After disposing of Sheffield United in round three, Arsenal’s young Gunners returned to action this evening looking to book themselves a place in the 5th with a victory over an in form Wigan side.
Once more Arsene Wenger kept faith with the kids, and made just one change from the first leg. Nicklas Bendtner, who bagged a brace last time out, has been on first team duty, so Jay Simpson was handed a start alongside hat-trick hero Carlos Vela.
Amaury Bischoff and Rui Fonte made the bench for the first time in their Arsenal careers, Henri Lansbury as also included for the tasty encounter at a packed Emirates.
Hoyte – Song – Djourou – Gibbs
Wilshere – Randall – Ramsey – Merida
Simpson – Vela
Subs – Mannone – Ogogo – Frimpong – Coquelin – Lansbury – Bischoff – Fonte
Arsenal began nervously against a physical Wigan, who showed they were willing to follow Sheffield United’s example by flexing their power against the youngsters.
However, they had not banked on the Gunners snapping back. Wilshere’s clip on the heels of Palacios brought a stern talking to in the opening stages. Eventually the familiar flow was found, but with two
solid banks of four, the inventive Randall and Wilshere struggled to find gaps.
Wigan would be stirred, and come back fighting. Koumas’ cross field ball exposed Gibbs, De Ridder profited, forcing Song to bullet the cross over his own bar. Fabianski’s flap at the delivery would have unsettled the inexperienced back four, although his brave save from Zaki quickly restored confidence.
On 12 minutes Arsenal would have Wigan rocking. A defence splitting ball from Merida sent Vela through 1-1, he tried to clever up against Kirkland, and saw the ball poked away with flying hand. The re-bound was picked up again by Vela, his pass to Ramsey saw the Welshman’s shot blocked, before Wilshere poked Simpson in. The former Reserves skipper showed good ball possession, he then unleashed a powerful drive which smashed off the bar.
If that wasn’t close enough, Merida and Gibbs took out Boyce, Kieran strode into the box with pace, but with Simpson waiting for the square pass, he teed up a curling left foot effort which had Kirkland scrambling, and Simpson furious.
Up the other end De Ridder worked Fabianski with a firm drive, the crowd were certainly getting their money’s worth.
Back came the visitors once more, with Djourou needing to throw his body in the way to stop De Ridder’s cross. The move came after a lazy pass from Randall, a real wake up call for the usually reliable pass-master.
Wilshere would then have the fans on their feet after jinking run beyond four Wigan players in a tight area, his release ball to Vela won a dangerous looking free-kick. Ramsey stepped up, and from all of 35 yards had Kirkland scrambling to palm it away.
The only answer The Latics had to Arsenal’s slick movement and passing was fouling, yet even that was letting them down as the referee gave advantage after a trip on Merida, Ramsey took over, and Simpson had his drive blocked.
Jay turned provider for the next chance, this time Vela with a 20-yard curler to win his side a corner. The barrage of shots had taken it’s toll on Kirkland, after just 25 minutes he was complaining of injuries to both knee and shoulder.
Fabianski was again called on after Koumas volleyed Song’s missed placed header from the left side of the box, but the Polish stopper appeared more than comfortable with the drive. Comfortable he wasn’t when De Ridder put Zaki through, however another brave save ended the danger.
Valencia won a corner of Gibbs, and despite Merida’s clearance, another was given when Lukasz handled Boyce’s return. Simpson worked hard to latch onto a danger ending ball from Ramsey, but he quickly found he had nowhere to go with the committed Titus Bramble keeping close.
The nature of the coaches in the technical area showed the way the game was going. Arsene Wenger appeared relaxed and confident when shown talking to Pat Rice, whilst in contrast Steve Bruce was dishing out instructions to his frustrated outfit.
Gibbs was becoming quite exposed as the half went on, shown again when Boyce and De Ridder doubled up and provided a deep cross for Zaki, the loanee couldn’t keep it down.
Simpson took the kicks to win a corner, Wilshere’s delivery demanded a volley from the unmarked Djourou, but he looked stunned when presented the chance to hand his team the lead.
The wave of pressure seemed to be stemmed as the break approached, but the inventive Wilshere whipped a cross field ball for Gibbs, who proceeded to burst past three Wigan players to win a corner. Merida earned a second in quick succession with a right footed shot from inside the box, as the hosts pushed hard.
De Ridder had a rare shot which Fabianski saved, and that was the final straw. Wigan had been given all the chances they were going to get to go in front and had not taken them. The Gunners punished it. Wilshere’s intelligent ball through the middle was meant for Vela, Simpson gambled and took it himself, and as Kirkland advanced, Jay slipped it under him to send the Emirates into chaos.Goal – Jay Simpson – (42)
Half Time – Arsenal 1-0 Wigan
Arsenal showed a more mature approach as the second period began, keeping possession among themselves and waiting for Wigan’s response.
The more relaxed attitude was nearly undoing the hard work, as Djourou could have given away a penalty with a clumsy hand ball, Zaki nearly punished it with a low shot moments later. Merida hit back with adragged drive, but there was little to separate the two on the basis of the second half.
Wenger’s side would then start to grow into the game, and could have had the second with an hour left. Wilshere’s dipping shoulder brought space to feed Merida, a thunderbolt from the Spanish play-maker had Kirkland scrambling.
With all the flair and creative talent in a red shirt, it was easy to forgot the role that Randall was playing. He was getting stuck in with firm sliding tackles and matching Palacios with two shoulder challenges, although his passing was suffering.
The second goal was getting closer and closer. Ramsey’s brilliance drew Wigan’s defence in, a toe poke down the wing sent Gibbs through unmarked, his left footed belter was straight at Kirkland.
Wilshere had now come inside to get more space to create mayhem, meaning he was susceptible to fouls via Palacios – which arrived within seconds of his switch to a new role.
Eventually, number two. Fabianski’s punch found Ramsey on the edge of the box. His long ball sent Vela away down the left, after Melchiot gave up, Vela was free, a simple cross picked out Simpson unmarked, he side footed into the empty net to make it 2-0 and seal the victory.Goal – Jay Simpson (66)
Wigan were rocking, and just four minutes later it was 3-0.
Djourou stepped out from the back, his slide pass between the centre backs found Carlos Vela, the little Mexican held off Bramble before clipping a shot over the advancing Kirkland from the edge of the area. 3-0 and Vela’s 4th goal in 2 starts.Goal – Carlos Vela (70)
As the visitors fell apart the Gunners turned on the style, and out came the tricks. Merida, Wilshere, Hoyte and Simpson all combined with a flowing move from defence to midfield, yet nothing productive came of
it. On 75 minutes Wenger rotated his deck.
Jay Simpson > Amaury Bischoff
Jack Wilshere > Henri Lansbury
Lansbury would replace Wilshere on the right hand side, Bischoff would now operate just behind
Vela on his Arsenal debut. The two subs worked a neat move down the wing, Vela just struggled to reach Henri’s square pass.
Vela signalled to the bench that he had a problem, and as a Mexican wave went around the Emirates, Rui Fonte replaced the third goalscorer.
Lansbury broke away yet again, with Bischoff in space calling for it, a lapse cross saw Fonte have a shot blocked. The one way traffic was broken up with an outstanding run from De Ridder, after Fabianski saved the first shot, the rebound was crashed under the bar by Zaki. Wigan believed it had crossed the line, replays showed Fabianski did enough to keep it out.
It finished 3-0, in a terrific win for Arsene Wenger’s Young Guns. They march on into round 5, knowing they are one of the most feared opponents around.
Article by J.Sanderson