Squillaci own goal earns Latics a point
Roberto Martinez made one change to the side that beat Wolves on Boxing Day with Honduran midfielder Hendry Thomas returning following his suspension in place of James McArthur who dropped to the substitutes bench. Fellow Honduran Maynor Figueroa also returned to the squad but only made the bench as youngsters Daniel de Ridder and Jordan Robinson dropped out.
Arsenal made eight changes from the side who beat Chelsea on Monday night, with only one a forced change due to Cesc Fabregas' suspension. Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny were the only survivors from the 3-1 win over Chelsea, whilst Nicklas Bendtner returned to the starting line-up while Robin Van Persie was not included at all.
Five of Arsenal's starting line-up from the Chelsea game (Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Johan Djourou and Gael Clichy) dropped to the bench while Alex Song joined Van Persie in not featuring at all.
The home side began the game very quickly and didn’t give their opponents a minutes peace and there persistence paid off as Charles N’Zogbia won the ball on the right wing and went on a surging run down the wing but his low cross went across the six yard box but both Hugo Rodallega and Tom Cleverley had both dropped back to the edge of the area for a pull back.
And seconds later Cleverley created another chance, this time for Rodallega, but his in-swinging cross was just too high for the striker and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Arsenal had started sluggishly and Rodallega nearly punished them in the fourth minute, the Colombian easily dispossessed Sebastien Squillaci inside the Arsenal half and raced towards goal only to be well challenged by Koscielny on the edge of the penalty area.
A minute later the visitors first chance of the game fell to Andrey Arshavin, Squillaci intercepted a pass from Antolin Alcaraz and played a pass into Tomas Rosicky, he lifted a cross field pass into the Russian but he wasn’t able to keep his shot down from the edge of the area.
A mistake by Bendtner in the 10th minute nearly gifted Wigan a chance, his loose pass fell to Rodallega but he was well tackled by Squillaci however the ball fell to N’Zogbia who fired a low 20 shot towards goal but Fabianski was able to save down to his left.
The deadlock was broken seven minutes later and it was the hosts who opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Ben Watson intercepted the ball in the middle of the pitch and fed N’Zogbia who ran at Diaby and Koscielny, the winger jinked inside both defenders but was brought down by Koscielny just inside the penalty area. Referee Lee Probert awarded the penalty and Watson made no mistake from the spot as he powered the ball past Fabianski for his first goal of the season.
Wigan were now in confident mood and nearly doubled their lead four minutes later, Mohamed Diame played a long ball over the top of Koscielny for Rodallega to run onto but the defender managed to get a toe to the ball before the striker could get to it. The Colombian then clattered into Fabianski resulting in calls for a second penalty to be awarded but the referee rightly gave a corner.
Arsenal finally started to get back into the game midway through the half and Tomas Rosicky was the man at the heart of everything they did well. An Arshavin corner in the 24th minute was palmed away by Al Habsi but only as far as the Czech mifielder who’s long range drive was parried by the keeper but Koscielny was unable to tap the loose ball home
The visitors were now in total control of possession with Wigan only breaking on counter attacks when Arsenal gave the ball away. And with five minutes of the half to play Arsenal finally made their possession pay as they got themselves back into the match thanks to a goal from Arshavin. Bendtner muscled his way past Alcaraz on the edge of the penalty area before firing a volley across Al Habsi, the Omani keeper saved the shot but could only parry the ball away and Arshavin acrobatically volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
And with the half nearly over the Gunners took the lead and Arshavin and Bendtner were involved again, this time it was Arshavin who started the move with a neat pass into the Danish striker on the edge of the box. He then managed to get the ball through the challenges of Alcaraz and Caldwell before calmly slotting past Al Habsi from six yards.
After a frenetic first half the second half began at a much slower pace and chances were few and far between as possession changed hands on numerous occasions.
It wasn’t until the 71st minute that a clear cut chance was created and it was made by substitute Jack Wilshere, the young midfielder made a great run at the Wigan defence before chipping a pass into the path of Arshavin but Al Habsi saved well with his legs from the Russians shot.
The game was suddenly sparked into life and four minutes later Wigan came very close to grabbing an equaliser. N’Zgobia and substitute James McArthur interchanged passes and despite the attentions of Koscielny the Frenchman was able to get his shot away but Fabianski saved, and from the rebound McArthur missed his kick with an open goal in front of him.
The match had been fairly well tempered up to this point but in the 78th minute that all changed when N’Zogbia was sent off for clashing with Wilshere off the ball. It appeared that the Frenchman headbutted the Arsenal man and after consulting the fourth official the winger was given a straight red card.
Despite being down to ten men Wigan continued to press for an equalizer and with nine minutes remaining they were rewarded as Squillaci headed into his own goal. A deep cross from a left wing corner was headed back across goal by Rodallega and under the challenge of Gary Caldwell the ball deflected off the defender and into the back of the net.
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