Wigan Athletic returned to the bottom of the table after this disappointing home defeat to a formidable Arsenal. Wigan’s ability to self destruct was once again in evidence, as was the excellence of Arsenal’s intricate passing game.
The Latics started brightly and for the first 25 minutes matched the Gunners for possession and probably should have taken the lead when Jordi Gomez had a clear chance but was denied by Andre Santos late intervention.
However Wigan’s ability to gift the opposition was demonstrated in the 28th minute when Mikel Arteta was given way too much space in front of the Wigan goal and his swerving shot deceived Ali Al-Habsi.
Only one minute later Arsenal won a corner and from Robin Van Persie’s cross Gary Caldwell allowed Thomas Vermaelen to rise above him to head an easy second. Once again Wigan’s poor defending had been their downfall.
Arsenal now took full control of proceedings and produced a masterclass in slick pass and move football. The Gunners totally dominated possession and the gulf in class was for all to see. Wigan couldn’t get a foothold in the game and as the game moved towards half- time it was clear that it would require a minor miracle for them to get anything from the game.
Only the most optimistic fans expected a comeback similar to the ones in the previous two seasons when Wigan came back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 and draw 2-2.
The second half started in similar fashion to the end of the first, with Arsenal in total control and the home team players retreating further and further towards their own goal. It looked only a matter of time before Arsenal would increase their lead.
Van Persie, Walcott and Gervinho all wasted good chances before a phenomenal chain of 33 passes resulted in Van Persie transferring the ball from left foot to right and then bending his shot towards the corner, Al-Habsi saved well but Gervinho followed up the rebound.
Worse was to come in the 78th minute when another example of poor Wigan defending let in the Gunners. Caldwell and Walcott chased a through ball and the Wigan defender looked to have the advantage but he somehow contrived to lose the 60/40 tackle and Walcott squared the ball for Van Persie to finish.
Poor defending has characterised the season so far and it is fair to say that Wigan will not escape relegation without a radical solution. In my view, the prime candidate for a rest is the Captain Gary Caldwell. It was another disappointing display by Caldwell and this performance was typical of his form this season.
I know that Roberto Martinez will be reluctant to sideline his Captain but Caldwell’s current performances cannot justify his place in the team. Now is the time for a change as Antolin Alcaraz returns from suspension at West Brom and he is the obvious replacement.
I would also replace the erratic Steve Gohouri with Emmerson Boyce at centre back and have a new defensive pairing of Alcaraz and Boyce to try to stem the run of poor defending.
A defensive reshuffle is required if we are to bounce back quickly. A good result at West Brom is now imperative as we then face difficult games against Chelsea (H), Liverpool (H) and Manchester United (A).