Arsenal vs. Wigan: Latics Good, Gunners Average, Referee Poor, FA Useless
I don't like bandwagons.
They are, in general, way too easy to hop onto, and the company on board isn't always the smartest.
In the wake of Arsenal's disappointing 1-2 home defeat to Wigan Athletic, a number of critics and fans have slammed the Gunners' performance as lacking imagination, creativity, passion, hunger and professionalism.
And while I may somewhat agree with the "creativity" facet of the criticism, I think the remaining adjectives do a massive disservice to a fantastic Wigan side, who have just defeated Manchester United and would have done the same to Chelsea had football's administrators not been a bunch of prehistoric neanderthals.
Besides being a little careless, I thought Arsenal were a tad unlucky for both of Wigan's goals. For the first, Di Santo's deflected kick off Szczesny could have gone anywhere, but it fell perfectly for the Wigan striker, well away from the back-tracking Benayoun and Djourou.
And for the second, Gomez's initial shot squirmed under Szczesny's body and fell perfectly back at his feet for a simple tap-in.
Yes, you do make your own luck, good and bad, and in fairness, both teams deserved the early 2-0 scoreline.
Arsenal lost Mikel Arteta between those two goals, and I thought Arsene Wenger got it wrong by bringing on Aaron Ramsey.
Who was Arsenal's man of the match vs Wigan
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing the after-effects of the little game time he has been getting of late, and yesterday was the perfect opportunity to give him a run-out.
Wenger instead opted for the off-colour Ramsey, and as I look back on his performance, I can't think of one special moment produced by the Welshman in the 80 minutes he was on the pitch.
Arsenal, however, launched wave after wave of attack and were soon back in it via the excellent Thomas Vermaelen, more of whom I will mention later. Andre Santos was a constant threat down our left, and Tomas Rosicky brought a sense of urgency to our attack like only he can. The difference between him and Ramsey on current form is frightening.
As for Vermaelen, he was quite fantastic. His hunger to storm forward and almost single-handedly drag Arsenal back into the match was a joy to behold.
There were times when he looked like he was playing as a second centre forward or attacking midfielder. If ever a young player needed an example to follow in terms of commitment, passion and dedication to the team cause, the Verminator is that man.
In terms of quality, yes, Arsenal were slightly below par. Bacary Sagna was surprisingly subpar, given the run-around by Victor Moses, who had a great game.
Alex Song was good enough defensively but was a victim of "through-ball syndrome." I am loathe to criticise him too much, though, given his tremendous creative output this season.
Theo Walcott was his usual busy self, but in hindsight, this was not a game he will store away in his scrap book. Lots of endeavour, but little end product.
And finally, the skipper. I may be wrong, but his game seems to be missing something of late. His work-rate is excellent, he's getting into the right positions, but it's just not happening for him at the moment.
Anyhow, there is no way I am going to criticise a man who has done so much this season, as long as he shows the right attitude.
A brief word on Wigan. They showed the kind of desperation that is typical of a team fighting to avoid the drop. Without being blessed with big names, they have a fair mix of quality and grit. And they displayed both in abundance last night. Their counterattack for Di Santo's goal was clinical and ruthless, and they gave themselves a few other chances as well.
They showed a professional side to their game, too, by taking their time on free kicks and throws from the early stages of the match.
That brings me to my final point. The authorities spend hours at meetings making decisions on snoods, removing shirts, writing messages on vests and other inconsequential issues.
But if a team wastes 10 minutes over the course of a 90-minute game, it takes till the 92nd minute for a referee to show a yellow card. That, quite frankly, is absurd.
Time-wasting ruins the spectacle of a football game. It is detrimental to the spectators in the stadium, to the millions viewing on TV and to the millions more that the authorities are trying to attract.
I don't blame Wigan for wasting time. They did what they were allowed to do. I blame the FA for not empowering referees to take action earlier. The card given to Al Habsi was so late that it almost sent out the message that what they were doing was fine.
And until the authorities wake up, referees will continue to allow teams to make football less beautiful.
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