Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Inconsistent Walcott; Sloppy Szczesny and Sagna cost Arsenal as Wigan deserve their win

So what can we really say about that?

Let's be honest and send our congratulations to Wigan. They came with a game plan and executed it superbly. They were worthy of all three points.

This Arsenal team wasn't at the races from kick off. From the moment the teams switched ends prior to the start of the game, I got the impression that we weren't prepared for what was about to happen.

We didn't seem switched on. We were lethargic in our play. And so it proved after just seven minutes when Wigan took the lead. Minutes later we were 2-0 down. It was going from bad to worse.

And if we didn't have enough to worry about by giving the visitors a two goal lead, our second most consistent player behind Robin van Persie - Mikel Arteta - was substituted with a ankle injury which is more than likely going to keep him out for the rest of the season.

Neither Arteta nor substitute Aaron Ramsey were on the pitch when Wigan scored both of their goals - the Gunners were effectively down to ten men for a two minute period while the Spaniard received treatment.

Post match things got worse. Our best player last season - 20-year-old Jack Wilshere was ruled out for the season and Arsene Wenger said he would not go to the European Championships.

It was clear to see that without Arteta we were a different team. Aaron Ramsey came on and tried to take the game to Wigan. He wanted the ball, tried to make things happen and was desperately unlucky on several occasions that his final ball was cut out. But at least he was trying. He didn't shy away.

For the past couple of games I've thought Alex Song and Robin van Persie have looked tried. Song's passing has been off and he's not always had the energy to chase opponents back. While van Persie has struggled with the burden of having to be the player who is going to score the vast majority of our goals. Last night's game showed that neither are living up to their expected level of performance despite four days rest since the Wolves game.

One player whose character I couldn't question is Thomas Vermaelen. He got our equaliser and then did everything he could to take the game to Wigan. His forward runs helped us try to break down the visitors five man back line - but even the Belgium international can't do everything on his own. At times it appeared he was the sole central defender as Johan Djourou was pulled out of position by Wigan's front line.

There was a chance for the Swiss defender to put us on level terms but his effort was stabbed wide. Yossi Benayoun had a header saved and Rosicky's effort was shot over.

Despite pinning Wigan into their own half for large periods of the game, we lacked creativity in the second half. I think this is largely summed up by the fact we didn't have a shot on target for the whole of the second period.

The Grove groans returned as passes were miss placed and moves broke down. It's no surprise that Arsene Wenger only chooses to use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sparingly at the moment. Even those calling for his arrival on the pitch then preceded to groan and shout at him when things he tried didn't come off. If The Ox is to become the player we all want him to be, his confidence will need to be built on a positive foundation where things he tries  and don't come off aren't groaned at.

After having a stand out performance against Manchester City, I thought Bacary Sagna had a night to forget. He and Theo Walcott didn't seem to be their usual selves. Neither was penetrating going forward and Sagna looked vulnerable in defence.

I thought that Wojciech Szczesny could have done better with the second goal. He was sloppy with his handling and  should have held onto the ball when it was in his clutches. However he made a good save in the second period when a Wigan player was put in on goal.

We have to hope for some positive news from Mikel Arteta's scan tomorrow. He left the ground in a protective boot and let's hope that is just precautionary.

If Arteta isn't fit, we'll need to replace him and Benayoun in the stating 11 for the Chelsea match. I thought prior to the game last night we would have enough momentum to push us over the line in third spot but it appears it's not going to be as easy as many of us thought.

We need a boost from somewhere. Yesterday was not a good day for the club. Let's hope that we can pick ourselves up from this disappointing performance and go into the Chelsea clash with fresh optimism and determination.

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