|L for Latics|
A wet Tuesday evening in North London was the backdrop to what finished as a comfortable win for Arsenal but what, up to the hour mark was a keenly contested game.
Playing for an essential three points to keep up hopes of winning the soul destroying race for Champions League Football, Arsenal started brightly when Lukas Podolski opened the scoring with a header. With the Gunners well in control a jaded Wigan looked to have run out of gas after their awesome FA Cup win last Saturday.
Having been applauded onto the pitch by all corners of the stadium the small knot of Latics fans, penned appropriately in a small L shaped section of the normal away end, comfortably made themselves heard, and as complacency crept into the Arsenal ranks, Athletic began to get into the game.
Failing to score a second that would have killed off the game, Arsenal began to sit deeper and become preoccupied with referee Mike Dean's decisions. An athletic toe poke by Laurent Koscielny saved the blushes of Wojciech Szczesny when he came out late to challenge Arouna Kone and it was no surprise when Shaun Maloney levelled the score with a delightful free kick just ahead of half time.
At half time a pitchside interview with ex Gunner Brian Talbot introduced some perspective to the argument about squad rotation as his remarkable feat of being on the pitch for every second of Arsenal's 70 matches in the marathon 1979-80 season was recalled.
After the break Wigan continued to show the spirit and invention required to win the match and with Arsenal also needing to win an open game ensued. It was clear that the next goal was going to be crucial and the tide turned in Arsenal's favour when Szczesny pulled off a decent save from Kone. The sorcery of Santi Cazorla then paid divdends as the Spaniard set up three goals in nine minutes for Theo Walcott, Podolski and Aaron Ramsey the latter seeing the Welshman cap another solid game with a deft finish.
At the final whistle Wigan dejectedly plodded over to thank their supporters. Although many sounded the death knell for the club following their failure to once again save themselves at the last from relegation its timely to note that it was Paul Jewell who led them to promotion into the Premier League. There are plenty of managers of Jewell's ilk around for manager Dave Whelan to appoint should Roberto Martinez leave, and with the club's financial structure still in place there is no reason to doubt that they will be challenging for a return to the top flight next season. Arsenal in the meantime made preparations for a lap of appreciation although I opted to trudge off to the tube in the pouring rain, a prospect preferable to saluting the possibility of the pseudo achievement of another Champions League qualifying place.