I recently wrote a piece here on some must-dos for Arsenal against Wigan for a comfortable victory and more importantly, avoid slipping under Tottenham in the race for a top four finish. The match was a lively affair and had it not been for a file goal from Theo Walcott, it would have spawned some nasty repercussions.
I almost ticked off the first item on my list – Strike Early – when Santi Cazorla narrowly missed a header from close range but I didn’t have to wait long to actually do it when Podolski coolly headed home minutes later. Arsenal was amazing in attack and flooded the midfield and constantly poached the Wigan goal-line with vigour while intercepting the ball with ease whenever Wigan managed possession.
It was a perfect start and the crowd was boisterous and at its best. Keiran Gibbs was having the measure of Callum McManaman – another item on my checklist ticked off – and Wigan looked slightly out of sorts.
It was just as Arsenal’s players were slowly slipping into a lull that Wigan suddenly came alive and started pushing Arsenal back. McManaman was suddenly showing his pace – but Gibbs was almost always in control – and Wigan slowly gained confidence and a couple of free kicks from dangerous areas, the second of which amplified a period of nearly 30-40 minutes of agony.
Familiar thoughts crept through and fear of losing out to Tottenham was compounded by Szczensy having to brilliant save to deny Wigan the lead. Arsenal looked predictable, listless and all but gave the impression of resigning themselves for a Europa League spot. Just as I thought that I could no longer bear the anguish of a draw or a potential loss anymore, Jack Wilshere suddenly popped up on the touchline, preparing to warm up to make an impact on the game. And it was all that was needed of him to spur Arsenal to victory! Suddenly, Cazorla was flying and the ‘Emirates Express’ - Walcott – expertly guided the ball into the net for a lead and a sense of huge relief, the feeling of which I cannot describe.
Then there was the third and the fourth and agony became ecstasy. I was glad Ramsey took the fourth himself as he deserved it for his performance yesterday. Arsenal suddenly turned the match on its head and on poor Wigan’s too, and had it not been for some ordinary passing near the goal-line later on, they could have had more. Now Arsenal has an outside shot at third place too (if Chelsea slips against Everton) courtesy of the improvement of their goal difference.
The last match at St. James’ Park will surely be another nervy affair and I trust Arsenal to again play with our nerves before emerging victorious. Thankfully, Newcastle is safe from relegation!