Wigan Athletic (0) – (0) Arsenal
JJB Staduim, Wigan
Everyone was always going to wonder if Arsenal could take 3 points from Wigan this weekend, especially when Manchester United and Chelsea surprisingly lost against Portsmouth and Barnsley in the FA Cup. And whatever disappointment those teams felt yesterday, today’s draw against Wigan would have raised their spirits.
And the problem we have now is that two of our closest rivals don’t have the distraction of the FA Cup, and we’ve dropped two vital points when we could have extended the lead to four.
The fact was the pitch was absolute shite. It really was.
You can argue that both sides have to play on the atrocious surface but the point is who is going to suffer more with a bumpy pitch? Arsenal try to play football and win matches and Wigan are near the bottom of the league and would regard a point against the league leaders a massive bonus.
So if you have a team playing for a point and a crap pitch to fight against then it’s always going to be an uphill battle.
But the performance from the boys wasn’t fantastic either.
Almunia and the back four had decent games, with Gallas and Senderos defending well and the fullbacks pushing on at every opportunity but the midfield really struggled.
Gilberto again was a lost passenger and gave the ball away on too many occasions. And when the tempo of the game needed to be faster inevitably it slowed down through him. Fabregas and Flamini did well but couldn’t really get to grips with the system, where they both switched from the middle to wide right throughout the game.
And I love Alexander Hleb, but he had one of the worst games I have seen for a long time.
The pitch didn’t help, but far too many times he had the ball in decent positions on the left high up the pitch and failed to pick out a half decent pass to a teammate. Too many passes went astray and in the game where chances were going to be limited his final ball needed to be far better. The game broke down too many times at his feet.
Adebayor was okay but missed the games clearest chances.
In the first minute a fantastic through pass from Fabregas set him free but he shot straight at Kirkland. He also had another chance early in the second half when Kirkland had a mix up with Boyce at the back but shot straight at him again when the goalkeeper was in no-mans land. I’m not sure if he’s lacking confidence or what but Adebayor just doesn’t look like scoring unless it’s from 3 yards out.
Bendtner did well and probably coped the best from the attacking outfield players with the shocking pitch, passing the ball well and showing some good touches and ball control. His days at Birmingham had obviously helped.
The majority of the game was at a pedestrian pace because Arsenal couldn’t play their football which was a massive shame. If this game was at the Emirates, Arsenal would have won easily.
Kolo and Van Persie came on with 25 minutes left but couldn’t really make any impact. Van Persie did well to make space for himself with 10 minutes left but his left-foot shot flew into Row Z. The ball bobbled just before he struck the ball and that really summed up the afternoon.
And the problem is that one a dreadful pitch it’s much easier to defend for a point than to take all three. So Wigan always had a massive advantage.
I guess with 3 draws in the last 3 league games people (and certainly the press) will say Arsenal have blown the title challenge. I didn’t know you could do that in March but hey, what do I know?
I’m sure the majority (if not all of the media) will forget the injury problems we’ve had to contend with this season. Today alone, we had Rosicky, Eduardo, Diaby and Walcott all out, and Kolo Toure and Robin Van Persie have just come back from injury. And Emmanuel Eboue was still suspended from his stupid red card at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.
But the bottom line is that the performance today wasn’t good enough to win. Adebayor, Fabregas, Hleb and others looked a little jaded – whether that was because of a so-called ‘hangover’ from midweek or just fatigue from the season so far is debatable, but we just weren’t at our best.