Ten minutes of hell at Arsenal: two goals down and Arteta lost

Apr 17, 2012
Bill Mann

Wigan's 2-1 victory could save their bacon – but it puts a dent in Gunners' third-place plans

Arsenal 1 Wigan 2. First Manchester United and now Arsenal. Wigan have beaten two of the top three sides in the Premier League in the space of seven days to ease their relegation fears and create confusion at the top of the table.

Before last night's extraordinary result at the Emirates, Arsenal had appeared strong favourites to finish third and clinch automatic qualification for next season's Champions League. Now the Gunners are five points clear of Tottenham and Newcastle (fourth and fifth respectively) but with their rivals having a game in hand.

Then there's also Chelsea in sixth spot, who visit the Emirates on Saturday in a match that will have a major bearing on who finishes where at the end of the season.

The Gunners never recovered from an awful opening ten minutes in which they lost Mikel Arteta to an ankle injury and conceded goals to Franco di Santo and Jordi Gomez. Arsene Wenger later tore into his team, saying: "We defended horrendously for the first and second goal. Everybody involved was included for the first and the second goal."

It was, added Wenger, an "unbelievable" evening, not just the defeat but the fact Arteta's ankle injury could sideline him for the rest of the season. On top of that it was announced shortly before the kick-off that Jack Wilshere won't be making his long-awaited comeback until next season. It had been hoped that the England midfielder, who hasn't played since July, would be ready to help the Gunners in their bid to finish third but that's now not the case.

Wenger later railed against Wigan's time-wasting tactics in the second-half but the Frenchman's frustrations stemmed more from the deficiencies of his own side than any dithering on the part of the visitors. As the Arsenal boss conceded, albeit through gritted teeth, "I congratulate Wigan - they did well".

They did better than well, they did brilliantly, becoming the first side to beat United and Arsenal in successive games since Southampton in 2001. The result also means that Wigan are now five points clear of the drop zone and if they continue to play the way did last night relegation is unthinkable for Roberto Martinez's side.

Di Santo opened the scoring for the visitors on seven minutes, scrambling the ball into the net after a length-of-the field counter attack. With Arteta off the pitch receiving attention to his ankle, Wigan then exploited their advantage with the outstanding Victor Moses finding space out wide on the left before crossing for Gomez to squeeze the ball past Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.

Thomas Vermaelen pulled one back for the Gunners on 21 minutes with a powerful header but thereafter the Gunners laboured to produce any clear-cut chances. With Robin van Persie strangely off colour and Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey (on for Arteta) virtually anonymous, Arsenal lacked the energy and commitment of their visitors.

"We didn't see anyone who could make a difference," admitted a despondent Wenger, before turning his attention to Saturday. "Chelsea is a massive and vital game for us. We need to recover from the massive disappointment of tonight first, then prepare mentally for the next one."

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