Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wigan vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal's title push suffered a big blow as the league leaders dropped two points away at Wigan. The Gunners are now two points ahead of Manchester United, but the Red Devils have a game in hand.

Arsenal were a far cry off of the heights they reached in a 2-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League midweek. The Gunners didn't have a large edge over Wigan in possession and failed to manage any clear cut chances, although it must be said that Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland performed admirably to keep the fixture goalless.

Wigan: Chris Kirkland; Emerson Boyce, Mario Melchiot, Erik Edman, Paul Scharner; Michael Brown, Jason Koumas, Antonio Valencia, Wilson Palacios; Marlon King, Emile Heskey

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Gilberto Silva; Nicklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Adebayor

Arsenal started the match brightly and could have been 1-0 ahead within a minute had Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland not stuck out his foot to block a shot from Emmanuel Adebayor.

Mathieu Flamini won a free-kick on the edge of Wigan's penalty box two minutes later, but a kick from Cesc Fabregas was easily cleared away.

The Gunners continued to press forwards and Kirkland was forced into another smart save when he tipped a shot from Nicklas Bendtner over the post.

Bendtner should have scored for the Gunners in the 16th minute after being put through on goal by Cesc Fabregas, but the talented young Dane completely missed the ball which rolled harmlessly out for a goal kick.

Wigan's only real chance of the first-half came after Emile Heskey was chopped down 25 yards from goal. Jason Koumas took the resulting free-kick but saw his effort cleared away by Gilberto. The clearance fell to Michael Brown who audaciously attempted to score with an acrobatic effort from outside the penalty box.

Fabregas almost scored with a header but Kirkland got down well to once again keep the match drawn going into halftime.

Arsenal came out strongly in the second half, dominating the opening as they had in the first. Kirkland again saved from Adebayor after a mix up between Kirkland and his defenders gifted the ball to the lanky Togolese striker.

Wigan were lucky not to be a goal down moments later when Cesc Fabregas incorrectly chose to square the ball to Bendtner when he was in a great scoring position himself. His pass to the young Dane was cut out by a defender in a huge let-off for the home side.

The visitors began to lose their grip on the game when Antoine Sibierski came on for Emile Heskey in the 55th minute. The big Frenchman was in the action straight away, winning a corner for Wigan after seeing his shot deflect off of William Gallas.

Antonio Valencia was becoming a nuisance for the Gunners and the winger forced Manuel Almunia into a great save with a serving 25-yard drive.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger made a double-switch in the 65th minute, bringing on Robin van Persie and Kolo Toure, two players who have not featured much for Arsenal this year.

Van Persie blazed a shot over the bar with seven minutes to go as it became clear that the game would end in a goalless draw.

Arsenal's final chance came after a nice move from Emmanuel Adebayor set Cesc Fabregas up in the box. Chris Kirkland came out quickly though, and the move was smothered as Arsenal were forced to settle for a solitary point from the game.