Despite the absence of eight senior players through injury, Wigan Athletic were every bit as good as their illustrious and in-form visitors on Saturday, and their supporters will be entitled to a feeling of injustice after Arsenal ran away with all three points.
Martinez’s men were once again on the wrong end of refereeing decisions that ultimately determined the match’s outcome. First, a soft penalty was awarded after Theo Walcott went down under pressure from Jean Beausejour. Next, Franco Di Santo was refused re-entry to the pitch for a full four minutes after being asked to remove an earring or something of the sort. The incident riled Di Santo up, leading to his substitution minutes later. Referee Jon Moss passed on an opportunity to make things right when Jordi Gomez’s shot clearly struck Kieran Gibbs’ hand before rebounding out.
Refereeing and result aside, this was a very strong performance by Wigan despite a totally makeshift defence. Given the unavailability of his four first choice centre-backs, Martinez alternated between a Maynor Figueroa—Emmerson Boyce partnership, and a trio boosted by the excellent James McCarthy. The Republic of Ireland international was again outstanding, dropping in as a centre-back when the team was on the back-foot, and launching attacks when the team had possession of the ball. It has been a true pleasure to watch his development even if this level of performance will inevitably shorten his stay at the club.
Ali-Al Habsi looked back to his best, with some very sharp saves, while Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa put in excellent defensive shifts. James McCarthy was everywhere, while David Jones had his best match for the club against very high-level opponents and was unlucky not to score the equalizer with a sweetly struck left-foot shot.
Arouna Kone missed badly after skillfully being put through by Di Santo. He later did very well to carve out a second opportunity but shot at the Arsenal keeper’s feet. He needs to start scoring goals.
The wingbacks’ crossing was poor. Beausejour has a bad game in general, against the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain who skinned him a number of times and limited his forays forward. Ronnie Stam was poor until suddenly coming alive in the last half hour with purposeful running down the right. The heavy conditions probably didn’t help their crossing, but Martinez needs them to start clicking soon.
Ali Al-Habsi: 8 – That’s the Ali we know and love.
Emmerson Boyce: 8 – Disciplined and focused in his central role.
Maynor Figueroa: 8 – His best in some time. Wasn’t helped by Beausejour’s bad day, but he covered more than adequately.
James McCarthy: 8 – Excellent work-rate, and often the player to drag the team forward. Becoming a real leader.
Ronnie Stam: 6 – Poor crossing but dramatically improved in the last half hour.
Jean Beausejour: 5 – One to forget.
James McArthur: 7 – Neat, efficient.
David Jones: 8 – Excellent in midfield, didn’t put a foot wrong and almost scored.
Shaun Maloney: 7.5 – Inventive and lively.
Franco Di Santo: 7 – Had no chances, but some nice passing, including a through-ball that should have led to a goal.
Arouna Kone: 5 – Appears to have lost his confidence. Needs a goal.
Callum McManaman: Given a big chance but looked unsure of his role and over eager, as he has done in the past. Needs a start when the team is in a more comfortable league situation, to give him time to adapt to the pace and level of play.
Jordi Gomez: Immediately involved despite the late substitution. Had two shots, one of which could easily have been given as a penalty.