It was a game which had the critics ready with their knifes, waiting to pounce if the Gunners slip up once again after their magnificent victory over Chelski last weekend.
In all fairness, it was a nagging thought at the back of the minds of many fans. Will Arsenal slip up again after doing so well against top opposition, undoing their good work with losses against smaller teams?
Starting line up for Arsenal read: Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Denilson, Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor.
A host of first team regulars were missing, Gallas, Diaby, Rosicky, Eduardo, Walcott, but Toure returned to partner Djourou in the middle of the defence as the only change in the side which did so well against Chelski.
The game started nervously, with Arsenal upping the tempo from the start. But the nerves were still visible, with some hesitation in defence leading to Wigan firing a shot in via Palacios. The shot took a deflection off Heskey, which so easily could have wrong-footed Almunia, but he recovered to pull off a save.
In midfield, Song was partnering Fabregas to provide steel and height, allowing Fabregas free reign to move forward. And one such move resulted in a goal, albeit slightly fortuitous. Cesc lofted a ball forward, which eluded both Song and his marker Tits Bramble. The ball broke free to Adebayor in the box and he had the easiest of job to just slip it pass Kirkland. 1 nil to the Arsenal.
After the goal, the crowd was once again singing his name, after a protracted contract issue in the summer. Step 1 to winning the fans back once again.
RvP was proving a handful, with chances to increase the tally, but Boyce was proving to be a leech, always preventing a clear sight on goal.
Wigan was not proving the easy opposition which our Young Guns steamrolled in the Carling Cup. Palacios and Valencia were proving dangerous with runs behind the defence. With the dangerous Ryan Taylor throwing every deadball with precision, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a kitchen sink fly in either.
Just past the half hour, Palacios lunged into a challenge with Nasri, which saw a obviously in pain Nasri writhing in pain. After some treatment, his afternoon was over and on came Eboue, who just returned after missing 9 games with a knee injury.
The change left Arsenal losing its shape in midfield, with the cohesion and sharpness missing. We had the goal, but Wigan was fighting their way back into the game.
Towards the end of the half, Arsenal carved out another chance. Denilson did well to bring the ball down the right channel. The resulting cutback saw Adebayor fire in a shot which was destined to double his tally for the day. But somehow, Kirkland managed to fingertip the ball away to safety via the post.
2nd half started in quite the reverse of the first. Wigan was forcing the pace, and Heskey somehow managed to get a clear header in the box, evading Toure and Djourou. Fortunately, the header was weak and Almunia collected comfortably.
Arsenal responded with chances by RvP and Sagna, which forced Kirkland into action once again. Still the killer goal evades us.
The ref waved away a penalty claim by Camara when Toure challenged him for the ball in the box. Some good luck to us once again, after RvP’s goal last week.
Denilson was never going to be Walcott, but he did manage to get into some good positions, and fired in a shot at the edge of the area, only to see it come off the bottom of the post. Damn…what do we have to do to score the bloody goal.
Arsenal were now firmly in control and causing all sorts of problem for Wigan.
Substitutions by Wigan saw Kilbane replacing an injured Boyce, and shortly Zaki replaced Camara to partner Heskey.
Still, the game is open with just the one goal, and Wigan could sense an equalizer.
A corner sent in saw the ball break to Melchiot in the box. The defender sent in a powerful shot, which somehow, Almunia managed to divert it away. Stunning save which prevented a sure equalizer.
As the game drew to an end, the crowd were baying for the killer goal to finally put the game to rest. And the incessant pressure finally took the toll on a returning Eboue, misplacing a couple of passes which might have led to the equalizer for Wigan. The crowd turned on his back, and started booing him. Shameful display from the crowd, since when did supporting the team mean booing a player when he made a mistake.
Arsene took off Eboue in the dying minutes, replacing him with Silvestre.
A nervy last few minutes saw chances for Wigan to snatch a point, but the team managed to hang on for 3 points.
Next up, Porto in the Champions League.