This was Arsenal’s 10th defeat in the league this season. Another win chalked away by a lower league side. This time at home where we’ve only lost twice all season, one to the team that is looking likely to lift the title and one at a time when we were in shambles. When we were supposed to increase the gap between us and the other sides chasing the Champions League spots, we dropped the ball.
Wigan showed just why they’ve been able to beat Liverpool, Manchester United and only just narrowly lost out at Chelsea. They were tight in defence and every single one of them worked their socks off to deny us. Not only that, they were also competent in the attack despite the numerical disadvantage there of having less men supporting the attack than us having men defending.
Wigan did to us what we did to Wolves last midweek. 2 minute spell in which they broke away with devastating effect brought us to our knees. Just like it was in our last defeat against a lower side in QPR, defensive mistakes cost us the game. The opener came from a counter attack from our corner kick. When the corner kick was cleared, Mikel Arteta was signalling to the bench that he couldn’t continue. He did not sit down and seek for attention. Wigan did not stop the game. Had he sat down, I wouldn’t be calling for Wigan to stop the game either. They had every right to play on.
And they did, by putting the ball in the back of the net. Victor Moses sprinted away from the squadron of Arsenal players tracking back. Franco Di Santo was wide open in the middle. The cross was perfect, Wojciech Szczesny came to close down and managed to block the shot but it fell kindly to the path of the advancing Di Santo to guide home into an empty goal. Andre Santos probably should have stayed central and stick with Di Santo instead of going over to close down Moses. That would have made Moses to delay his pass and we could have covering players back in position. Not the first time that the opposing team has countered well against us when a set piece is cleared for a breakaway down the flanks. Our positioning during set pieces needs to be looked at. Bad defending number 1.
Bad defending number 2 came just a minute later. Moses was again the instigator, turning Bacary Sagna inside out and driving to the by-line. This is as illustrated in the picture above. There were no bodies from midfield supporting the defence (2). Thomas Vermaelen followed his men because no one gave him a shout that Jordi Gomez was running behind him (3) which meant the former and Johan Djourou covered the same man. Tomas Rosicky did not pick up the runner (4). Classic bad organisation in defending.
The problem was exacerbated by the loss of Arteta. Quite why Rosicky was the only man from midfield inside the box defending a Wigan attack is incomprehensible. That’s not to say Arteta would definitely be there defending, as was shown in the Diakite goal at Loftus Road but there’s arguably an understanding between Arteta and Song when it comes to positioning. Yet, it puzzles me as to why Song didn’t stay back and allow the others to push forward when he’s without the support of Arteta. Most of the game, Aaron Ramsey played further behind than Song.
Apart from one other time which Moses got through in the second half, this game was pretty much all us. Yossi Benayoun got at the end of several headers in the first half but was denied by Ali Al-Habsi. The Wigan keeper decided another solid showing at the Grove was necessary. That Benayoun was winning those headers could be indication of the weakness in Wigan’s defence but it was not exploited by us. Perhaps Marouane Chamakh could be of use to use, perhaps not.
We did manage to claw one back before half time through Vermaelen. Rosicky’s inch perfect cross met sweetly by the Belgian and there was still 70 minutes of football left to be played. We drove on and kept the pressure up in the first half but couldn’t find the equaliser. We fared no better in the second half, in fact it was worse from attacking sense. We never got going and we couldn’t find any opening.
There was a period where Theo Walcott seemed to desert the flanks and played as the second striker. Like we saw at the Stadium of Light, that did nothing. Gervinho was the only outlet wide and we made it easy for Wigan to focus their defending on one side of the pitch. Even when Walcott finally moved back wide, he could not find the opening. Gervinho’s constant cutting in was only to run into walls of defending Wigan players.
Wenger is right. We tried to do too much individually. Players like Song, Gervinho, Benayoun, Ramsey and to an extend, even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he came on. All of them over-ran with the ball. Wigan gang up to close down those dribblers and succeeded. Which is strange why is kept happening because when the opposition gang up with 2 or 3 players on 1 of us, there should be at least 1 or 2 Arsenal players who are free. Quite why the pass was not made is beyond me. Did the dribbler not see the pass or did the free man not take up good space.
Yes, we have to give credit to the way Wigan played. No long ball routines, replaced with good movement and pace. On this performance, they do deserve to stay up. However, we were poor. That much is true. We kept running face first into the same brick wall. Tactically we did close to nothing to try to get back into the game. The massive over-reaction afterwards was unnecessary. Players don’t become shit overnight. But it’s worrying that we keep displaying inept performance when we are expected to steamroll over the opponent.
Was QPR a blip or was Wolves a blip?
(On the Robin Van Persie handshake thing. Caldwell offered a hand. RvP shook with his left. Caldwell gets angry. He wanted RvP’s sweet smelling right hand. Get over it. No rules states that a handshake must be done while looking into your opponent’s eyes and with the right hand.)