It was a bit of a bump back to reality for Arsenal yesterday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Wigan at the JJB Stadium. Arsene Wenger’s side had the two best chances to win the match – the first through Emmanuel Adebayor in the very first minute and the other through Cesc Fabregas at the very end – but in between those it was a very even contest with Wigan giving as good as the got on an exceptionally difficult playing surface.
A number of key players underperformed in this match. Adebayor as well as Alexandr Hleb were particularly disappointing – given the ball away on a consistent basis – while Cesc Fabregas struggled to have his usual impact after being forced wide on the right due to Gilberto Silva starting alongside Mathieu Flamini in the middle. It was a personel change that I had hoped Wenger could avoid going into the match but with Denilson missing out through injury the manager was left with no other choice.
Unfortunately, it proved fatal to Arsenal’s chances of winning the match. While the Fabregas-Flamini combination was a dominant force against AC Milan at the San Siro midweek the introduction of Gilberto not only limited the Spaniard’s influence but also lead to Flamini putting in a less-than-perfect showing. However, neither the Brazilian nor the manager should not be blamed for the chance; a bench void of Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Eboue and even Denilson meant that Wenger was left with no alternative but to start Gilberto in the middle.
The poor playing surface meant that while the attacking players struggled, the defensive players excelled. Philippe Senderos and William Gallas showed again how well they work together in the centre of the defence while Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were arguably Arsenal’s two best players. As a result, despite Wigan’s admirable performance, the home side rarely caused the Arsenal backline any problems, as Wenger was quick to point out in the post-match conference.
“Overall we did what we could and gave everything. We had a serious defensive game and we did not give any chances away. Wigan deserve credit too because they fought very hard.”
The draw means that for the first time this year, Manchester United look set to overtake Wenger’s side at the top of the table. Yet there is still no need to panic. I felt the desire to win was most certainly present in this match despite the indifferent performances of a number of the Arsenal players and that desire will be incredibly important in the final stretch of the season.
So, it wasn’t a great weekend for the Arsenal Football Club but by no means was it a disaster either. Let’s just hope that the team can refocus and use the motivation of (most likely) falling behind Manchester United to play their way back into some form in the Premiership soon, starting at home to Middlesbrough next weekend. Fingers crossed then.
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