Vermaelen double helps Gunners to victory

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The Independent Football

Arsenal drew a line under recent controversies by recording a straightforward Barclays Premier League victory against Wigan, helped by Thomas Vermaelen's double.

Whether it has been Eduardo's diving row or being reunited with Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsene Wenger's men have never been far away from the headlines recently - and they were also beaten in their previous two league matches.

What they needed was a regulation win, and Wigan's limited attacking ambition at the Emirates Stadium meant they were perfect opponents. The hosts could have racked up a huge score before half-time if their finishing was clinical.

In the end it was down to Vermaelen to grab the limelight, with the defender scoring his third and fourth goals of the season, the first a powerful header and the second a delightful curling finish.

Emmanuel Eboue's deflection then made it 3-0 when the match was effectively over, then Cesc Fabregas added another in stoppage time.

If Arsenal were desperate for a simple win, their 25th-minute opener was certainly uncomplicated.

Robin van Persie, back after missing the midweek comeback against Standard Liege with a slight knee problem, swung over a corner from the right and Vermaelen thundered the ball home with his head after climbing higher than Titus Bramble and Henry Thomas. It was his second this week after netting in his native Belgium.

Arsenal fans have taken to Vermaelen since his arrival from Ajax, while Eboue needed to win back their trust after being jeered in this fixture last season for constantly giving the ball away.

Eboue's unpredictability means he is never far away from a brilliance or madness. In the first half he went over with shot and set up a chance for Van Persie with a powerful run and precise low cross, then a minute later was cautioned for trying to handball Eduardo's cross towards goal.

He went close again before the break after Van Persie sent him through - just one of Arsenal's many chances.

Van Persie broke the offside trap in the dying moments of the opening half but his scissor-kick lacked power and limped wide, William Gallas had an effort cleared off the line, while Maynor Figueroa bravely blocked Abou Diaby's shot on goal in the penalty area.

Wigan's tactic was to contain and counter-attack, and they gave the hosts a huge scare before the break.

Emmerson Boyce's header was saved by Vito Mannone - with the Wigan defender also claiming a handball by Gallas - then the rookie goalkeeper bravely saved again when the rebound fell for Bramble.

It was a decent contribution from the man deputising while Manuel Almunia has a chest infection, particularly as there was little else to do in the match.

Vermaelen's second goal, three minutes after the restart, was a classic strike that a centre-forward would have been proud of. The defender picked up a loose ball and exchanged passes with Eboue before curling his finish around Chris Kirkland and into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.

The third goal came just before the hour mark. Eduardo struck the post with a volley from Gael Clichy's cross, then Diaby prodded the rebound back in the path of the Croatia forward. Eboue got the telling deflection to divert Eduardo's shot beyond Kirkland.

Alex Song almost added another after a surging run from the halfway line - but his finish hit the outside of the post.

Eboue's cult-hero status with the Arsenal fans was confirmed when he was substituted in the 73rd minute and cheered off as Tomas Rosicky replaced him.

Paul Scharner tapped in after Mannone made a decent save - but the assistant referee ruled it offside.

Fabregas, in stoppage time, tapped home Nicklas Bendtner's cross for the fourth.

Other games

Aston Villa also gained ground on the leaders with a 2-0 home win over Portsmouth, who are still without a point after six games.

Promoted Burnley's good start continued when they beat Sunderland 3-1 with two goals on debut from on-loan striker David Nugent, Birmingham City beat Hull City 1-0 away while Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City drew 1-1.

Villa's win takes them up to 12 points - along with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United - with Chelsea leading the way with a maximum 15 points from five games. Liverpool, who have nine points, visit West Ham United later on Saturday while there are four games on Sunday, including the Manchester derby and Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.