IT has been a few years since the ‘Lucky Arsenal’ tag was applied to Arsene Wenger’s team, but the cobwebs were certainly dusted off after they rode their luck like celebrity supporter Tony McCoy rides his horses to consolidate fourth position in the Premier League.
Do not let the emphatic scoreline lull anybody into false conclusions. Wigan hit the post, had one cleared off the line and were rightly furious at referee Alan Wiley’s failure to dismiss Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs in the first half following a professional foul on Antonio Valencia.
It was one of those days. Arsenal waited an hour for an effort on target, yet they ended up scoring four. With that kind of good fortune, they could yet emerge from the pivotal week in their season with hopes still alive in both the Champions League and FA Cup. “We love the fact we have these big games coming up against Villarreal and Chelsea.” Wenger admitted. “There is tension there, but we like that because, if there’s no tension, it means you are not going for anything.”
It is now four years since Arsenal won ‘anything.’ If results go against them against Villarreal and Chelsea this week, then that trophy drought will stretch to five years with no hope of silverware until 2010.
The Gunners appear to be on the move again, though. The magical Andrei Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas played only their second game together here, but great players do not take long to gel and these two already seem superglued together as a formidable attacking partnership.
It was their trickery, vision and brilliance that turned defeat into victory in the closing stages. Mido’s first-half goal gave Wigan a deserved half-time lead, one which should have been bolstered by the dismissal of Gibbs for fouling Valencia, but Arsenal were bewitching once Theo Walcott equalised. Further goals from Mikael Silvestre, Arshavin and Alex Song capped a remarkable final half hour.
“We have been playing quite well throughout the whole season, but for some reason, some people decided to go a little bit against us and to have a go at us,” Fabregas said. “But we have coped with that very well because I think it is now 18 games we have gone without losing in the Premier League.
“It’s quite good what we have done, but it is not enough. We want to go all the way. We have said to ourselves we do not want to lose another game before the end of the season and that’s what we will try to do.’’
Arsenal have slipped under the radar as Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea turned the title race into a three-way fight. But despite reports of discontent at the Emirates, Fabregas insists it is far from an unhappy ship.
“Some people tried to create a little bit of a bad atmosphere,” he added. “Sometimes that’s what I’ve felt from the inside, but we dealt well with it. It’s not been a problem for us.
“We can answer them by winning things and that’s what we are aiming to do over the remainder of the season. That’s why these next few days are key for us. We have Villarreal in the Champions League, then Chelsea — an amazing team in the FA Cup semi-final. We still have a big say in the season.”
Wigan’s defeat did not help their own hopes of qualifying for Europe, although missing out might prove the best outcome for a club lacking the squad or finances to sustain a Europe League campaign. Even so, they should still have emerged with something from this game.
“I can’t believe that their boy (Gibbs) didn’t get a red card, but I’m not here to criticise the referee,” Mido said. “We worked so hard as a team, it’s a shame we lost by such a big margin.”
REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire) 5: In football parlance, Wiley ‘had a shocker.’ Should have dismissed Gibbs in the first half and then appeared to give every 50-50 call in Arsenal’s favour.
MATCH RATING: *** Wigan will rightly feel hard done by with the final scoreline, but they merely paid for bad luck against a team that took an hour to find their feet.
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