Match Report: Mikel Arteta leaves Roberto Martinez feeling down on his luck as Arsenal narrowly win at Wigan

Wigan Athletic 0 Arsenal 1

DW STADIUM

Arsenal supporters spotting the club's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, as they poured out of Wigan North Western station yesterday made no secret of what they wanted for Christmas. "Sign a striker," he was urged. Arsène Wenger is trying to persuade one to put pen to paper – a lad called Theo Walcott, whom he is now using in that role after perversely refusing to play him at all earlier in the season, which has contributed to the current stand-off with the club.

Yesterday Walcott missed his two chances to add to a neat goal scored at Reading last Monday, but he worked hard and won the admittedly soft penalty that decided the game. "I believe in his potential in that position," Wenger said. "He had not much service but his runs are good, his movement is good and his finishing is efficient."

Wenger gave justifiable credit to Wigan after a sixth defeat in eight games left them stuck in the bottom three. They felt hard done by over two crucial penalty decisions, Roberto Martinez calling Arsenal's "very, very soft" and claiming that in added time Kieran Gibbs was guilty of "a clear handball".

All in all, the Wigan manager was "very proud" of his team after a performance which "should give us great belief, because in the final third we're missing a little bit of confidence." That was perfectly exposed midway through the first half when Arouna Koné was sent clear of a labouring Per Mertesacker – having one of his worst games for Arsenal – only to pull his shot well wide of the far post.

In other areas of the pitch the home side did better, notably midfield, where Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla found themselves effectively being man-marked and given neither the time nor space they crave.

Having begun the game with their familiar three centre-halves, Wigan quickly realised it was not going to work and James McCarthy was moved from the middle of the back three to pick up Cazorla, while David Jones stuck almost as close to Wilshere. Similarly, Jean Beausejour, usually a wing-back, was forced to play deeper on the left to mark Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It meant that Wigan had two highly adventurous full-backs contributing to an open game of surprisingly few clear chances.

Ronnie Stam and Franco Di Santo often threatened down the right, where Gibbs's positional sense can often be lax; but Koné was not sharp enough and Martinez is now hoping for great things from the 18 year-old Manchester United loanee Angelo Henrique, "an out-and-out finisher". Apart from one occasion when Koné wriggled inside to force a smart save from Wojciech Szczesny, the best effort was by Jones, clipping a pass from Maloney just wide. The home supporters, remarkably loyal in what is becoming another season of tribulation, did not enjoy the performance of the referee, Jon Moss, who apart from the penalty decisions was involved in one of the oddest cameos of the season. Near the end, with Wigan pressing for an equalising goal, he insisted that Di Santo went to the touchline to remove an earring – which, according to Wigan, the player was not actually wearing – and refused to let him back on for a good four minutes until the ball was out of play.

By that point the locals must have felt it was going to be one of those days. In the game's most decisive moment, just before the hour, Walcott collected a return pass from Cazorla and was homing in on goal when receiving no more than a nudge from Beausejour.

Mikel Arteta, who recently converted two penalties against West Bromwich, calmly knocked in another one. A few minutes earlier Ali Al Habsi, on his 100th appearance, had made his third good save in keeping out Walcott after a cut-back from Oxlade-Chamberlain, but for the rest of the game Arsenal were a little slack, the feeling growing that they could throw victory away.

Maynor Figueroa's deflected shot went straight to Szczesny, who then saved from Koné; James McArthur hit one of Beausejour's many crosses wide; and in added time there were two huge shouts for penalties, the clearest being against Gibbs, who moved an arm that was then struck by a shot from the substitute Jordi Gomez.

For once Wenger was able to reflect on old-fashioned virtues having seen Arsenal through to press their claim for a Champions' League place: "It was good because it was more determination than domination."

Wigan (4-1-3-2): Al Habsi; Stam, Boyce, Figueroa, Beausejour; McCarthy; McArthur, Jones, Maloney (Gomez, 89); Di Santo (McManaman, 76), Koné.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ramsey, 75), Cazorla (Koscielny, 90) Podolski (Coquelin, 79); Walcott.

Referee: Jon Moss.

Man of the match: Al Habsi (Wigan)

Match rating: 6/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test