Despite producing a battling performance at a rain-soaked DW stadium, Wigan were thwarted by a resurgent Arsenal. The away side were awarded a controversial penalty in the 60th minute when Theo Walcott went down in the box after a challenge by Jean Beausejour. There was minimal contact by the Chilean but the England striker made sure that the referee had a decision to make. It was a very debatable decision by referee Jon Moss, who had a desperately poor game throughout, with some bizarre decisions incensing the home crowd.
Wigan’s injury crisis continues to hamper their progress and on this occasion they were without four established centre backs. Manager Martinez decided to go with a 4-4-2 formation with Maynor Figueroa joining captain Emmerson Boyce in the centre and regular wing backs Ronnie Stam and Jean Beausejour adopting a more conventional full back role.
Arsenal went into the game at full strength and in good form after Monday night’s 5-2 rout of struggling Reading. Despite the discrepancy in resources the Latics matched the Gunners all over the park in a close fought encounter.
The Wigan pitch was in surprisingly good condition despite the torrential rain and both sides created some good goal scoring opportunities in the opening minutes.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drew a fine left-handed save from Ali Al Habsi at the near post but the home side had the best opportunity of the first half when Arouna Koné was fed through by Franco Di Santo’s and the Ivorian striker outpaced Per Mertesacker but dragged his left-foot shot wide of the post.
Wigan’s full backs Stam and Beausejour got forward on numerous occasions but the final cross was often disappointingly poor. With a little more composure Wigan should have capitalised on their dominance of the flanks.
Early in the second half Arsenal had a good opportunity to take the lead when the relatively subdued Santi Cazorla made good progress down the right hand side before cutting the ball back to Walcott whose shot on the turn was well saved by Al Habsi.
Then in the 60th minute the game turned in Arsenal’s favour when Beausejour was controversially adjudged to have fouled Walcott. Mikel Arteta comfortably converted the spot kick by sending Al Habsi the wrong way. The Wigan fans’ humour was not improved when soon afterwards Di Santo was forced to stand on the touch-line for three minutes. It was a bizarre decision by referee Moss after Di Santo was mistakenly adjudged to be wearing an earring. The Fourth official Mark Halsey looked suitably embarrassed by the whole affair.
As Wigan challenged to get back on level terms there was a feeling that the Arsenal players went down too easily and referee Moss was all too ready to award them a free kick. The Wigan fans’ sense of injustice was all too palpable in the latter part of the second half when substitute Jordi Gomez’s shot was fended away with his arms by Kieran Gibbs in the box.
Wigan continued to pressurise the Arsenal goal as Figueroa blazed over the bar and a David Jones volley was inches wide of the post. Beausejour and Stam managed to get into good crossing positions but were once again wasteful with their final ball.
The game ended in a chorus of boos from the home fans directed at the referee; there was a clear sense of injustice as the key decisions had all gone in Arsenal’s favour and Wigan were left to rue another three points lost.
Most neutrals would agree that Wigan’s performance had deserved at least a point. Mr Moss may be demoted to a lower league for the next game, but Wigan won’t get these points back.