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Mikel Arteta’s penalty proved enough for Arsenal to defeat Wigan Athletic and make it three Barclays Premier League victories in a row for the first time since March.
There was very little between the sides and it was the hosts who had the best chance of the first half but it was wasted by Arouna Kone. The goal came on the hour mark after Jean Beausejour was deemed to have fouled Theo Walcott and Arteta made no mistake. The three points lifted Arsenal up to third ahead of Chelsea, who play tomorrow, while Wigan remain in the bottom three and have now taken only one point from their last five games.
Arsene Wenger named the same team that defeated Reading 5-2 on Monday, with Walcott again given a chance to impress up front. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was hoping to have a couple of his eight injured players back but it was only James McCarthy who was able to start, with captain Gary Caldwell on the bench.
Wigan started with a flat back four but with McCarthy providing a shield in midfield, particularly against the skills of Monday’s hat-trick hero Santi Cazorla. Rain had poured down all morning but the pitch had held up well and both teams set about playing their similar brands of possession football.
Arsenal had the first chance of the game in the ninth minute when Arteta was allowed time and space to drive forward and play in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right but his shot was well saved at the near post by Ali Al Habsi. The goalkeeper was making his 100th appearance for the Latics and he was called on again in the 11th minute to beat away a stinging shot from Lukas Podolski.
It was far from all Arsenal, though, and Wigan were more than matching their opponents for neat passing moves. The frustration for the hosts was they could not turn possession into chances, with both Ronnie Stam and Beausejour struggling with their crosses.
Wigan’s pace up front certainly had the potential to trouble Arsenal, who were playing a high line, and Kone timed his run to perfection in the 24th minute to collect Franco Di Santo’s through-ball. There was nothing Per Mertesacker could do but, with only Wojciech Szczesny to beat, Kone dragged his shot wide.
Emmerson Boyce was playing a captain’s role in the absence of Caldwell and a shot from Walcott was one of many blocks. Four minutes before half-time Jack Wilshere entered referee Jon Moss’s book for a sliding challenge on Shaun Maloney.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been quiet in the first half but he began the second in fine fashion and his pull-back set up Walcott for a shot from 10 yards that Al Habsi blocked with his arm. The England international was the key man when Arsenal did break the deadlock after an hour, though, as Moss judged Walcott was pushed by Beausejour in the area. Arteta coolly sent Al Habsi the wrong way.
With 20 minutes to go, Wigan twice tested Szczesny, first Maynor Figueroa sending in a low, skidding shot and then Kone drawing a block from the Pole after doing very well to cut in from the left.
Szczesny was then a spectator a couple of minutes later as James McArthur set up David Jones on the edge of the box for a shot that flew just wide of an upright.
Stam found a decent cross in the 82nd minute but it was stabbed clear by Mertesacker with Kone waiting for a tap-in, and two late appeals for handball in the area were turned down to complete a thoroughly frustrating afternoon for the hosts.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: "We are in the middle of a period where calls are not going our way and we've got a few players missing. We played really really well. We played with a great mentality. The players displayed a big team mentality and I couldn't be prouder."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It was very important because we beat West Brom at home and now we have two away wins. It was a difficult game because they stopped us from playing. I believe they are in the wrong position in the table."
|26 Dec 2012||v Everton (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Aston Villa (A)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|29 Jan 2013||v Stoke (A)|