The game wasn’t about points. It was about goal difference. Too many Arsenal fans wrapped their day around Mike Dean and a poor Wigan’s resilience. Well… more fool those people.
Just kidding. What a game. It was met by joy, followed by Mike Dean despair, followed by shrieks of despondency, followed by a hattrick of further pleasure. The game had it all for me, Wigan, of 19 game loss notoriety, was probably my favourite game of the season. It was one of the few where fans united. It was the first time all year I turned round and questioned the anti fan behind us some stick for singing ‘you’ve won more cups than us’ as we were winning. The irony? He said if we lost we could ‘kick out the nonces and move back to Highbury’… Singing anti-Arsenal songs during a game?
Anyway. The game was about the goal difference. Theo carved out our first chance when he crossed for Cazorla to head just wide. He was on fire from the start and he was one of the few who stood up and showed some mettle from the get go.
Our opening came from a shoddy piece of defensive work from Wigan. Cazorla placed a corner into the six yard box, everyone missed leaving Lukas a simple 5 yard header. Magic. A goal up nice and early.
We continued to press like our survival depended on it. We carved out plenty of possession and the boys we’re firing on all cylinders. Then things started to calm. It started to feel like we were going to settle for a 1-0. Wigan were clearly tired and I said to the guys around me, ‘a set price is the only way we’ll concede’… I headed to the bar to get my first round of the season, repeated myself to the guy standing next to me… bang. Maloney scored from an unjust freekick moments after Dean failed to award Santi one for a similar tustle. The freekick was pretty good. The wall failed and the keeper didn’t get across fast enough. He rarely does.
The boys rolled in at half time and we were all disgusted. The team was average, they’d taken their foot of the gas and they deserved the scoreline. How was this happening? I wasn’t having it though. This was a poor Wigan team playing a suicidal highline. There was no way they could hang on… I hoped. I even accidentally made a £1000 bet it wouldn’t be 4-1 (I thought I’d take a £1000 if it was 4-1).
2nd half started and we were on the back foot straight away. Koscielny was immense, but it was our keeper who made a telling save from Kone which was huge in terms of the overall result. The save was followed by an underrated turning point when Gibbs slipped in and poked the ball away from the same man 5 minutes later.
Would Arsenal collapse? Would we show that our mental spirit was below par when it mattered… again?
Well, no as it happened, we found our stride. Ramsey stopped falling over and making shoddy passes, Cazorla started to boss things like the world class wizard we know he is. He broke down the wing, slipped a ball into the dangerzone and watched Theo nip in front of two defenders and a keeper to put us ahead. The four guys I sit with went ballistic, so much man love you’d need a subscription to share it… Noting the guy behind us just clapped.
A one goal lead is never enough for Arsenal. Not for security of victory nor for taking third on goal difference. We needed more.
Our third came when Santi nodded a ball into the path of Lukas, he broke free of the offside trap and jinked the ball past the keeper.
The crowd were on fire at this point, to be fair, even when the chips were level, everyone was behind the boys. The rain was hammering down but the only dampened spirits were the Wigan fans who’d obviously missed their train on Saturday. Finally, we were going to see the back of Wigan. The final nail for the coffin was being angled under a giant hammer… it came from captain ‘where are my studs’ Ramsey. He powered into the box (set free by Santi), headed towards goal at an angle, he gave the a cheeky look across box before switching it past the shocked Joel. What a goal! Who dies today? Who cares, as long as they die knowing it was for a good cause!
It was over for Wigan. Good riddance. Any team that concedes 71 goals needs a good season away from the league to have a think about that.
They still tried to batter their way to a goal, but it was over. Koscielny and Mertesacker had the back four on lockdown and held on.
For the first time in years, it was worth staying behind to salute the players efforts. 8 wins and 2 draws is a very good return over ten games and it’s all we could ask for given the obvious limitations of the set up and the lack of depth we have. The job is far from done and there are many twists yet to happen, but it’s all down to desire now. If we take the confidence from that game into the weekend, we’ll be more than a match for Newcastle.
After that, we can start thinking about to summer and the possibilities it could hold.
The season is nearly over… and to be honest, I can’t fu*king wait.
P.S. There’s a big possibility we could end playing Chelsea in a 3rd place play off… I think if we win 2-1 and Chelsea draw 0-0… it could be on. Wouldn’t that be amusing!