Wigan Athletic 1 Arsenal 0: No excitement in a dreary defeat

Last updated : 10 January 2006 By Brian Dawes

Floodlight failure - Highlight of the game
The game in question however being the match in Madrid on 21st. February when approximately four times as many lucky punters would be wending their way to the match than could be bothered to make the trip to Wigan. Myself included. Midweek aways are never easy for most fans and Arsenal took a mere 900 hardy souls to the JJB. Wigan it seems were having the same problem selling tickets which I found somewhat surprising, given the very moderate pricing of £15 and £20 per ticket. A semi final of any Cup is surely no small beer for the likes of Wigan but even their Chairman was in the sunnier climes of Barbados and far away from the action taking place in the JJB Stadium tonight.

Live TV definitely had an effect on the attendance and seemingly has a far bigger effect the further North you travel, with the notable exception of just a few major Clubs.

Wigan were not without their problems, with injuries to Ryan Taylor, Leighton Baines, David Wright and Emerson Thome but Arsenal’s squad was even younger than Wenger would have preferred. Cole, Clichy, Campbell and Van Persie were all unfit. Eboue and Toure away for the African Nations Cup. While Thierry Henry, Jens Lehmann, Dennis Bergkamp and Lauren were all rested. So the youngsters yet again got a chance to strut their stuff against tough opposition. But they didn’t. It was a young defence well lead by Senderos who battled well with Roberts throughout the match and also found time to cover at left back when the occasion arose. Which was all too often.

Up front we tried in turn Quincy who was hopeless, Reyes who was uninterested and Freddie who made a token effort. Gilberto and Flamini did well enough centrally and Hleb did ok but was very limited by a poor pitch which looked bad enough to cause difficulties for a Sunday pub team. Reyes didn’t get the first couple of free kicks he wanted so basically didn’t bother too much thereafter. Quincy was keen but just not at the races in the first half.

Wenger: Clearly frustrated
Freddie had one good chance when put through by Hleb but he leaned back at tad, the ball sat up a bit and the end result disappeared over the bar. Freddie was also unimpressed with a two footed lunge by Henchoz but referee Howard Webb was unmoved. Wigan had to make an early substitution when Johansson replaced Connolly. McCullogh was also limping and was somewhat belatedly replaced by new boy Scharner making his debut.

Kavanagh had a shot well saved by Almunia low to his right. Flamini had a shot well blocked. There were a few good crosses from Wigan and a poor shot from a naff clearance by Almunia. One quick Arsenal move, a rarity tonight,had Pollitt saving at Freddie’s feet. If anything else of note happened I must have slept through it. Nil-nil after a tedious half of something that occasionally resembled football.

Wigan started the second half more lively but the half empty echoing JJB stadium has certainly seen better games. The major highlight occurred after 54 minutes when Wigan suffered a local power failure. The stadium was in darkness and the players went off for ten to fifteen minutes until the power returned,. When it did we almost made a game of it.

Roberts caught Almunia who needed prolonged treatment after coming out well to clear and getting whacked. De Zeeuw was booked for hanging onto Hleb. Djourou was also battered by Roberts and also needed treatment. Kavanagh had a deflected shot go for a corner but it was all pretty boring stuff as Lupoli and Fabregas replaced the totally uninterested and unimpressive Reyes and the keen but not all that Quincy. I can’t see Quincy making it with Arsenal, he’s had more than enough chances to shine and his best matches were some of his earliest he played for the Club, I’d love him to prove me wrong because he has bags of skill but for me he lacks a footballing brain.

A couple of Wigan headers following a corner saw Freddie heading over his own bar for safety just before Gilbert was replaced by Larsson. Gilbert had played confidently and effectively but had taken a knock. Larsson is not a full back but had to play there and that’s probably why Wigan scored. A quick throw from the ever lively Chimbonda on their right, a deep cross by Teale and a decent header at the far post from new boy Scharner who ironically used to be an Arsenal fan. Almunia got there but couldn’t stop it. 1-0 Wigan.

We woke up then and tried to get forward but Wigan chased everything. There was a great run from Chimbonda with Cygan stranded yet again and a wayward shot from Flamini. The four minutes added time just added to the tedium.

Wigan probably deserved it for effort but overall it was a tedious game by our standards. Should raise a lot of interesting problems for the return game at Highbury, our last ever League Cup tie at the ground. I’ll try to get excited but on tonight's performance I won’t be banking on it.