Offshore drilling, England: Wigan Athletic 2, at Arsenal 1

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Man of the match: Playing as the middle-man in Wigan’s narrow, deep, three-man central defense, Gary Caldwell was not only the Latics’ best defender but also the man that kept the team organized. Given a game plan that was always going to put a lot of pressure on him and his teammates, Caldwell was calm, poised, and able to radiate that presence throughout the defense.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • OMG! Shock! Well, kinda. The win was Wigan’s fourth in five and seems part of the late-season push we should expect from Roberto Martínez’s teams. During this one they’ve gotten wins from Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Should we really be that shocked?
  • Arsenal was certainly shocked when Wigan went up within 10 minutes, as were onlookers by Gunners’ defending. A text book counterattack allowed the Latics to score their first goal, but the key to a that kind of transition is your opponent opening up. On the second goal, Victor Moses was able to collapse the right side of Arsenal’s defense and, eventually, feed an easy ball into the six for Jordi Gómez.
  • When Arsenal soon responded through Thomas Vermaelen it looked like we were in for a shootout, but Wigan seemed to adjust. Through the first 20 minutes Wigan’s midfield played very deep and refrained from putting in a challenges that could see them beat. After the goal, the midfield (particularly, James McArthur and Jamie McCarthy) got more aggressive.
  • Even before Wigan’s midfield toughened up, Arsenal’s only success was playing crosses into the box. Their goal came off a cross, while Yossi Benayoun went close a couple of times by out-jumping Antolín Alcaraz. Curiously, Arsenal stopped doing this and even (eventually) took Benayoun off. Predictably, they tried to break down Wigan while keeping the ball on the floor, an approach which never came that close to an equalizer.
  • It’s matches like this that make people question Arsene Wenger’s in-game tactics. Disclaimer: He knows his team better than we do. However, why does Marouane Chamakh even dress if he’s not going to be used in this type of match? Particularly when playing in the air gave Arsenal their first goal and their best chances?
  • Wigan is now five points clear of the drop and, more importantly, have a struggling team (QPR) between them and relegation. For Arsenal, they still have a five point lead on fourth and will be fine. Wigan’s shown they’re pretty good right now.