Wigan’s amazing recovery ends Arsenal’s dreams
Another howler from Fabianski as Arsenal throw away a two-goal lead and their title hopes
Wigan 3 Arsenal 2. The Gunners' last faint hopes of winning the Premier League title slipped through their fingers yesterday afternoon; or to be more precise, through the fingers of their goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who marked his 25th birthday with a performance of such stunning ineptitude he surely won't appear again in an Arsenal shirt.
Chelsea's 2-1 defeat to Spurs on Saturday, and Manchester United's victory over Manchester City, meant that Arsenal travelled north to the DW Stadium knowing that a win over Wigan would move them to within three points of the Blues and two of second-placed United. Yet Gunners' boss Arsene Wenger was forced to select a callow side owing to the club's injury crisis. Sol Campbell wore the captain's armband and for the first time in five years Arsenal had more than two Englishman in their starting XI (Campbell, Theo Walcott and 19-year-old Craig Eastmond in midfield).
With William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen missing, the 34-year-old Campbell had to call on all his experience early on, particularly with Fabianski – in for the injured Manuel Almueria – looking nervous between the sticks. He flapped at one Ben Watson corner and a short while later breathed a sigh of relief when Charles N'Zogbia shot just wide of his right-hand post.
But Arsenal began to create chances as the first-half wore on with Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott combining well on a couple of occasions, and it was the young English winger who broke the deadlock four minutes before the break. Nicklas Bendtner threaded a pass through to Walcott, who evaded the challenge of Titus Bramble, and coolly fired the ball past Chris Kirkland in the Wigan goal.
Three minutes into the second half Arsenal made it 2-0 when a Samir Nasri corner was guided into the Wigan net by the head of Mikael Silvestre, the goal coming a minute after Wigan's claims for a penalty for Nasri holding back Ben Watson had been rejected.
But the second Arsenal goal seemed to galvanise Wigan and it was the dangerous N'Zogbia who sparked an astonishing late comeback. Surging up field in the 80th minute the Frenchman picked out Victor Moses out wide on the left, and his drag back was buried by Ben Watson into the Arsenal goal.
Nine minutes later Fabianski dropped his clanger. Rising to claim a N'Zogbia corner, the Pole inexplicably fumbled the ball and it fell on to the head of Titus Bramble, who needed no second invitation. What hair Wenger had left was all but ripped out in the second minute of stoppage time when N'Zogbia produced a curling thunderbolt from the edge of the area to seal a sensational victory for the home side, one that lifts them to 15th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
For Arsenal, the defeat condemns them to their fifth consecutive year without a trophy and confirms that the best they can realistically hope for this season is third place. "It is the most disappointing defeat of the season and the way we conceded, it was also the most disappointing," said a dejected Wenger afterwards. "It is difficult to understand and accept, perhaps the players felt too much comfort but in football you must stay focused for 90 minutes and we were punished."
Pressed on what he thought of Fabianski's howler, Wenger simply said: "We made mistakes and they took advantage, they were sharper in the final part of the game." ·
Comments are now closed on this article