Arsenal Rout Wigan 4-1 in Must-Win Match
In a game both sides desperately needed to win for wholly different reasons, Arsenal topped Wigan 4-1 after a second half blitz produced three goals in the space of eight minutes.
Lukas Podolski scored two, Theo Walcott had one and Aaron Ramsey completed the rout while Santi Cazorla provided three assists on the day. With the win, Arsenal move back into fourth place above Tottenham Hotspur and can secure Champions League soccer with a win over Newcastle next weekend.
At the other end of the table, Wigan’s run in the Premier League is now officially over as they join Reading and QPR in relegation to the Championship. While the Latics showed no signs of a hangover after their stunning FA Cup triumph on Saturday, Shaun Maloney’s first half free-kick wasn’t enough to get a vital result.
The match began with Arsenal on the front foot as the Gunners channeled their attack through Walcott. The hosts soon produced the first chance of the game when Walcott charged down the right side and crossed for Cazorla, but the Spaniard’s stooping header flashed wide of the post.
The Gunners kept up the pressure and found the opening goal five minutes later. While goals from set pieces have been a rarity for Arsenal this season, Cazorla’s corner in the 11th minute reached Podolski and the German headed into an open net.
It looked like the home side were going to find a second but Wigan weathered the Arsenal attack and settled into the game. Both teams were evenly matched for the rest of the first half, as the Latics threatened through Arouna Kone and Saturday’s man-of-the-match Callum McManaman.
Their offensive pressure would pay off on the stroke of halftime when Mikel Arteta was harshly judged to have fouled Maloney on the edge of the box. Just like he did against QPR several weeks ago, the forward stepped up and tucked his strike inside the near post as Wojciech Szczesny could only get a hand to the ball.
Shaun Maloney squeezes his free-kick over the Arsenal wall to even the game 1-1, but it wouldn’t be enough to save Wigan from relegation. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)
Buoyed by Maloney’s goal, Wigan started the second half well and nearly took the lead when Kone’s shot was saved by Szczesny in the 47th minute. However, that would be all for Wigan’s offensive attack as Arsenal took control and threatened with Cazorla and Podolski. One of Saturday’s heroes, goalkeeper Joel Robles, produced a fine series of saves to keep the game level.
Yet Arsenal’s mounting pressure was simply too much for a tiring Wigan defense, and the Gunners went ahead when Cazorla burst down the right channel and fired a cross for Walcott to tuck home from six yards. The floodgates had opened, and Arsenal built a 3-1 lead when Podolski ran onto Cazorla’s header and finished over Robles in the 67th minute. Three minutes later, Ramsey completed the stunning turnaround with a great solo effort after being played through at midfield. The Welshman, who hadn’t seemed sharp for much of the game, carried the ball down the left side and unleashed a powerful finish past Robles.
After keeping Manchester City scoreless on Saturday, Wigan had shipped three goals in eight minutes. With his side’s exit from the Premier League all but confirmed, a despondent Roberto Martinez looked on from the sidelines as Arsenal saw out the match.
Wigan’s run, which began in 2005, will come to an end when they play Aston Villa next weekend at the DW Stadium. The Latics will become the first team in English soccer history to win the FA Cup and suffer relegation in the same season.
Arsenal, on the other hand, still have everything to play for against Newcastle at St. James’ Park. A win will secure either third or fourth place depending on Chelsea’s result against Everton, while Tottenham need to defeat Sunderland and hope Arsenal drop points on Tyneside.