Saturday, November 24, 2007

Arsenal vs Wigan: Match Review

Match Preview

An undermanned Arsenal side managed to break down a resolute Wigan in the last ten minutes to go clear at the top of the Premier League table as Manchester United faltered at Bolton.

Wigan showed some real character in their compact defense, but a goal from William Gallas opened the game up in the 83rd minute and Tomas Rosicky insured the win with a second only two minutes later.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Neves Denilson, Lassana Diarra, Tomas Rosicky; Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor

Wigan: Michael Pollitt; Emerson Boyce, Titus Bramble, Andreas Granqvist, Salomon Olembe, Paul Scharner; Kevin Kilbane, Michael Brown, Jason Koumas, Denny Landzaat; Marcus Bent

Arsene Wenger was forced to field a makeshift midfield lineup due to injuries to Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Abou Diaby. Gilberto was also out due to fatigue, and Cesc Fabregas missed the match due to suspension after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season against Reading. Theo Walcott started alongside Emmanuel Adebayor as Robin van Persie was still not fit to play, although the Dutch international has returned to training.

Both sides started brightly, with Theo Walcott warning Wigan of his talent with some mazy runs into Latics territory.

Wigan had the first clear-cut chance of the match though, as Marcus Bent fired past Manuel Almunia before being correctly flagged offsides.

Arsenal were having a tough time finding their usual passing rhythm without Fabregas and Hleb, but the showed some of their style in a fine exchange of passes after about 20 minutes of play. The move resulted in a through ball from Theo Walcott to Emmanuel Adebayor near the penalty spot. The Togo striker drilled in a shot, but a fine reaction save from Michael Pollitt, who was already a few yards off his line, kept Wigan level with the Gunners.

In the 36th minute Arsenal had another great chance, as some unselfish play from Adebayor set up the dangerous Walcott who saw his shot blocked by a last-ditch tackle from Salomon Olembe.

It was close, but not enough, and Arsenal began to get frustrated as a wall of eleven Wigan defenders stopped the Gunners' free flowing football.

Just after the hour mark Emmanuel Adebayor was released in the box, only for Emerson Boyce to make a beautifully timed tackle to deny the lanky forward a shot.

Wigan then had a rare chance as a mix-up between Kolo Toure and William Gallas saw the ball fall to Marcus Bent just outside Arsenal's 18 yard box. Unfortunately for the Latics, Bent's shot went wide of the post.

It was Arsenal's chance again, as a free-kick from Denilson was nearly deflected into Pollitt's net at the other end of the pitch. The Wigan keeper showed some fine reactions to keep the ball out at his near post.

Denilson and Bent were in the center of the action again as the Brazilian suffered a bad tackle from the Wigan striker. Tempers flared and William Gallas got involved with substitute Emile Heskey, resulting in yellow cards for the Arsenal captain and both of the involved Wigan players.

It wasn't the last bad tackle though, as a sliding tackle from Bent crumpled Theo Walcott, who was stretchered off as Nicklas Bendtner came on.

As if in response to the reckless tackles, Arsenal went on a sudden and ferocious offensive, finally breaking down the Wigan defense.

A wonderfully placed cross from Bacary Sagna met countryman William Gallas who headed in at the near post.

The goal opened up the game for the final few minutes, but Arsenal were finally assured a victory when Tomas Rosicky grabbed a second. Substitute Nicklas Bendtner fed the Czech Republic captain on the edge of the box. Rosicky finished well, firing in with a low shot off of Pollitt's left post.

It was a great day for Arsenal as they lengthened their lead on last season's champions Manchester United to three points.