Arsenal made it three wins on the bounce with a hard fought win in a match that in truth could’ve gone either way.
Wigan will justifiably claim that Gibbs’ handball in injury time was as much a penalty as the one given for a foul on Walcott from which Arteta slotted home the only goal of the game. They also missed the best chance of the match when Kone outpaced Mertesacker in the first half leaving him one on one with Szczesny, but he scuffed his shot wide.
At the other end Al Haabsi had to be alert to keep out efforts from Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but that apart there weren’t really many clear cut chances as both sides struggled to open up the opposition. Szczesny had to kick away another Kone effort, but overall the quality of the final ball was poor, particularly from the hosts. Their two wingbacks Beausejour and Staam had plenty of possession in good areas, but often chose the wrong option or put in poor crosses. I’m concerned as to what higher calibre opponents would’ve done to us — Ribery and Robben would’ve run riot.One wide man who did impress was Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose speed and willingness to run at defenders was at the root of the few chances we created. It makes such a difference having a pacy, attacking player on the right flank instead of Ramsey and makes you wonder why Wenger insisted on playing the Welshman out there so many times this season. I hope the penny has finally dropped.
With chances at a premium I felt sorry for Theo, who wasn’t getting much service. Playing up front again after illness ruled Giroud out, Walcott had a couple of half chances and drew a decent save from Al Haabsi early in the second half. He also won the penalty, but will have learned that not all Premiership defenders are as accommodating as Reading were on Monday.
But three points is three points, however we’ve played, and two away wins in a row is always welcome. Any celebrations that we’re back on track need to be kept in check though as we played the teams 20th and 18th in the league and needed some kind treatment from the ref to win today. Credit is due for getting the wins, but six points was the minimum requirement for a team with top four aspirations.
A better barometer is how we handle January, when we play Swansea in the FA Cup and then Man City, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool in the league. Before then we have Newcastle and Southampton and I think six points are a must to set us up for that tricky run of games in the New Year.