Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Arsenal Beat Wigan To Set Up Final Day Drama

Arsenal played their last home game of the season last night in a do or die game against Wigan. Nothing short of a win would have done for either team in a night that promised high drama. Arsenal needed the points to move back into fourth place and Wigan knew they would be relegated if they lost.

Arsenal have finished in the top four in each of the last 16 seasons and finished ahead of arch rivals Spurs in each of those seasons too. The only team that can stop them taking a top four spot are Spurs, but they needed Arsenal to slip in one of their remaining two games to do so. Wigan had beaten Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday and wanted to finish their season on a high by miraculously escaping relegation yet again.

Arsene Wenger made only one change from the team that beat QPR last week with Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left back. It meant Lukas Podolski continued in the centre forwards role while Olivier Giroud served the last game of his suspension. It also meant Santi Cazorla continued on the left of the attacking trio where he has looked a little out of place at times recently.

Cazorla's supposed position made no real difference though as he popped up all over the pitch. On a night where Arsenal needed to find some inspiration to get their attack firing again it was Cazorla who provided that inspiration. By the end of the night he had the assists in all four of Arsenal's goals.

Arsenal started on the front foot and looked to put Wigan under pressure early on. That pressure paid off after only 11 minutes when Podolski stooped to head home a Cazorla corner which somehow made it's way through to him. It was the start Arsenal wanted and they tried to push forward to build on it.

Gradually Arsenal's tempo dropped little by little and Wigan made their way back into the game. There were a couple of scares at either end before Wigan scored their equaliser just before the break. Referee Mike Dean gave a very debatable free kick to Wigan outside the Arsenal box and Shaun Maloney curled it over the wall into the corner of the net.

It's never a good thing to concede just before half time and I worried that Arsenal wouldn't be able to pick themselves up quickly after the break. It was Wigan who looked the better team early in that second half and Wojciech Szczesny made a very good save from Arouna Kone to keep the teams level. At the other end the Wigan keeper made a very good double save to deny Cazorla. 

The game was noticeably opening up and I hoped Arsenal could take advantage of a Wigan team that had to be tired after their exertions on Saturday. The next goal was going to be crucial and thankfully it came Arsenal's way again. Cazorla has been Arsenal's best player this season and it was him who set up the vital goal that they needed.

He was played into space on the right hand side and had a good look before playing a great ball into the area. Theo Walcott was very brave in his effort to get to the ball and he managed to knock it over the keeper from close range to restore Arsenal's lead. The goal seemed to galvanise Arsenal and they went on to score two more goals in the next eight minutes.

Five minutes later Wigan knew they were bound for the Championship when Cazorla intercepted the ball with his head to put Podolski through with only the keeper to beat. Podolski did what was required and Wigan had only just over 20 minutes to score three goals or face relegation. It got even worse for them only three minutes later when Cazorla played Aaron Ramsey in behind the Wigan defence on the left.

Ramsey hadn't scored in a year and when he closed in on goal he looked certain to pass to Podolski for his hat trick. Ramsey decided to go for goal himself though and buried the ball into the roof of the net after beating him with his eyes. There was no way back for Wigan now and Arsenal saw out the rest of the game in relative ease.

At times Arsenal were noticably nervous and didn't do an awful lot in the first half of the game. The second goal came at the perfect time for them and their confidence really grew after that. I was very impressed with the effort of all of the players though as they gave their all to the cause on the night.

Wigan became the first team to win the FA Cup and get relegated in the same season and I'll be sorry to see them go. They tried to play good football the right way and I can think of a lot of other teams I would prefer to see relegated. It could be tough for a team of their limited resources to bounce back but hopefully they can manage it.

The Arsenal players took the plaudits from their fans after the game as usual after the last home game of the season. They will finish the season as the highest scorers at home in the league unless Chelsea or City can score nine goals on Sunday afternoon.

Their next task is to go to Newcastle on Sunday and get the three points they need to guarantee Champions League football next season. A win in that game will mean they finish ahead of Spurs for certain and they will do so regardless of their result if Spurs fail to win at home to Sunderland. There is still an outside chance of Arsenal finishing third, but Chelsea will have to slip up for that to happen.

If Arsenal win they will finish third if Chelsea lose or if Chelsea draw and Arsenal win by two goals. It's not an over complicated scenario and Everton will certainly give Chelsea a tough time only four days after Chelsea play in the Europa League final against Benfica.

I'll be happy with a fourth placed finish and Arsenal celebrating St. Totteringham's Day on the last day of the season again. Third place would be better of course as it would mean there would be no qualifying round for next season's Champions League. It might be just a little too much to ask for but we can live in hope can't we.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment