Here we go again. Looking over their shoulders and seeing some daylight to the chasing pack, Arsenal decided total commitment wasn’t necessary this evening and started off casually, certain that merely going through the motions would be enough to see off little Wigan.
Except Wigan had more quality than Arsenal realised and a bucket-load more desire, and before you could say “What the f..” we were a goal down. Not only that, but it came from our own corner! I mentioned a few weeks ago that we are far too gung-ho in the early stages and this time we paid for it as Wigan swept up the field to take a shock lead.
In fact it was such a shock to our arrogant players that Wigan were able to score against us that we lost concentration again immediately and found ourselves 2-0 down inside eight minutes. Moses made Sagna look like a mug on the byline and cut the ball back to Gomez, who profited from very untidy defending by Djourou, Vermaelen and Szczesny to tap it in.
I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Not because Wigan were two goals up, but because Arsenal had under-estimated supposedly inferior opponents yet again. Only two weeks ago we went to QPR expecting to be given all three points without breaking sweat and had our arses spanked — now it was happening again.
After the QPR game Wenger had said “Maybe we sensed it would be easier than usual and once you have that in your heads it is difficult to come back to reality.” He may as well use that soundbite again for this match because it’s exactly what happened tonight. This was a seriously annoying case of deja-fucking-vu as we suddenly realised we had a match on our hands and belatedly started to play good football at a high tempo, closing our opponents down quickly and pinning them back.
The only thing was that instead of doing this from the first minute at 0-0, we were doing it from the eighth minute at 0-2. And that’s ultimately why we lost the match — because we didn’t approach the game in the right manner from the kick off. Idiots.
To compound matters Arteta limped off and was replaced by Ramsey, yet still we laid siege to the Wigan goal for the rest of the half. Benayoun had a header tipped over before Vermaelen pulled one back with a great header from a pinpoint Rosicky cross. Then Djourou struck a shot inches wide, Rosicky blazed over after a neat one-two with van Persie, and Santos showed good feet in the area but curled an effort just over.
Song: "Hey, Wigan have scored! They can't do that can they boss?"
Wenger was cutting a very agitated figure on the touchline as he watched his side playing well without reward and as the halftime whistle went Arsenal could easily have been 4-2 up. For that reason confidence was high that we could turn this around after the break and we started well, Santos getting free and firing a shot in which was deflected and fizzed inches away from van Persie’s boot.
But Wigan were having chances of their own on the counter as our kamikaze defending continued. Moses outmuscled Sagna and brought a diving parry from Szczesny before a long throw from inside their own half somehow found Moses clean through, but he shot straight at the keeper.
By now we were running out of ideas, although Santos should’ve done better when he horribly miscued a cutback from seven yards. Wigan were looking more and more comfortable and by the end were creating the better chances. Their work ethic and commitment to their gameplan was first class and a tribute to their talented young manager Roberto Martinez.
By contrast our manager didn’t cover himself in glory by constantly complaining on the touchline and then botching his substitutions once again. How the off-form Gervinho gets on before the Ox appears mystifying, until you remember that Wenger doesn’t make substitutions according to form — he adheres to his ridiculous pecking order which means the Ox stays bottom of the list because he is the youngest, and Walcott stays on the pitch no matter how poorly he’s playing because he’s been at the club a long time.
So when the Ox finally came on he had to play in central midfield, where he tried to go on a few trademark runs but was forced to start too deep and was easily dispossessed by the time he got to the area. I accept he will become a central midfielder in the future, but in the here and now he is a skillful dribbler with blistering pace and (unlike Theo) confidence in his ability to run at players. So he should’ve replaced Benayoun, instead of Gervinho, so that he could attack Wigan from the left wing, an area in which he could do some damage. Unfortunately we had to witness Gervinho bumbling about out there while the Ox was kicking his heels on the bench itching for a chance — madness Wenger, madness.
So we’ve thrown away a golden chance to all but wrap up third place and now must regroup for the visit of Chelsea on Saturday. It may sound strange, but I am totally confident we’ll beat Chelsea. Why? Because we’ll be up for that one. Like I’ve said many, many times before on this blog, we have no problems getting up for the glamour games. This defeat will sting us and we will focus properly to beat Chelsea, just like the QPR defeat stung us and we beat Manchester City straight afterwards.
I honestly thought we had cured this mental deficiency of taking ‘little’ teams lightly, but seeing it happen again just a couple of weeks after QPR makes me feel very let down as a supporter. Blackburn, Fulham, Swansea, QPR and now Wigan have beaten us because we were complacent. All I ask of the team is 100% commitment in every match and if they can’t do that they should fuck off to China or the MLS, because it’s no good going on a wonderful run of form only to ease up because the finishing line is in sight — in fact it’s downright criminal.
So please Arsenal — sort the mental side of your game out before it’s too late.
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