With a nod of his head and a swing of his boot, centre-half Thomas Vermaelen scored twice to put Arsenal's Premier League season back on track. But Emmanuel Eboué threatened to undo the good work with a display that included both a blatant attempt to cheat and an inflammatory goal celebration.
In his programme notes Arsène Wenger spoke out against cheating, in the wake of Arsenal's successful attempt to overturn Eduardo da Silva's ban by Uefa for diving. However the message has yet to sink in with Eboué, who was booked for trying to punch the ball into the net. Eboué, who was booed by his own supporters against Wigan last December, met Eduardo's cross with his fist but failed to score. The linesman flagged, and Eboué was given a yellow card.
For the rest of the match the Ivory Coast international received some stick from the gaggle of Wigan fans, much of which he probably could not hear. But that did not prevent him from running to the visiting Wigan fans in the corner and sliding on his knees, mimicking the infamous celebration of Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor a week ago, after his role in Arsenal's third. Fortunately there were not enough Wigan supporters there to even stir up mild annoyance.
Wenger defended the player's antics. "It is not easy sometimes, it was a reflex," he said. "We have to fight cheating but this was pure instinct. I think he went to celebrate on his own, to show that he had scored, not Eduardo."
Despite dominating pretty much every minute of this match with their customary elegance, Arsenal had to rely on the more prosaic talents of £10 million defender Vermaelen to set them on their way to victory here.
The north London side were desperate for a convincing win after a demoralising couple of results. Back-to-back Premier League defeats to both Manchester clubs left Wenger's side floundering in ninth place at the start of the day. The muted atmosphere within the Emirates Stadium, which had more than a few empty seats, reflected the general feeling of disappointment at Arsenal's start to the domestic season.
Wenger's team lifted the supporters, but they needed a decisive contribution from Vermaelen to put them in front. The Belgium international scored twice to bring his total to four goals this season, which puts him on top of the club's scoring charts.
After 25 minutes in which Arsenal had promised much but delivered little, Vermaelen rose above Titus Bramble to score with a powerful header from a Robin van Persie corner.
Vermaelen doubled the scoreline four minutes after the break when he brought the ball forward and exchanged passes with Eboué before stroking the ball with a touch of class into the top corner from 18 yards.
With that Arsenal were on their way. Eboué thought he had finally scored the goal he had been desperate to score all afternoon – although it was credited to Eduardo – when he contributed to Arsenal's third just before the hour mark.
Gaël Clichy popped up on the right wing to cross to Eduardo. The Croatian showed his Brazilian roots with a volley with his left foot that thumped the post. The rebound was deflected into his path, and with a second bite of the cherry, he scored with his right foot past Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, with a shot that came off Eboué, sparking his ill-judged Adebayor impression.
Cesc Fabregas completed the rout in the 90th minute. He pointed to exactly where he wanted the ball from substitute Nicklas Bendtner who obliged to give the Arsenal captain a straightforward tap-in.
Arsenal could have had more but for some alert defending by Bramble, who cleared a William Gallas header off the line, and Kirkland who made several capable saves.Reuse content