatal to the scoreline as against Wigan.

    Kel I disagree with your sentiments against Mr. Wenger. Yes he can improve vastly and should patch up some transparent and sorely blatant tactical errors, especially in the defence department, but he is not as shallow nor dim-witted as you have made out to be. However, the sad bit about this point is that your frustration is understandable given some of the errors made by Arsenal and Mr. Wenger but I urge fans not to false under the facade that Mr. Wenger is an “idiot”.

    One last point I would like to add, even though I’m just 17 and this is probably a very teenage thing to say, but I wish Arsene Wenger could see some of the points made here by Andrew and some fantastic points made in response. Truly, Andrew you make the most gratifying points. Just knowing that people out there understand the obvious mistakes made into Arsenal’s gameplay is great but as I said, it really would be something if Arsene Wenger could read these sorts of posts on these blogs. They would do him good.

    Anyways, here’s to a successful 2011! Happy New Year to Arsenal fans all around the globe and to Arsenal and Mr. Wenger himself. Let’s bring home some big trophies =)

  6. It’s January. Time to switch off the alarm system, de-activate the heat/light sensors and unlock the safe, Arsene. Please buy an aggressive central defender. No wimps and no shrimps. Someone who actually has some idea of how to defend from a set-piece. Someone who doesn’t feel he has to be awfully nice to all his team mates all the time and mustn’t say anything to upset them. If we don’t get an improvement in defense then even the Carling Cup may be beyond us. Leeds can score goals and they’ll be up for it you can be sure of that. Aside from that I am sick of having to cover my eyes every time the opposition gets a corner or a free-kick in our half. Even a throw-in if it’s Stoke.
    It’s laughable that we’re still ‘in contention’ for the league title. Any other season we’d be well out it by now. It’s just a mirage and the reality is that we will not win the league. But we must win something just to shut the whingers and taunters up.

  7. @Nonny,
    He wont buy mate, forget it….Mertesacker would have been nice though, a ruthlessly efficient German, just what we need.
    Nice article mate but what you said about Squillachi having no choice but to head into the net is only true beacuse of the mess he giot himself in positionally…..not goal side he committed to winning the ball in front going back towards OUR goal,not clever at all Im afraid, had he just stayed goalside he may not have even had to have made a telling touch to clear as long as he prevented the attacker from getting on it, the goals we concede are laughable, Im serious uf you were to catalogue them over the last 4 seasons they are shambolic

  8. shambo – lic? Seriously though our defending is awful. I think teams that play us these days expect to be able to net at least one goal. We’ve actually conceded one goal MORE than the brummy leg-breakers who we’re playing this weekend – and they as we know are down the bottom of the table. I don’t think that either Squilch, Kosh or Djourou are too bad. In fact I think any of them would be fine as part of a defensive unit. But they need a leader and strong man to hold them together and be in charge. We haven’t got it so AW needs to buy it. But will he? It’s hard to understand why he wouldn’t. And yet…

  9. I think its very good of Wenger to point out in the papers this morning that Citeh buying Dzeko is a “risk”. He appears to have proven talent and he may score lots of goals and help Citeh win games. This is very “risky”! Nearly as risky as having the a crap GK and dodgy defenders! Its very difficult not to get embarrassed by Wenger. This week he has been saying that we lack a communicator and leader in the defence. Also our Captain has said there is lack of spirit in the team. Yet this morning Wenger is telling the world that our team has the mentality to win the title and the Prem will be a battle of metal strengths. Can he not just keep his nonsense to himself and not insult the intelligence of real fans. It also made me laugh that he wants to give Pat Rice a new contract cos Pat doesnt talk(publically). He doesnt do too much talking on the bench either! Give the “yes” man for Wenger another contract. Well done Pat just take the dosh and keep stum! PS I have just seen highlights of the Wigan game and again seen how terrible Flappy was for their second goal. The positioninal sense of a Rhino. Crosses are us – not!

  10. Listen up, we seem to forget that we are still in the mix and if we were to depose King Arsene, who would we replace him with? Ferguson has drawn 8, Mancini has lost 4, Ancelloti has lost 5, or heaven forbid Redknapp, who has also lost 4.

    Wenger is suffering now, because of his initial success and the idea that resulted that he was perfect, AKB. Winning the league is about percentages, the aim to get most of it right over 38 games. Arsene played his percentages against Wigan, the aim was to get 3 points but with as little impact as possible on his first choice eleven, he only got 1 point, but we did come close.

    I put a bet on at the start of the season that we would win this league, and often I really do doubt that I will win that bet. But I do believe that game by game the squad, not just the best 11, is getting stronger and that it is still possible.

    Last season, many people were complaining that we didn’t put strong enough sides out in the Carling Cup, a competition that we were just throwing away. This season Wenger has put out stronger sides, although why he has done this is a matter of contention. However now we have a great chance of going to Wembley and winning a trophy. However, tickets for the semi final – even at the reduced prices – are going out on general sale. So where are all those people who want us to try harder in the Carling Cup? Is it that when they get what they want they don’t really care about it?

    I really do think, we should start looking at positives from this side and get behind them, they really do have what it takes. Cheer up and have a Happy New Year.

  11. The problem with the team is not with players or lack of ability or our second 11 team.It is capable of defeating even the first 11 team i could say.The problem is Arsene not willing to learn from the mistakes and not ready to settle down the players based on his experimentation so far.

    Mistakes that has not been rectified
    1) Losing in corners and free kicks.
    2) After Henry departure we don’t have players who can score well on freekick except VanPersie
    3) Clichy and Sagna haven’t made great crosses that turned into match winners.
    4) After Vermealen we don’t have someone who scores from long range and pose a threat.
    5) Our second string of squad is totally finding it hard to gel and replace the first squad .Possible reasons may be lack of practice or No clear instructions on the role to play or unable to adapt due to constant role change.
    6) Lack of command for our squad when Fabregas is not available.
    7) After Toure and Campbell departure we don’t have anyone who can rise upto the challenge and do something about it.
    8) Killing the game down from a favourable position.

    If Arsene fails to rectify them ,as our captain says you cannot find the spirit and the professor will end up with his experimentation in failure and chaos in the team.

    Arsene has to stop his experimentation, allow the boys to settle down with the play and motivate them for the title.

  12. Hey all – I didn’t write this piece.

    The last line says: “Hot and cold Arsenal again capitulates to late Wigan pressure” is a guest post by Darragh Murray.

  13. sorry for posting about Birmingham, but I haven’t commented for a long time, so:
    more from these matches, a really comfortably watching, some good luck during the match, so a happy new year, it’s unbeleavable which things Nasri succeeds in, great confidence and success, the whole body language from the whole team was right tonight I think, may that continue until the end of the season………….. 😎

  14. 3-0 over Brum who were undefeated at home for 29 games. Not a bad way to start 2011. Still right in the mix with a massive game against Man$ity on Wednesday. 7 out of 9 points not a bad Xmas/New Year return. I have a good feeling about this year!

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