Arsenal 4-0 Wigan; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Thomas Vermaelen, super genius, scores a header between two Wigan players.

Prologue

Lovely morning; the rain was coming down and I spent the early part of the day with my daughter watching Burnley beat Sunderland 3-1 on the back of a really pitiful performance by Lorik Cana. Then I got to Doyle’s where two other Arsenal supporters (Steve and Colin) had driven all the way up from Olympia to catch the match, had a breakfast sandwich, too much coffee and watched an easy Arsenal win. I dare say that whatever residual effects I’m feeling from this obnoxious infection were blown away by this morning’s events.

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal drew a line under recent controversies by recording a straightforward Premier League victory against Wigan, helped by Thomas Vermaelen’s double.

Telegraph: Vermaelen now stands equal with Eduardo as Arsenal’s top goalscorer this season following a brace today in a routine 4-0 defeat of Wigan Athletic.

Man of the Match

The Telegraph has inexplicably given MotM to Robin van Persie, who’s profligacy in front of goal today more than once nudged me to joke “Vermaelen wouldn’t have missed that.” No matter that Robin worked very hard and was dogged all afternoon by Wigan’s no nonsense defending, it was Thomas Vermaelen who easily wins Man of the Match for me.

First, rising among two Wigan defenders (who are no slouches on set plays it should be noted) for a superbly taken header and to break what was looking by all accounts like another “typical Arsenal performance.” Which is to say 18 shots on goal and no goals.

Then, right after the break, when Wigan looked like they might want to put pressure on the match and steal a goal (something we have seen so many teams do) Thomas simply carried the ball the length of the pitch, dropped it off to Eboue for the one-two, and curled in a left-footed goal that Robin van Persie could take lessons from.

Arsenal supporters have grown accustomed to Wenger’s system of multiple chances and few goals. It’s pretty much a chronic condition at this point that at any given time our club will utterly shred the opponent’s defense only to put in a toothless cross or flubbed shot. I’m not telling you anything with that. But, in Thomas Vermaelen I think Arsenal might have a player who is straight forward, no nonsense and just gets the ball in the net. The type of player that we’ve been missing for quite some time.

Not only is he scoring goals, but he seems to have boundless energy. With the recent performances of Clichy and Cesc seeming a bit out of sorts and perhaps even jaded, Vermaelen is simply brimming with energy. It’s early in the season but if he can keep this pace of play up, along with straightforward defending and goal scoring, well, then he will certainly be the transfer window buy of the year. For today, he’s just Man of the Match.

The Good

After conceding in every match this season and allowing six in the last two, all coming off lapses in concentration and/or will, Arsene Wenger’s team talk must have been all about defending as a squad because today was a prime example of what the 4-3-3 can do to an opponent when everyone works hard and defends together. There was only a brief moment where it looked like the boys had lost focus in the second half when we were up 3-0 and Wigan nearly scored. And there was one over the top play in which Rodellega was given acres of space that had me wondering how with just one man to mark, three Arsenal defenders could lose him simultaneously. But the point is that each time Arsenal recovered and snapped back into the match in order to clean up and keep the clean sheet. So, as a team, Arsenal put in a really tight defensive performance and deserved the clean sheet, Kudos to the whole squad.

As for individual performances, I’d like to single out Alex Song who had another massive game in the holding role and who, even when he put a foot wrong, jumped up and corrected his mistake with hard work or a well timed tackle. Similarly, Eduardo looked very good down the left side, Rosicky looked dangerous both in attack and in defense where he literally put in a shirt shredding tackle, and Clichy seems to have recovered most of the form which made him a fan favorite over the last few years. Good for them and I hope they enjoy their week off, get rested, and are ready to put in the same kind of performance against Fulham on the 26th.

The Bad

I know that everyone will want me to mention the goalkeeping of Vito Mannone here, but I’m not going to say a bad word about the man who managed to keep Arsenal’s first clean sheet of the season.

No, instead I’d like to mention the Setanta USA half-time pundit partnership of Pat Dolan and Paul Dempsey. I’d rather Setanta have dead air, or even worse Tommy Smyth, than these two ass clowns spouting Arsenal myths and prattling on about a club that they clearly know nothing about. Setanta can’t be paying these guys much money at all and it clearly shows in their commentary. They basically just regurgitated all of the negative headlines put about by the press over the last week and somehow that passes as “commentary.”

Please, Setanta, end the farce.

The Ugly

Throughout the match I kept seeing this huge empty section of seats and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve sat near there, is that the away section?’ Sure enough, I saw the large metal fence which indicates an away section and on one side red shirts filled nearly every seat and on the other… almost nothing. Damn, I know it’s a bit of a ride down from the Greater Manchester area to London and I know it’s a recession, but you have to wonder where the away supporters were. The match announcers mentioned that they can barely get 12,000 in their 25,000 seat arena for home matches and so I wonder, have they all gone off to worship at the coffers of Man City?

Either way, it seems to me that Arsenal should make arrangements with the club that, say, the week before if they don’t sell out the away end that they make it smaller and fill some of those seats with Arsenal fans. Put the tickets on special, put kids in there, do something, it looks like an open wound to have that many empty seats.

Conclusion

There’s still five games to go before we reach Wenger’s magical 10th game and can really judge how the season is going to play out. But in five matches Arsenal have won 3 and lost 2 and are tied with Chelsea on a sparkling +9 goal differential. Those two losses were bitter away losses that only happened when individuals lost concentration and/or the whole team surrendered. But I do think that Wenger was right about the team taking positives away from both of those away losses and from the comeback win against Liege on Wednesday. This team has the ability to really push Chelsea for the title, I really believe that and our goal differential shows it. But since we aren’t stacked from top to bottom with multi-million pound superstars like a club like Chelsea, we need, more than any other club, to work together in order to win. Victoria Concordia Crescit is the motto of the club and I think today we showed that when we live up to that motto we can really put in some sparkling performances.

Let’s hope they carry that forward to Tuesday’s Carling Cup match against West Brom and for the rest of the season. Now’s not the time to take their foot off the gas, but to push forward and really see what they and Wenger’s system can accomplish.

Until tomorrow, UP THE ARSE!

21 Comments on Arsenal 4-0 Wigan; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. I think Pat Dolan (read fat T*rd) should be getting Man of the Match for his after the game analysis. He was absolutely speaking out of his A*se. His comments about Cesc not celebrating (when he was obviously injured) or about Arsene not changing his Assitant, Arsenal players going to ground after elbows in their face… I mean come on, he’s got to get MotM.

  2. Exactly right, Fabregas was injured but hopefully he’ll be able to play at Fulham.

    Song was huge today.

    It seemed like RVP just couldn’t get his feet, body and brain to march in the same cadence. He just looked really untidy today. Too many touches against defenders who at their worse don’t go for that.

    Did Jones think he was refereeing a basketball game because each Wigan team had a lot fouls ‘to give’?

    • @ctpa, Rosicky will get better. He’s been out for 20 months and needs matches. Unfortunately, we’re going have to put up with some messy play from him for a while but I think it will be worth it in the end.

  3. Wigan’s second-season slump began with attendance. After their first season in the EPL, their attendance dropped off to where it is now. I don’t know what they are doing but their stadium is always empty and the crown always looks/sounds bored. I imagine it’s hard to get up for a home game when the fans aren’t up to it either.

  4. Nice review Tim.

    I hover disagree about your “Bad”. I quite fancy Pat Dolans thought process. HE is a VERY OBJECTIVE pundit. He points out the highlights, whether good or bad, on all teams quite frankly from a neutral point of view.

    I believe he was spot on with most of his comments. Maybe not totally right about the Arsenal players not respecting ARsene, but many-Diaby, Eboue, Song or Denilson know game in game out that they most likely will get to start-in the current shape of the squad, and they dont justify themselves on the pitch.

    Many, not all of the comments or news or publications regarding Arsenal are true to a certain degree-esp regarding lack of a DM dominance.

    This game was a great result, but remember-all of our “great” results have been at the cost of weak teams. We have failed to get a result from our two major challenges of the season. But it is still early in the season, and we are yet to be fully fit..

    Love the blog..

    Up the ARse.

      • @Akash,

        Not that I want an argument or anything..
        just out of curiosity- what is not objective about pat dolan’s analysis? where does he prove to be straight anti-arsenal or anti-any team for that fact, without giving both sides of the story? I had setanta for as long as its been out, aside from this season so far, and I have always seen him to be quite frank about what is going on. I rarely find him favoring 1 team or another.

        I really fail to see his subjective point of views on many points..

        • @cescfiberglass, He called Arsene’s comments about Arsenal taking positives away from the two Manchester clashes “myopic.” That’s just taking the piss out of Wenger and the squad and it’s completely unnecessary.

    • I’ll take a win, any win because as you’ll recall, we’ve been done in by poor results against mediocre competition in the past.

  5. We’ve not commented about Eboue’s yellow for a blatant handball. It was all going so well w/ Eboue this season. Tsk, tsk. Got caught trying for a “hand of god” goal.

    Popular knock aginst Wenger is that he could only sign good offensive players but couldn’t bring in good defensive players. That old chestnut can be put to bed I think.

    The Man has weigh in on the Adebayor disaster and he cuts the clown off at the knees: http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/incoming/Arsenal-old-boy-Thierry-Henry-slates-Emmanuel-Adebayor-for-lack-of-respect-article164545.html

    If Tevez scores tomorrow, I guarantee he will NOT celebrate his goal Adebayor.

    Some chatter about Eboue doing the ‘sliding’ goal celebration after his goal. He’s never played for Wigan so what’s the big deal?

    I watched Liverpool-West Ham today and Pool are flattering to deceive. You can take this to the bank, Carragher is done as a top flight defender. He has lost more than a step somewhere and struggle all game long.

    So that’s what Nugent needed, teammates who could actually get him the ball in scoring positions. Who knew?

    Does anyone get a chill up their spine when they think about the drop off in quallity represented by CB subs?

    • @ctpa, Absolutely right about Pool. They have 4 intelligent attackers, Yossi, Gerrard, Torres, & Kuyt. Balance of team is average.

      If Torres or Gerrard have injuries, the team will struggle for ties.

  6. “Either way, it seems to me that Arsenal should make arrangements with the club that, say, the week before if they don’t sell out the away end that they make it smaller and fill some of those seats with Arsenal fans. Put the tickets on special, put kids in there, do something, it looks like an OPEN WOUND to have that many empty seats.” yep!

  7. There won’t be empty seats on Tuesday. West Brom have got their tails up and will be there in numbers. As for us, I’m now regretting not getting a ticket last week. Trouble was, the only seats left were top tier in the corner where (a) you get vertigo and (b)can’t see a thing. It will be a tough task for the kids but the open style should suit them fine. Team?

    Vowel-less, hopefully
    Dunno Dunno Senderos Gibbs
    Coquelin Ramsey
    Lansbury Merida Wilshere
    Watt or Bendtner

    Bench: Sunu, Murphy, Barazite, Traore, Frimpong – actually those last two might start? Haven’t a clue about the central defenders.

    Midfield is quite strong, assuming Lansbury is back from his loan spell at Watford, and Wilshere hasn’t yet left for the under-20s; otherwise Traore could play left midfield. Strikers? I don’t see Bendtner and Watt playing together but not sure if Sunu or the other little nippy one are ready for this level?

  8. I’d forgotten Mark Randall. Mercifully. I don’t see the point of Mark Randall. I’d guess Gavin Hoyte will be right back, and maybe Luke Ayling will play?

    Has Jay Emmanuel gone to Blackpool for the season or just a short spell, like Lansbury’s at Watford?

    Would be terrific if Sunu got a chance. I’ve seen him twice and was awestuck. Essence of panther, essence of Henry. Along with Barazite and Coquelin, he looks like the future – and it can’t come too soon, given our lack of clinical finishing. How many shots on goal yesterday? I think around 25.

  9. ManU 4-3 ManC. I only caught the the last 60″ or from 3-2 ManU. That means I saw about 40″ of regular time 😉

    Sparky: cry you big weanie.

  10. A lot has been said about Arsene’s lack of signings over recent years, but if he continues to sign players like Vermaelen, Arshavin, Eduardo, Rosicky and Nasri, I for one am prepared to believe him when he says he will not buy unless he can find players that are better than he already has.

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