Arsenal won pretty comfortably today at a rainy DW Stadium in Wigan, dominating possession and chances against a stalwart but unambitious Wigan side playing the old 5-5-0 formation. While Wigan would control much of the opening 15 minutes, they never really tested a solid-looking Arsenal defense, and as the Gunners found their way into the match and opened things up after a long-range strike, it snowballed out of control for the Latics.
The early going was fairly choppy, Ramsey and Gervinho combining for a 1-2 that lead to a goal kick the first penalty area action of any significance, although Wigan had had a good take in Arsenal's area 30 seconds previous. Wigan, though, would have the first big chance, and it should have been 1-0. A sharp cross was put in from the left which Wojciech Szczesny palmed dangerously in front of goal, and Jordi Gomez' follow-up was scuffed wide when he had the goal at his mercy.
At the other end, Arsenal were having similar problems, Gervinho's hard cutback catching in Aaron Ramsey's feet and trickling out for a goal kick. A Wigan corner was claimed comfortably by Szczesny, but Arsenal could not maintain possession for long at all, Wigan doing a good job in the opening 10. Andre Santos had a long-range effort as he wasn't closed down, but it flew well wide.
Wigan were looking lively, while Arsenal were again coming out of the blocks perhaps a little flat. The game sort of sputtered for the next six or seven minutes, before Arsenal finally got Theo Walcott free on the right, his cross gingerly deflected to Ali Al-Habsi. Aresnal won a corner that caused a little chaos, but Al-Habsi claimed that too. Wigan were defending sturdily with five at the back and another five in front of them, and Arsenal were finding it slow going at times. Gary Caldwell got too close to Robin van Persie, giving away a free kick, but that amounted to nothing either.
Arsenal were doing that thing that they do where five or six players bunch up in the middle in front of a staunch defense, but Wigan were allowing some space to shoot, backing off all the time.
Mikel Arteta would use it. As Wigan backed away, Thomas Vermaelen made a run forcing their central defenders back. Tons of space opened up in front of the Spaniard, and from 25 yards, he let fly. There was a hint of a deflection, but in any case, Al-Habsi couldn't get to it, and it flew into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
And it wasn't long before it was 2. Arsenal won a corner, van Persie swung it in, and Vermaelen got a reward for his ambitious play, beating two Wigan defenders in the air and nodding home at the unmanned far post.
A goal from a corner, and a goal from a long shot, not Arsenal's usual game, but against a deep, massive defense, sometimes some unorthodox play is necessary. van Persie nearly scored again from a Gervinho square, but Al-Habsi made his usual unreal save, and it stayed at 2. The half trundled along mostly under its own power, Arsenal looking comfortable to pass the ball around, Wigan looking toothless. Gervinho was offside on a good through ball by van Persie; Wigan won a free kick that came to nothing. van Persie tried to spring Gervinho again as halftime loomed, but the Ivorian's touch was a little heavy, and he couldn't round Al-Habsi, having to retreat instead. Halftime arrived, the away side 2-0 up in a fairly tame 45 minutes.
The second half began slowly, but within five minutes, Ramsey missed, and then perhaps should have had a penalty when he was pulled down by Steve Gouhouri. [Upon further review, Mark Clattenberg was just wrong--it was as much a penalty as any one'd ever see]. Then Gary Caldwell, perhaps angry about Ramsey's sadness at not having the penalty called, decided to crush him. Four minutes later, Walcott floated a cross which van Persie nodded back across the face of goal, but nobody was home. Still, Arsenal pressed on.
As did Wigan. Maynor Figueroa had a good effort go just wide of Szczesny's far post 56 minutes in before Wigan got a free kick from the right, Alex Song earning a harsh yellow as a Wigan player launched himself into the Cameroonian. It was more poor refereeing from Clattenberg. Szczesny claimed the free kick, though.
And soon it would be 3-0. RvP played a lovely 1-2 with Alex Song, cut back inside as Gary Caldwell went sliding out of the atmosphere beyond him, and shot with his right foot. Al-Habsi, as is his wont, made a wonderful save to his left, but the rebound spilled to Gervinho, who pipped it home.
And Arsenal would keep pressing. van Persie just smashed a shot wide after Clattenberg played advantage. Wigan were still coming, though, winning a corner on the 66th minute. Arsenal were able to clear it. Six minutes and one Aaron Ramsey chance later, Wigan had another corner after some good work from Franco di Santo. Ghohouri won the initial header, but Szczesny dove out to claim it. Ghohouri caught Walcott late, and Clattenberg gave the yellow for it. Arteta was gifted another chance to shoot from range, but he didn't make it count, his rather tame shot caught easily.
Soon it would be 4. Walcott escaped up the right, and as he has so many times this year, he waited, and simply cut it back for RvP, who plopped it home. The subs came on at this point; Andrei Arshavin, Frances Coquelin, and Yossi Benayoun replaced Song, Walcott, and Gervinho. The Israeli nearly set up van Persie for a fifth, lobbing Al-Habsi, but Caldwell was able to intervene. Coquelin earned a yellow for a rash tackle.
Arsenal were content to pass around as the rain increased, Mohamed Diame earning a yellow as his last act before James MacArthur replaced him. The action was kind of dwindling, Arsenal looking to see the match out without any negative incidents, and for the most part they did; Clattenberg blew for full time after Wigan took one last chance, the cross outdistancing everyone, Koscielny watching it run away.
Full time, 4-0, a solid goal-difference-helping win. The young guns will travel to Greece on Tuesday, and then Everton visit the Emirates on Saturday.