Wigan Athletic never looked in this tie with only one solitary attempt on target throughout the game summing up Arsenal’s dominance in an afternoon that saw a treble from Robin van Persie, a missed penalty by the Dutch international and a sending off.
Latics had managed to earn themselves a draw against Arsene Wenger’s men at the DW Stadium just a month ago despite being reduced to 10 men following a moment of petulance from Charles N’Zogbia.
Gary Caldwell was the man to take an early bath this time but there was no way back for his team mates and to be perfectly honest they never actually looked like they had the fight in them in the first place.
The scoreline flattered Wigan and once again they had Ali Al Habsi in goal to thank for a superb performance as had it not been for the on loan keeper added to a missed penalty Latics would have been travelling back up the motorway on the back of a proper good hiding.
Wigan began the game with the Caldwell brothers lining up in the starting eleven for the first time since older brother Steven’s arrival at the club in August with Antolin Alcaraz missing out due to an injury picked up in training. Apart from that Wigan began with the same team that lined up against Fulham the previous weekend.
Latics were put under the cosh right from the start and with only three minutes on the clock Al Habsi pulled off a decent reaction save to palm away Samir Nasri’s effort.
The Wigan keeper was called upon again five minutes later when van Persie’s shot looked to be on its way into the back of the net for the game’s opener but the Oman international somehow stuck out a glove to palm away once more.
Arsenal continued to press forward and it was down to some dogged defending from Wigan that the game remained goalless until the 21st minute.
Theo Walcott raced to the bye-line in the 15th minute before pulling it back to tee up Cesc Fabregas in front of goal but he was denied by Gary Caldwell who threw himself in the way of the ball as it looked certain to be heading for the Spaniard’s first league goal of 2011.
It was only a matter of time before the game saw a goal and it arrived via the left boot of Robin van Persie after Alex Song had played him in.
Wigan appeared to be content with simply sitting back, soaking up the pressure and apart from one or two forays into the Arsenal half they hardly looked a threat to the home side who could and should have doubled the deficit with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.
Theo Walcott raced clear on goal and with plenty of space and only Al Habsi to beat he opted to lay the ball off for Fabregas but his hesitation allowed Mohamed Diame to recover and make a saving tackle with Steven Caldwell mopping up after Walcott collected the loose ball.
Al Habsi then showed his mettle again before the break with a number of saves to thwart Nasri and Fabregas leaving the home fans wondering just how their team were only one goal to the good after such a dominant opening half.
The restart saw the introduction of James McArthur and Franco Di Santo to the fray as replacements for Mohamed Diame and Ronnie Stam as Martinez attempted to freshen things up.
The changes appeared, momentarily, to have given Wigan an added impetus and the opening exchanges saw them push forward but without really threatening Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
Arsenal had been slow out of the blocks following the interval but effectively wrapped up the game just before the hour mark thanks to a piece of clinical finishing for van Persie who ran onto a Fabregas ball to hit a first time shot past Al Habsi.
Wigan had a rare sight of goal with Di Santo going close with his header but the Argentinian sent his effort wide of the upright.
Five minutes later and things went from bad to worse for Martinez and his men when their hosts were awarded a penalty after Gary Caldwell clumsily brought down Fabregas in front of goal.
Leicestershire official Kevin Friend immediately pointed to the spot before pulling out a red card to send off Caldwell for the third time since joining the club just twelve months ago.
On a hat trick van Persie stepped up to take the kick and I would have put money on him converting it but I wouldn’t have collected as he skyed his shot way over Al Habsi’s bar.
The Dutchman had netted a brace in the 3-0 win at West Ham just a week previous and added to that with a goal in their FA Cup replay triumph at Leeds during the week so a treble would have rounded off nicely a good few days for the 27-year-old hitman – and it did.
With five minutes of normal time remaining Walcott picked up a pass from Fabregas and tapped it to van Persie who squeezed it past Al Habsi with a right footed shot at the near post.
He barely had time to celebrate his feat before being replaced in a double substitution which also saw Fabregas leave the field to allow the introduction of Marouane Chamakh and Denilson for the final few minutes.
The full time whistle brought the end to proceedings in what could have been far worse for Wigan had it not been for Al Habsi whose price tag, should Bolton decide to allow him to leave, will surely be increasing by the week.
Wigan will have to quickly dust themselves down and prepare for the visit of Aston Villa to the DW Stadium with three points very much needed if Roberto Martinez and his side have any Premier League survival aspirations.