STAR MAN: Wigan's Victor Moses
WIGAN'S VICTOR Moses is leading his team to the promised land of Premier League survival.
The Wigan man is proving pivotal to his team's bid to stay in the division and helped instigate perhaps the shock of the season at the Emirates.
Given what transpired against QPR a matter of weeks ago, Arsenal failed to heed Arsene Wenger’s advice to be aware of a side fighting for their Premier League lives.
Wigan not only won 2-1 on a night of firsts, but also denied the Gunners further breathing space in the scramble for next season’s Champions League places.
Franco Di Santo and Jordi Gomez saw Wigan race to an early two goal advantage, and although Thomas Vermaelen halved the deficit, the anticipated Gunners revival never really materialised.
Theo Walcott had another of his infamous off nights, but on this shwoing, Arsenal fans will be wondering why Aaron Ramsey is still starting ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
This end-of-seacon shock began after only seven minutes, when Wigan took the lead. From a fast break which saw Ali Al Habsi brilliantly save from Benayoun’s header, the visitors raced clear, Gomez found Di Santo and with a greater numerical advantage, Di Santo saw an exposed Wojciech Szczesny partially block the ball, but on the rebound, had enough time to finish for the opener.
The Gunners were stunned, but their shock was to double just a minute later. Gomez and the lively Moses combined from the wing. With the Arsenal defence all at sea, Szczensy was unable to hold the ball and Gomez bundled the ball over the line. It was now amazingly 2-0 to Wigan at the Emirates, a scoreline no one could have envisaged.
However, Arsenal began to pass and move with purpose. Al Habsi had already twice denied Yossi Benayoun headers, and Robin van Persie saw his surge and shot blocked by Boyce.
Midway through the first half, Thomas Vermaelen halved the deficit. Both he and Johan Djourou had spent more time in Wigan’s half as the visitors’ tactic to sit back in numbers and attack with pace was frustrating but effective. When Rosicky raced away to turn and cross, it was Vermaelen’s towering header that got the Emirates crowd off their seats for a fine headed goal.
Arsenal stepped up the pressure, but sitting deep and suffocating the Gunners, Wigan held firm. Al Habsi palmed away a vicious Van Persie drive, and on 24 minutes, Djourou saw his low shot go just a fraction the wrong side of Al Habsi’s upright.
The best chance to level arrived two minutes later. Rosicky played a neat one two with Van Persie, but unbalanced, the Czech Republic midfielder hit the ball over the cross bar.
Frustratingly, Wigan and Al Habsi’s time wasting tactics ruined the half, which saw Gomez fire over, just to make the Gunners aware of their continued threat.
A minute after the re-start, and with another Gunners’ surging move, Santos saw his cross cleared with Van Persie waiting for a ball that didn’t arrive.
Moses was again the Wigan outlet, and when he out-muscled Bacary Sagna, Szczesny had to be alert to the danger. Still there seemed to be plenty of time for the Gunners to recover, but when Vermaelen saw another header go over the bar, the writing was on the wall.
Santos snatched at an chance that Van Persie teed up, and knowing he had to change personnel, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger brought on Gervinho and later Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but still Wigan not only kept Arsenal at bay, but in Moses should have grabbed a third from another fast break.
Thankfully for Arsenal fans Moses saw Szczesny hold his effort, but Wigan it must be said were worthy on effort alone. However in truth, apart from his unfortunate habit of delaying the Gunners, Al Habsi was rarely tested in the second half and completed a remarkable first victory at the Emirates that will greatly enhance Wigan’s urvival hopes, but at the same time this result asks massive questions on the Gunners defence once more.