Gunnerblog reflects on the victory over Wigan and the season finale...

One win from completing a redemptive rally…

There was no ‘Great Escape’ for Wigan, but there may yet be one for Arsenal. Arsenal now know that a win at Newcastle on Sunday will confirm our top four spot. Considering where we were languishing after losing to Spurs a couple of months back, it’s a hell of a turnaround.

I think we’re all agreed that qualifying for the Champions League will never replace the ecstasy of winning a trophy. However, it would enable us to put a conciliatory gloss on what’s otherwise been a painful season. What’s more, it would allow us to laugh at Tottenham. Again.

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This article first appeared on Gunnerblog in May 2013

Theo Walcott was at the races…

…and when Theo is racing, no-one is going to catch him. Walcott’s critics occasionally accuse him of self-interest; they say he plays to please himself rather than the team. If that’s the case, Theo plainly really doesn’t want to play in the Europa League, as from the first minute to the last he hared up and down the pitch like a man possessed.

I prefer to think this performance was a consequence of Walcott’s continued maturation in to one of the side’s senior figures. His stats this season are quite incredible. In just 30 starts he has now amassed 22 goals and 15 assists. You will struggle to find a wide player with more impressive numbers in world football.

Wojciech Szczesny won’t have been pleased about Wigan’s equaliser…

…especially because anyone who’d seen Maloney’s identical goal against QPR knew exactly what the Scotsman would do. It was a fantastic strike but Szczesny ought to have anticipated where Maloney would look to place it. In his defence, the goalkeeper would point to Lukas Podolski’s failure to jump in the wall. Speaking of whom…

I’m not convinced about Poldi at centre forward…

Despite his two goals I would favour an instant recall for Olivier Giroud for the game at Newcastle. There’s no doubting Podolski is an outstanding finisher, but he doesn’t yet share Giroud’s ability to link the play. He may develop those attributes in time, but time is not on our side. At several points in the game I was baffled by Podolski’s reluctance to burst in to the box to meet crosses from either flank. He may wear the No 9 on his shirt, but he’s far happier as a No 10.

Gibbs’ positional play and anticipation were as good as I’ve seen him produce

Kieran Gibbs learnt from Gael Clichy’s mistakes…

The former Arsenal full back was given a torrid time by Callum McManaman at Wembley on Saturday. In this match, Arsène opted for Gibbs over Monreal to cope with the tricky winger, and the youngster coped admirably. He was coached through the game by Steve Bould, who regularly passed on advice to Gibbs from the touchline. It paid dividends, as McManaman was mostly subdued. Gibbs’ positional play and anticipation were as good as I’ve seen him produce.

Aaron Ramsey’s goal was thoroughly deserved…

Ramsey’s season is in some respects a microcosm of Arsenal’s own: a dreadful first half followed by a spirited and encouraging return to form. This wasn’t his best game - his passing was occasionally wayward - but it’s impossible not to admire his sheer energy.

I ought to mention Santi…

…simply because it would be remiss not to. Four assists in one game is some feat. The Premier League is lucky to be graced by a player of his outrageous ability.

I stayed to applaud Wigan off…

I wasn’t alone. The Arsenal fans gave a rousing ovation to Shaun Maloney and a warm farewell to the Lactics, and I don’t think it was borne out of pity. It saddens me to lose a side as attractive as Wigan from a Premier League still containing the likes of Sunderland, Norwich and Stoke. For half an hour of this match, before fatigue and familiar errors set in, they had us on the ropes. However, ultimately this season has proved an escape too far.

Bye-bye Bacary?

When the players departed on their awkwardly titled ‘Lap of Appreciation’, Bacary Sagna traipsed behind, accompanied by two of his children and dishing out lingering waves to the crowd. It doesn’t take a genius to decode the message: this may well have been Sagna’s final Emirates appearance.

If he does leave, he ought to remembered as a fine player and a tremendous servant. Some of his performances this season have been below par, but then how many players suffer two broken legs in their career and return to their previous level?

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James McNicholas 15 May 2013