Arsenal counter-attack back into the top four

Posted by Sam Limbert

Ian Kington/AFP/Getty ImagesTheo Walcott and Arsenal were dancing in the rain at the Emirates.

For large parts of Arsenal's 4-1 win over Wigan at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, it was difficult to know which side was trying to win at all costs to avoid relegation, and which one was pushing for the Champions League places. Having been pinned back during the second half, Arsenal eventually moved back into the top four with some quick counter attacks to clinically relegate the FA Cup winners.

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Much like Arsenal's recent games with Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers, the Gunners started well but tailed off, allowing the opposition back into the match. Had Arsenal kept up the same tempo and pressure on the ball that they showed in the early stages, the nerves that emerged in the second half among supporters wouldn't have even been close to happening.

After Lukas Podolski headed in the opening goal, Arsenal were set to stroll to victory as there were signs of being able to open up the Wigan defence at any moment. However, Arsenal again held off, allowing Wigan to gain control of the match. While the award of the free-kick from which Shaun Maloney scored may have been harsh, the goal had been coming and was deserved for Roberto Martinez's men.

Wigan were buoyed by the goal in the second half and the worried groans of supporters increased around the Emirates. However, even though it was frustrating to see a relegation-threatened side control the ball against Arsenal, Wigan's need for a win eventually played into Arsenal's hands as some clinical counter attacking killed off the game.

Santi Cazorla found space between Wigan's wingback and back three to play a superb low cross in for Theo Walcott, who had interchanged positions well with the Spaniard to pop up in the middle to score.

That goal put the spark back into Arsenal and suddenly the team were pressuring the opposition high up the pitch again. That led to Podolski's second goal. The German seemed to have a quiet game as the main striker, but his two goals showed he's beginning to adapt to the role. With Olivier Giroud returning from suspension this weekend, Arsene Wenger has a good selection problem.

After an excellent run in the team, Aaron Ramsey didn't put in the best of his recent performances against the Latics, but found space well to stretch Wigan on the left before firing in to score the fourth goal. It capped off his recent resurgence in the team. Even though Jack Wilshere has had to be managed carefully with his injury, Ramsey's form has meant Arsene Wenger hasn't had to take massive risks on Wilshere's fitness, which hopefully will have long-term benefits for both players.

It would have been better if Arsenal had more control in the game, but three points were needed, and three points were gained.

Seeing the dejection on the faces of the Wigan players afterward was tough as they really gave everything, but their Cup exertions caught up with them and they couldn't live with Arsenal's pace in the latter stages. If they can keep their manager and their group of players together, they should have no problem coming back up. Wigan got a good reception from Arsenal fans after the match, partly for their FA Cup win, but also for the impressive way they tried to take the game to the Gunners. Hopefully, they’ll be back.

For Arsenal, the task remains simple. Beat Newcastle on Sunday and Champions League football is secured. After Manchester City slipped on the Wigan banana peel on Saturday, it would have been easy for Arsenal to do the same. Despite the nerves, some quick counter attacking kept the Gunners on course for the top four.

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