By Richard Clarke at the DW Stadium
Arsenal returned to top form with a storming 4-0 win at Wigan on Saturday.
This fine, fine win extended Arsenal’s unbeaten to seven league games. Despite the draw against Fulham last Saturday and the Carling Cup defeat to Manchester City, Wenger’s men have taken 19 of their last 21 points in their most important domestic competition and are going only one way.
The difference between the two sides was marked this afternoon but it is worth remembering that the visitors had only registered one win in their last four Premier League fixtures at this venue. In the last two seasons they had been victims of a comeback.
That was never on this afternoon. They controlled the game from start to finish and won with something to spare.
It is upward and onward for Arsenal right now. This win saw them rise to the fifth in the Premier League table.
As expected, Wenger made a volte-face in terms of team selection. None of the XI that started against Manchester City on Tuesday night began the game but seven of them filled the bench.
Last season, this had been tricky fixture placed between Christmas and New Year. Wenger had made eight changes, leaving out Van Persie and Alex Song.
They only came away with a 2-2 draw. This time Arsenal were full strength. The only player to have started both fixtures was Laurent Koscielny.
Wigan were about as confident as they had been all season having grabbed only their second win of the campaign at Sunderland a week ago.
And this afternoon, their best period would be the opening 15 minutes.
Their best chance would come after six.
David Jones got down the left and his cross was palmed out to Jordi Gomez by Wojciech Szczesny. The midfielder was only six yards out and would have scored but for a block by Andre Santos.
Arsenal went straight down the other end and Gervinho’s low cross was bundled past the near post by Aaron Ramsey.
Gradually, the visitors exerted their authority. As we passed the midway point of the first half the game was beginning to be played in the Wigan half.
Arteta sprayed the ball out to Theo Walcott on the right. His low cross was miscued by Stephen Caldwell into the arms of his keeper.
Then came the goals.
In the 28th minute, Arteta was allowed to stride forward unchallenged and let fly. It was an optimistic effort and should not have found the net. Ali Al Habsi got two hands on it but could not keep the ball out.
The second was straightforward and followed straight away.
Van Persie swung over a corner towards the back post and Vermaelen rose above his marker to force home a header off the inside of the post.
Suddenly Arsenal's passing became confident and crisp. They oozed confidence and further goals.
Walcott could not force home another after pandemonium ensued when Vermaelen won another header from a corner. Shortly afterwards, Gervinho roared down the right and fed van Persie inside. He swept a shot goalwards but Al Habsi batted the ball away.
By the time we reached half-time that early chance for Wigan had been buried under the weight of Arsenal’s superiority.
They should have hammered that home in the opening minutes of the second half when Steve Gohouri hauled down Aaron Ramsey in the area. Somehow Mark Clattenburg waved play on.
However Wigan were stirring. Victor Moses fired a dangerous ball across the area and Mohamed Diame trickled a shot beyond the far post.
The third goal, on the hour, would end the revival.
Van Persie weaved himself some space in the area but his shot was saved by Al Habsi. Gervinho bobbled the rebound into the net for his third goal of the season.
This game was becoming unusual - it had not been blessed with a Van Persie goal. It should have arrived straight when Clattenburg waved play on after Song was fouled for the Dutchman to go through. For once, he sliced wide when well-placed.
Ramsey and substitute Franco di Santo hacked over at either end. But this game was now meandering to a close. Arsenal were in total control and Wigan were spent as an attacking force.
The fourth was predictable and arrived in the 80th minute. Walcott showed speed and strength to squeeze past his marker. He squared the ball for Van Persie to stroke home. Normal service had been resumed.
Substitute Yossi Benayoun was denied a last goal when Caldwell headed his chip off the line.
It did not matter. Arsenal had scored more than enough already.
- Vermaelen Goal!
- Song 80 Yellow Card
- Arteta Goal!
- Persie Goal!
- Gervinho 80 Goal!
- Walcott 80
- Coquelin 80 Yellow Card
- Benayoun 80
- Arshavin 80
- Caldwell Yellow Card
- Gomez 59
- Diame 89 Yellow Card
- Sammon 59
- Crusat 59
- McArthur 89
- Santo 59