Arsenal got back to the important business of their attempt to claim their first Premier League title in seven years yesterday. Wigan Athletic were the visitors to the Emirates, and they were expected to put up a bit of a fight, before eventually capitulating to the power of Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger picked his strongest starting line up, despite the fact that he says he doesn't have one, and I was very confident that Arsenal would get the three points to keep in touch with league leaders "Manure". The only change from last week's win over West Ham was the return of Bakary Sagna to the team, after he had missed that game through suspension.
Arsenal started with the pace and drive that I had hoped for, and it seemed just a matter of time before Wigan went behind. As the news came in that "Manure" were ahead early on in their game, and Ali Al Habsi played out of his skin in goal for Wigan, I was getting a little concerned. Yet again Arsenal's fans were treated to an opposition goalkeeper playing absolutely fantastically at The Emirates, and at this stage I'm getting pretty fed up with it.
The breakthrough eventually came in the 21st minute when a very good pass from Alex Song found Robin Van Persie free on the left hand side of the Wigan box, and he finished at the near post as the keeper went down. The relief was there for all to see, as the Wigan defence had finally been breached, and it was surely just a matter of how many goals Arsenal would get. I thought that Wigan would come out of their shell a little at that stage, but Arsenal were so dominant that they offered virtually nothing in return.
Half time arrived with the score somehow still at 1-0, but five or six goals would not have flattered Arsenal at that stage. A combination of fine goalkeeping, last gasp defending, and poor finishing had conspired to keep the Arsenal lead at only one goal, and that's a lead that can be very precarious at times. I wasn't worried though, because I was sure there would be more goals to come in the second half.
Arsenal started off a little slower in that second half, but there was still no attacking threat from Wigan. The second goal came in the 59th minute when a free kick was rolled to Cesc Fabregas, and he played a pass over the top of the Wigan defence for RVP. He met the ball six yards out, and he finished first time past the helpless keeper with his trusty left foot. It looked like the game was over at that stage as Wigan still hadn't even managed a shot on target.
Only 10 minutes later Arsenal looked like they would go three up, when Song played Cesc in, and he was taken down by Gary Caldwell. The referee had no choice in issuing a red card to Caldwell and a penalty to Arsenal. RVP stepped up to take the penalty, and it looked like he would get his first ever hat trick for Arsenal. Unfortunately he blazed his penalty over the bar, and it looked like he had lost his chance of getting that hat trick.
However, that only served to make him try even harder for his hat trick, and he hit the post a short while later with a curling effort from outside the box. As the clock ticked on I thought that he wouldn't get that third goal, but RVP had a different opinion obviously. With five minutes left Cesc played another ball over the top of the Wigan defence, for Theo Walcott to run on to, and as he tussled with the Wigan defender RVP stepped in to sidefoot the ball home from six yards with his "chocolate leg". His hat trick had been completed, and he looked like a very happy man indeed.
The final whistle arrived a short while later, and I think Wigan were more than a little relieved to hear it. Arsenal had managed 10 efforts on target, and Wigan hadn't managed a single one in the 90 minutes. It means that Arsenal have now kept four clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, and that's not bad for a team with a dodgy defence. The result moved Arsenal up to second in the table, after Man City unexpectedly lost 1-0 away to Aston Villa, and there are now seen as the main threat to league leaders "Manure".
I said yesterday that I thought RVP was back to his best, and ready to be the striker Arsenal need to guide them through the rest of what is a very promising season at the moment. He played very well yesterday, but then again so did the whole Arsenal team. RVP now has six league goals in an injury interrupted season, and if he can remain injury free I think he will be Arsenal's top scorer this season. I have to give a special mention to Cesc though, as he put in a brilliant performance, and I'm not sure how he didn't score a goal. His range of passing was magnificent, and his fleet of foot under pressure was magical at times. If his injury problems are behind him I think he has the capability of making this team good enough to win him the trophies he craves.
From here Arsenal go on to play Ipswich Town on Tuesday night in the second leg of their Carling Cup semi final. It's a game that they have to win, as they trail 1-0 from the first leg, and there are bound to be quite a few changes to the team that played so well yesterday. I'll preview that game on Tuesday morning, and it's the first of three big games for Arsenal in eight days. It's followed by home games against Huddersfield Town and Everton in the FA Cup and Premier League, as the pressure of two games a week continues for a team that are still chasing four trophies.
That's it for today.
Here's the highlights from yesterday's game.
See You Tomorrow.