Personally, I’ve never understood how ‘The Arsenal’ works as a reference to Arsenal. I mean, what gives them the right to have the determiner ‘the’ in front of their name? Does it work with The Wigan? The Man City? The Barnet?
I could be something to do with their (former) grand stature among the elite in English football; or their cultured footballing philosophy or tradition for success. Whatever it is, it certainly isn’t for performances like they showed at the DW on Saturday.
Before I type any more, I must apologise for the few minor points of complaint I’m about to make. It’s not exactly in the Christmas spirit but I’m sure you’ll recognise their relevance.
Firstly, the traffic outside the DW. What a nightmare. For a club with no fans we can certainly create a rather impressive pile of congestion, with the aid of several clueless drivers and last minute Christmas shoppers that is.
Early kick offs mean an early start, especially if you’re not very local, like me. This is hardly ideal if you want to get to the ground in good time (how inconsiderate of you Sky). I wasn’t even bothered about getting their in good time though, I just didn’t want to miss kick off, there’s nothing I hate more.
By the time I’d found a parking spot and ran to collect my tickets (at a speed only Usain Bolt could match) I’d missed a whole twelve minutes of the match. I didn’t care if nothing happened in those twelve minutes, I was still gutted that I missed them. I also couldn’t grab myself a programme from anywhere either, which broke a long standing tradition. Is all this moaning revealing my suppressed OCD? Possibly.
The seventy eight minutes of football I did witness though (plus injury time) were quite entertaining for a game with only one goal. I doesn’t mean I don’t have a few gripes though.
Overall, I was quite content with the performance, especially considering the patched up nature of the starting line-up. As ever with Latics this season, we had a large amount of possession but had no idea how to use it. We reverted to passing the ball sideways continuously, it went out to one wing before it was tediously passed out to the other and the cycle repeated until a wayward cross was smacked out for a goal kick.
The possession is all well and good but alone it won’t hurt teams and win games. Arsenal simply got their defensive shape together and defended the edge of their box well, preventing Latics from getting in behind.
The one time Wigan did get behind Arsenal’s defence (which should have happened more considering Per Mertesacker has the turning circle of a 747) was from a counter attack after an Arsenal corner. Arouna Kone went clean through but fluffed his lines and the ball trickled harmlessly past the right hand post. After his recent form, I’m starting to wonder whether Arouna is capable of finishing his dinners.
With a lack of attacking spark, the news that the loan arrival of Manchester United’s striker Angelo Henriquez is imminent is excellent. Of course, as a foreign arrival he might not take to the physical demands of the league (think Boselli and Aghahowa), but with the scouting network Man United have, this seems unlikely. I’m hoping he’ll be like Chicarito’s Chilean cousin, rather than a David Bellion.
Back to moaning about Wigan. After the Arsenal game I can officially confirm my least favourite Wigan player: Jean Beausejour.
I’m not claiming to be the first to criticise him but his performance on Saturday confirmed my previous doubts over him. As wing backs go he’s fairly useless, like a chocolate fireguard or a Jimmy Savile 2013 calendar.
As a player who often played as a winger for Birmingham, I’m concerned about his lack of relevant attributes. In terms of dibbling, he couldn’t beat an egg. Then when it comes to putting a ball in, he couldn’t cross a bridge. A bad combination? Too right it is, and it limits the effect he can have on a game.
The reason why the aforementioned continuous sideways passing occurs is the lack of attacking ability in the wing areas. If either Beausejour or Stam had the confidence and ability to beat a player and whip a half decent ball in, then this problem wouldn’t occur so much. Far too often they’re presented with a full back to beat and proverbially s**t themselves and turn back, passing it back to the middle of the park. Clearly, this is because they don’t feel they have the speed or skill to beat a full back. Fair enough, not many players do skin Gibbs and Sagna on a regular basis, but Stam and Beausejour don’t even try and take on players like Liam Ridgewell and Nicky Shorey.
The 3-4-3 system only works well if you have talented players in the wing back areas, because there is so much emphasis on them. They must be able to defend and attack and get up and down the flanks for ninety minutes. The element of surprise in the formation meant Jean got away with it last term (admittedly he did play better too) but this season, now teams are figuring it out, he has to pull more out of the bag.
On the right side, I don’t think Boyce is an improvement on Stam as an attacking threat, although he is more solid defensively. On the left, I for one hope that when some of the centre backs return, Figueroa is allowed to move out to Jean’s position. I’m not saying Figs is perfect for this role but he’s more competent than Beausejour. He’s better defensively, has more pace, is more of a threat from long range and isn’t a bad crosser of the ball. If not, then let’s hope this Espinoza bloke is the Honduran Roberto Carlos.
I’m tempted to slate Jean for the penalty as well, but I think I’ll let him off, it is Christmas after all. One person I won’t finish without mentioning though is the referee, Jon Moss.
To say he was bleeding terrible is a complement to him. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a worse referee at the DW.
I’m sure we’ve all learned to expect referees to bottle it against us when we play against the big clubs, they always do. Let’s be honest, who’s going to moan more and who has more power, Ferguson, Wenger and co or Roberto Martinez?
Firstly, the penalty was a joke decision as Beausejour made minimal contact with Walcott (although he shouldn’t have got turned so easily), and that ultimately lost us the game. The saga with Di Santo however was simply bizarre.
I know Wigan is also famous for the rugby league, but Jon Moss’ dealing of Di Santo was like a sin bin straight out of the Super League. After ordering Franco off to remove an earring and the play continued, rather than simply waving him back on, Moss ignored Di Santo completely. Arsenal attacked against ten men and with every second that passed everyone got angrier. Needless to say, the People’s Republic of Wigan gave Moss the treatment he deserved and greeted Di Santo’s eventual arrival back onto the pitch (after four minutes) with a chorus of sarcastic cheers. Have you ever seen anything like that?
At least we didn’t see any near death experiences at the DW though, unlike at the Liberty Stadium when Ashley Williams committed the crime of kicking a ball at Robin Van Persie. Don’t even get me started on that one.
I’ll end on a positive note: the midfield players for Wigan (McCarthy, McArthur, Jones and Maloney) were very good. That’s about it for positivity though.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2013.