Friday 15 November 2019

Arteta hits spot as Gunners' winning run gathers pace

Arsene Wenger can finally enjoy some festive cheer after Arsenal completed three successive victories in the Premier League with a 1-0 win on a miserable Lancashire afternoon. Wenger will be pulling a cracker on his own at Arsenal's training ground after giving his players Christmas Day off, but Mikel Arteta's 60th-minute penalty was as good a gift as he is likely to get this year.

Arteta scored the only goal of the game after referee Jon Moss controversially awarded the away side a penalty in the second half when Theo Walcott went down softly under the challenge of Jean Beausejour.

Arsenal had to play large parts of the game on the back foot and, though they did not replicate the sparkling football they produced against Reading last Monday, there were more encouraging signs of resilience following the shootout defeat at Bradford.

"It was good because there was more determination than domination in the final part of the game," Wenger said. "I hope that gives us a bit more belief and confidence. We had to show nerve and we did it."

His Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez described the penalty decision as soft and argued that his side should have had the opportunity to equalise from the spot when Kieran Gibbs handled in the closing stages of the match. "The disappointment is that in the other box you've got a clear handball. You can argue all day if it is a silly one, but that is a penalty," he said.

In a first half in which both sides enjoyed spells of possession, the home side had the best opportunity. Arouna Kone was fed through by Franco Di Santo's wonderful pass from deep, and although he easily outpaced the trundling Per Mertesacker, Kone dragged his left-foot shot wide in the 24th minute.

Walcott, playing in a central attacking role again, had the chance to put Arsenal ahead in the 49th minute. Santi Cazorla surged down the right to the byline before pulling the ball back across goal, but Walcott's shot from eight yards was well stopped by Ali al-Habsi.

On the hour, the striker played a key role in the opening goal, though. Walcott slid a pass inside to Cazorla and received the return ball before tumbling to the ground inside the area under the challenge of Beausejour. There was definite contact but the home supporters were furious; Arteta made no mistake and sent Habsi the wrong way.

"The player [Walcott] has got real experience," Martinez said, "and I thought he bought the decision."

The Wigan supporters' ire reached boiling point soon afterwards when Di Santo was forced to stand on the touchline for three minutes. It was a bizarre exchange after the forward was mistakenly adjudged to be wearing an earring, and fourth official Mark Halsey did not allow him to return to the action.

Wigan fought their way back into the game but twice Wojciech Szczesny denied them the equaliser. In the 70th minute, Maynor Figueroa's 25-yard deflected effort was saved low by the Polish goalkeeper, before Kone had a fierce drive palmed away. David Jones then fizzed a stinging long-range shot narrowly wide, but Wigan could not craft a clear-cut chance to equalise.

Wigan will be in the bottom three at Christmas, but Arsenal moved into the top three. "When the team is on a roll you want them to go out and play," said Wenger, who is disappointed that a London Underground strike has put paid to his St Stephen's Day plans. Martinez, though, could use a break.


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