Arsenal remains in the driver’s seat after a thorough 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic at the rain-soaked Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, May 14. The Gunners just have to win their final game of the season at St. James’ Park in Newcastle to ensure themselves of a third or fourth place finish in the Premier League and an invitation to next season’s European Champions League tournament. Man City wrapped up second place with a 2-0 win over Reading today while Chelsea is in third place with 72 points followed by Arsenal with 70 and Spurs with 69.
However, it might be easier said than done. Today’s win means that Wigan is definitely going to be relegated along with Reading and Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle will remain in the Premier League. There’s no pressure at all on Newcastle for the final match while Arsenal will certainly feel the weight of it on their shoulders. The Gunners could still end up in second, third or fourth place depending on the Chelsea and Spurs results. Chelsea meets Everton at home on Sunday while Spurs will host Sunderland.
Arsenal was basically in control of the match against Wigan right from the opening kickoff, but it took three second-half goals in the span of eight short minutes to guarantee all three points. This was probably Wigan’s biggest game of the season oven though they beat Manchester City 1-0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley just three days earlier. A draw would have kept them alive mathematically, but realistically they had to beat the Gunners as well as Aston Villa in their season finale. But after eight years in the Premier League they’ll be heading down to the Championship.
Lukas Podolski put Arsenal in the lead after just 11 minutes when he headed home a loose ball from six yards out. The goal came from a left-sided corner kick by midfielder Santi Cazorla and the ball fell right to the German international Podolski who headed it past keeper Joel Robles. Wigan pushed back after the goal, but striker Arouna Kone was foiled when Gunners’ defender Laurent Koscielny cleared the ball.
Wigan evened the score just before half time when Shaun Maloney hammered home a perfect free kick from about 25 yards out. With no men on the posts, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny made a valiant diving effort to his left to save the shot and managed to get his fingertips to the ball. However, it just eluded him and found the back of the net in the bottom corner.
The Gunners went ahead for good after 63 minutes when Cazorla was sent down the right wing and his cross was met by Theo Walcott who scored his 14th league goal and 20th overall of the season. Podolski added his second of the game just five minutes later. Cazorla set him up and Podolski gave Arsenal the insurance marker they were looking for. Aaron Ramsey widened the lead after 71 minutes when he broke down the left side of the pitch and cut into the 18-yard box. He then slammed the ball past a helpless Robles at the near post into the top of the net.
The game was beyond Wigan’s grasp at this point and it was inevitable they’d be relegated. They only have themselves to blame though since they don’t start playing their best football season after season until they’re threatened with relegation. Instead of learning a lesson from it and addressing the situation, the club has played with fire once too often and has now been burned. Meanwhile, the Gunners can finish the season on a high note against Newcastle on May 19 with a win and a guaranteed Champions League spot.
Arsenal player ratings vs Wigan on May 14, 2013
Wojciech Szczesny 7.5
He had no chance on the goal and got his fingers to the free kick. He also made fine saves whenever he was called upon, especially against Arouna Kone.
Bacary Sagna 6.5
Sagna had his problems at times with Shaun Maloney and Kone, but other than that he had a decent game.
Per Mertesacker 6.5
The big German also struggled at moments with Kone, but like the rest of the back four, did a good job for the majority of the game.
Laurent Koscielny 7
A good defensive display from Koscielny. He tackled well and was there when needed, especially when it looked like Kone was about to score.
Kieran Gibbs 6.5
Gibbs was faced with the task of keeping his eye on Wigan’s Callum McManaman and went about it well until McManaman came off with an injury. A solid effort defensively and offensively.
Mikel Arteta 6
It was one of Arteta’s quieter games as his passing wasn’t up to par. His foul also led to the Wigan free kick and goal. He was substituted by Thomas Vermaelen after 91 minutes when he injured himself.
Aaron Ramsey 7
Ramsey’s passing was sometimes off the mark, but he put in an energetic effort and took his goal well. It ended quite a lengthy drought for him.
Tomas Rosicky 7
Rosicky also put in a solid, if unspectacular effort. He linked the midfield and forwards well and had a fine game. Came off for Jack Wilshere after 78 minutes.
Santi Cazorla 8.5
The Spanish midfielder had one of his best games of the season as he was buzzing all over the pitch. He helped set up all four goals and had a couple of good chances himself. He was virtually unstoppable once he got going.
Theo Walcott 8
Walcott was energized right from the opening kickoff. His pace proved to be too much for Wigan and he scored the game-winning goal and put in some nice crosses.
Lukas Podolski 7.5
Podolski scored a pair of goals and put in a workmanlike effort for the cause. He’s still one of the team’s best finishers. Came off after 78 minutes for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 6.5
Came on after 78 minutes for Podolski and kept up the energy level.
Jack Wilshere 6.5
Came on for Rosicky after 78 minutes and played well.
Thomas Vermaelen NA
Came on for Mikel Arteta after 91 minutes when Arteta seemed to suffer a hamstring injury.