Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

The hectic schedule during the festive period means rotation is inevitable. Yesterday's starting line-up saw some changes from Arsenal's established XI. The notable omission from the squad was Theo Walcott. According to Arsene Wenger's post-match interview, Theo was sick with a stomach problem (but he is already better and should be available on Saturday). We could have done with his pace on the flank to get behind Wolves defence.

One of the major talking points regarding the team selection in this period was when to rest RVP. Given his injury record, it would be too much for him to play three games in a space of 6 days. However, this game came 6 days after the previous match and 4 days before the next one, so his inclusion in the starting XI was pretty much anticipated especially as he was only 2 goals away from matching the goal-scoring record set by Alan Shearer. In the ideal world, if he had scored a hat-trick in this game and broke the record, Arsenal could have rested him on the last day of 2011 ahead of Fulham away game in the New Year. But it wasn't to be. In fact, RVP had enough chances to score a hat-trick, but luck and his finishing deserted him yesterday.

The impact subs against Aston Villa earned their deserved places in the starting line-up thanks to their impressive performances 6 days ago. Rosicky came in for Ramsey, who has had a couple of disappointing games recently and looked as if he could have done with a breather, so the boss' decision was understandable. Benayoun filled in for Theo. We were disappointed to see Oxlade-Chamberlain only make
the bench, but the winning-goal scorer in the last game deserved a place in the starting XI and actually started very well.

Arsene Wenger seems to prefer Koscielny in the central defence and Vermaelen at left-back as he deployed Djourou at right-back as soon as he had got back from injury. We don't know why the boss is reluctant to field Koscielny at right-back, Vermaelen in central defence and Miquel at left-back.

We compared the two contrasting games against Manchester City and Aston Villa in the previous post. This game was halfway between those two games in terms of performances and results and the most unsatisfactory. We didn't play as well as against Man City, but we outplayed and outclassed Wolves and surely deserved all three points. Obviously we were all disappointed at the Abbey Tavern and some expressed their displeasure with the team, but it wasn't fair to our players to criticise their performance. They played some slick football especially in the first half and showed their desire to win. They did absolutely everything but score in order to win the game. Unfortunately, Wolves goalkeeper, Hennessey, had an outstanding performance, while the ball did not fall for us.

That said, this was the game for which the results mattered. We couldn't capitalise on Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool dropping points on the previous day. Three points should have sent us to the fourth in the table and this time around not temporarily. The results frustrated us most rather than performance.

Fortunately, games come thick and fast at this time of the year, leaving us with no time to dwell on the disappointing result. The next two games can be tricky, which will be played within only two days of each other. RVP is likely to be rested in one of the two games. Now it looks a slim chance that he will break Alan Shearer's record, he might start from the bench against QPR at home on the New Year's eve. We probably need him more for Fulham away game.

We would like to choose Gervinho for Man of the Match, not just because he scored our only goal (you may know by now that we tend to avoid obvious choices), but because his constant hard work is due for some recognition.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
Didn't have much to do as Wolves registered only one shot on target. Couldn't he have done more to stop Fletcher's header going in or prevent him meeting the deflection?

Djourou: 4
His defence was far from convincing and his passing was poor.

Mertesacker: 8
Looked solid. Made some important blocks and good passes. Unlucky not to score.

Koscielny: 8
Defensively reliable and made good runs forward, too.

Vermaelen: 7
Good tackles, more runs forward and crosses. Had a better game as the left-back, but there were moments when his desire to win nearly got better of him.

Rosicky: 8
He was in the heart of Arsenal's attacking moves. Shame he blasted wide when he could have done better, but he looked more confident in shooting than he had been in the last couple of seasons.

Arteta: 7
Never put a foot wrong. I have seen better free-kicks by him in an Everton shirt.

Song: 5
We thought we missed him while he was serving suspension in the last game, but his performance was disappointing in this game. His passing left a lot to be desired. Replaced in the 71st minute by Ramsey.

Benayoun: 8
Set up a goal for Gervinho via a defence-splitting pass. Replaced in 64 minutes by Arshavin.

Gervinho: 9
Finally he got his decision and finish spot-on (to be honest, we didn't have much faith in him. We all thought he was going to mess it up) and his hard work was rewarded in the shape of a goal, which was executed with great composure.

Van Persie: 7
He was as creative as always. He had several chances to score himself, but it wasn't his day. Some fans say that this is the kind of game which makes him want to leave Arsenal. Maybe so result-wise, but he cannot fault his team-mates' efforts and commitment. He admits that at Arsenal he gets so many chances to score that he can afford to take gambles to try out various techniques, hence his impressive goal-scoring form so far. This game was no exception. He has an equal share of blame for not winning the game.

Subs

Arshavin: 7
Came on at 64th minute for Benayoun. Lively. Made a very good effort, which unfortunately hit the woodwork.

Ramsey: 6
Replaced Song as Arsenal looked for an elusive second goal. His introduction seemed to have fuelled Arsenal's attacking moves, but failed to make his mark.

Chamakh: 4
Came off the bench at 85th minute to replace Djourou as Arsenal desperately sought a last-grasp winner. He nearly knocked out RVP.

Referee

Stuart Attwell: 4
So many of his decisions were inconsistent. He gave a foul against Vermaelen for a handball, which was less clear than Wolves player's handball in the box just a minute ago. A red card against Milijas may have been a bit harsh. Another Wolves player's tackle on Ramsey, a couple of seconds after the incident, was worse than the red-carded challenge on Arteta, but it went unpunished.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2

The game presented sheer contrast to the match played just three days ago. You would ask yourself which you like better, great football with no points out of it or three points with unsatisfactory performance. Arsenal bagged all three points in the end, but their performance was below-par and the win was far from convincing.

Maybe the game came too soon after the intense battle against Manchester City. The dire full-back situation didn't help, either. Aston Villa players constantly threatened the flanks, firing crosses into the box. Arsene Wenger has to address this issue and find a solution by signing a full-back on loan or on a permanent basis. Otherwise we cannot go on without any recognised full-back for very long. Makeshift back-four can only stand the pressure for a limited amount of time.

Arsenal's passing was poor in this game. Especially Frimpong was disappointing. We really missed Song, who was serving a one-match suspension after receiving the 5th yellow card of the season on Sunday. Surprisingly, Arsenal's passing success rate was only marginally lower than their average (around 84%) at 81.8%.

For Sunday's game, Arsenal were unlucky not to come away with at least a point, while Aston Villa may have deserved a point from this game. As football fans, we all enjoy a good game of football regardless of the result, but as Arsenal fans, we don't mind getting the result when our team haven't played at their best. This was the game we would have lost in recent seasons. Coming through the difficult start to the season has certainly strengthened the team mentally and gelled them together.

As for our Man of the Match, it is too close to call between Szczeny and Koscielny, so they are our joint Men of the Match.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 8
Made some great stops, including match-saving blocks.

Coquelin: 5
Struggled to keep Villa attacks on the right flank at bay.

Mertesacker: 6
Villa's equaliser was perhaps largely attributed to Vermaelen, but Per could have done better to stop Albrighten nipping in. He received a yellow card as a result of a totally worthless challenge. On the other hand, he showed great spirit in front of Villa goal and went close to score goals.

Koscielny: 8
The best Arsenal defender on the night.

Vermaelen: 6
One of his relatively poor games. His error led to Villa equaliser.

Ramsey: 5
He had a poor game by his own admission (he tweeted so). His passing wasn't best and his finishing and/or split-second decisions let him down again. He should have done better when he got into the great position than shooting horribly wide. On the other hand, his block saved Arsenal conceding an early goal.

Arteta: 7
His clever thinking from a throw-in allowed Walcott to earn a penalty.

Frimpong: 5
Song's suspension meant a much-anticipated chance for the 19 year-old to shine, but he failed to take it. His passing was poor and he wasn't very effective in breaking down Villa attacks in midfield. He was replaced by Rosicky at 66th minute, which was an excellent decision by the boss.

Walcott: 8
Constantly threatened Villa defence. His great move in the box earned him a penalty gracefully (he didn't go down as if he had been shot).

Gervinho: 7
He had a relatively quiet game offensively. On the defensive side, he worked hard as usual, which was extremely important when we only had a makeshift left-back.

Van Persie: 8
He posed a threat to Villa defenders with his mobility.

Subs

Rosicky: 8
Came on the pitch in 66 minute to replace Frimpong and made the massive difference immediately. He brought fluency in passing and movements, changing the rhythm. He always makes an impact when he has come off the bench. Good sub. That's what we want from a 30 year-old player. We shouldn't sell him.

Benayoun: 8
One of the double substitions brought on at 81st minute and scored 6 minutes later. He injected energy into the team and the game. Great header from the diminutive player. He is hungry for playing time, is keen to take a chance to show what he is capable of and you can see that in his game. He dedicated the goal to Vermaelen according to his tweet. I don't know what story is behind this, but it is nice to see some togetherness in the team. Speaking about the twitter, after Arsenal's defeat of Chelsea, he congratulated his current team-mates on the twitter, which apparently infuriated Chelsea-supporter followers. He is a Gooner at heart. We should see him play more often when Gervinho goes to Africa Cup of Nations as he is a better option than Arshavin at the moment.

Arshavin: 5
The other of the double substitutions. Made a good effort, which was deflected over the bar.

Referee

Jonathan Moss: 4
More like Jonathan Ross. He booked RVP for diving instead of awarding him a penalty. Match of the Day replay showed there was a contact, which proved the decision for diving was wrong. This was the second penalty shout wrongfully turned down in two games in a row.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0

It was a good game of football. The result was disappointing, especially because we deserved at least a point out of the game and could have won the game on a lucky day. Nonetheless, we all enjoyed excellent football from the both sides and were happy with our players' performance.

Just compare how much money each of the two clubs has spent and are spending for their players. The game proved that there was not much in the quality and performance of the players between the two sides. Media used old clich├ęs, "Manchester City were a better side" or "City were too good for Arsenal", simply because of the result. Skysports stats show Arsenal had more possession throughout the game with 53%, and 61.1% in the second-half alone. Before the match, everybody expected Man City to dominate the game in possession. Arsenal played their style of football and went very close to win the game. Our players did us proud.

Arsene Wenger blamed the defensive reshuffle following the injury to Djourou for the goal conceded. It allowed Balotelli to make a run in the entire Arsenal half unmarked, but after the mishap, Arsenal's reorganised defence coped well with Man City attacks. I thought it was a tactical change because Koscielny played better than Djourou at right-back and Miquel did not do a bad job at left-back. Actually our defence looked solid throughout the game (maybe except for the first 10 minutes, when we thought this could have been long 90 minutes).

I quite like our current team. They don't have the same creative flair we had last season nor win games with emphatic scorelines, but they are unlikely to capitulate from 4-0 up at half-time (even with certain Phil Dowd on the mission to stage a greatest come-back in the Premier League history) or surrender a two-goal lead and go on to lose 3-2 to North London archrivals.

The two summer signings, Mertersacker and Arteta, have brought experience to the young team and provided calming and settling presence.The team now know how to control games. Their good work often go unnoticed because of the nature of their roles. However, at Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, we appreciate the influence of these two experienced players. In contrast to their calming influence, Captain Vantastic and vice-captain the Verminator drive the team with determination and desire to win.

I don't think the outcome of this game will have negative effects on our players. Arsenal have easier fixtures coming up for the next 12 days. It is a good time to get back to winning ways. Hopefully, we can get all 9 points and put pressure on Chelsea and Tottenham, at least one of which will drop points during the same period.

Our Man of the Match is Thomas Vermaelen. He nearly scored twice at later stage and showed great spirit.

Players ratings:

Szczeny: 9
Made great stops, some of which could have been match-deciders. He was as good as Joe Hart.

Djourou: 7
Reluctant to go forward and overlap with Walcott, which was largely anticipated, though. Replaced at 47th minute due to a groin strain, which could sideline him for three weeks.

Mertesacker: 8
Looked solid. Only complaint was that he should probably have covered Koscielny when Balotelli made the run.

Koscielny: 8
Good performance as the centre-back. Wasn't bad as the right-back, either, although some distributions were poor. As the right-back, he was more adventurous than Djourou (actually, he made great forward runs as the centre-back as well before he took the right-back position) and put some good crosses in. He may not feel comfortable playing the right-back, but he can get used to it and improve his game.

Vermaelen: 9
Started as the left-back and ended the game as the centre-back. Solid all through the game.

Ramsey: 8
He made some great runs to get into the area, but his finishing let him down. He always wants one touch too many before he shoots. I've read a lot of criticism from fans about him recently, especially about his fitness level. Apparently he covers the most distance of all players in the Premier League. Doesn't this stat show that he's back to full fitness now?

Arteta: 8
Reliable as usual.

Song: 8
Good both defensively and offensively. Made some incisive passes again. His passing has significantly improved this season.

Walcott: 7
This is where our views were divided (it always seems to be on him). Before the match, many thought he would hold the key to Arsenal's attacking as City didn't have any established left-back with Kolarov injured and Clichy suspended. Despite the expectations, Theo had a quiet game apart from one powerful shot, which forced a good save from Joe Hart. Some of us think his subdued performance was due to the lack of service. An eagle-eyed member spotted him waving to invite a pass only to be ignored by Arteta.

Gervinho: 9
His work rate was once again phenomenal. One second he was in the opponents' box and the next second he was at the other end defending. He was unlucky not to put his name on the score sheet as Joe Hart didn't know anything about his "brilliant save".

Van Persie: 8
Marked tightly by Man City defenders all through the game, but he still managed to prove that he only needed one chance to do something special, when he found space. Match of the Day replay showed he was played on-side by Kompany, who was on the far side to the assistant referee, and his goal should have stood.

Subs

Miquel: 8
47th-minute substitution for injured Djourou. He did well under the circumstances and out of position. (He has to get used to playing in this position if he wants the first-team action as Arsenal's full-back drought looks set to continue).

Arshavin: 5
Came off the bench at 69th minute for Walcott. He had a clear-cut chance to score and shine, but his effort was disappointing.

Chamakh: 5
Replaced Mertesacker in 82 minute, which meant Arsenal were attacking with four strikers, leaving only two in midfield. However, he failed to make a difference.

Referee

Phil Dowd: 4
We thought we hadn't suffered from bad decisions this season, then this game came. RVP was not off side and Micah Richards handled the ball in the box. These decisions could have meant two goals to Arsenal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Christmas Party

Our Christmas party took place on 12 December at Pablo's bar in Playa Flamenca, Spain. Following the last year's huge success and popularity, 46 guests turned up to share festive fun and enjoy Christmas dinner and entertainment.

We were welcomed with a glass of Cava on arrival. The party kicked off at 7:30 pm and as we seated ourselves, Ricky's carefully compiled Arsenal videos started. The video archives told Arsenal's 125 year history with famous victories and stunning goals (as well as a couple of heart-breaking defeats only noticed by watchful eyes). We thought RVP's goal against Everton was exceptional and today's players were blessed with more technical abilities, but some of those goals from the old days were just breath-taking. The show was a feast for the eyes.

Between the courses, Arsenal trivia quiz questions were read out by Mabel the Quizmistress and the guests were tested on their knowledge about our great football club. Later in the evening, Maurice 22 team (Mo, Maureen Q, Mick, Maureen J, and Pat) came top with the impressive 22 points and were awarded Arsenal quiz champion Cava.

Following Chairman Mo's speech, raffle was drawn, which proved to be a success, bringing €120 into the Supporters Club fund. A football scratch card was also sold. Tonight's winner was Tony, while PF Gooners also benefitted from the proceeds.

Collections were made for Maggie and her staff, who worked hard to make all the proceedings go smoothly, and presented as our gratitude for good food and excellent service.

The night grew with dance and a few songs from the guests, including Trevor and John. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

We have posted only a few photos here. This year we chose to post all the party photos on our Facebook Page so we can post more photos with captions alongside them and exchange comments on each photo. Please follow the link by clicking here to have a look at more photos.






Sunday, December 11, 2011

Arsenal 1 Everton 0

Most of media reports described this game "largely scrappy" and Arsenal's performance "uninspiring", but I enjoyed both the game and the team's performance (I must admit that if the result had gone wrong way, I might not have enjoyed the game so much). Arsenal didn't make the game easy by failing to be clinical enough in front of the goal, but they created plenty of chances in the first half, some of which were easy on the eyes. The defence was solid. Considering the fact that Arsenal currently has no recognised full-backs, following Santos' injury in the midweek game, their defensive performance was encouraging. Vermaelen looked good as the left-back.

The goal came in 70 minute after Everton had tightened up their defence by replacing striker Saha with a centre-back, Distin, looking like they were going for a goalless draw, while Arsenal were preparing to throw in more attacking force in Rosicky and Arshavin in order to break a deadlock. The subs had to wait.

RVP was the hero once again. He had a relatively poor game by his own standards and by his own admision. His touch deserted him. However, a moment of brilliance made up for it.

Three points were absolutely vital to keep up with the top four and saw Arsenal climb to the 4th spot for the first time this season as a result. It may only be until Monday night (I am hoping Chelsea will beat Man City or draw at least), but we are now very close to where we wanted to be.

Our Man of the Match is Alex Song because we rate overall performance more than a moment of brilliance.

Players ratings:

Szczeny: 7
Although Everton had only one shot on target, he was active with some good clearances. However, he could have made his defenders' lives easier by coming forward to claim the ball on some occasions.

Djourou: 7
A lot better than Tuesday night.

Mertesacker: 7
Looked solid.

Koscielny: 8
Won all the aerial battles.

Vermaelen: 8
Some great tackles, including fending off Cahill in a very dangerous area. He did a good job in an unfamiliar position (I have read somewhere that he occasionally plays the left-back for Belgium national team, though).

Ramsey: 8
Personally, I think he had a good game. He made some great moves into the box to get in good positions, as well as providing incisive passes (which is what we expect from him most) and linking up with other attacking players. His turn and shot in the box were a sequence of beautiful and technically superb moves. Had it hit the target, it would have been a strong contender for the Goal of the Month against RVP's sublime volley.

Arteta: 8
Did well amid the media focus as this game was a first meeting with his old club. Even an early yellow card did not stop him from working hard. He had good link-up play as well.

Song: 8
His passing is improving. His clipped pass to RVP was exquisite and deserves every credit.

Walcott: 8
He had one of his better games. He can beat defenders not only with pace, but strength and trickery as well. His crosses are getting better. He even had a powerful shot from the right-hand side, which forced a good save out of Tim Howard. He is developing into a great winger.

Gervinho: 7
Lively, but his finishing and split-second decisions in front of the goal let him down.

Van Persie: 8
Superb goal which will be rememberd for a long time on Arsenal's 125th anniversary. However, otherwise, his performance on the day was below his standards.

Subs

Rosicky: 7
83rd-minute substitution. He was supposed to come on earlier, but RVP's goal changed the plan. He was bright. Although he has made only short appreances recently, his performance has been consistent and has made an impact. Good sub.

Miquel: 7
Substituted Vermaelen at the 83rd minute. Didn't put a foot wrong.

Frimpong: N/A
Came on for Walcott to shore up the defence in 89 minute. Did his job to see off Everton.

Referee

Howard Webb: 6
Decisions were OK, but was he Everton's 12th player? He got Arsenal players' way on several occasions on the edge of Arsenal box.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Olympiacos 3 Arsenal 1

Is this Arsenal's worst performance we have seen for a long time? The team did not have any shape, with no cohesion nor desire to win. What I don't understand was why they performed so badly, because they are almost the same group of players who impressed us last week.

Arsenal played in exactly the same situation before: they were already through to the knockout stages with a game to spare and Arsene Wenger fielded the youngest ever team to play in the Champions League against the same Greek side. They were narrowly defeated, but the next morning, all the papers praised their brave and committed performance with a headline "Hold your head high". In comparison to this young 2009 team, Tuesday's team consisted of more experienced first-teamers. Out of the starting XI, only three players were under 21 and they are already a part of the first-team.

So what went wrong? Arsenal gave away the ball too cheaply and too often. Their passing success rate was 79.9% according Sky Sports site, which is far too low compared to Arsenal's starndards (usually around 84%). For the weekend game against Wigan, Arsenal's collective passing success rate was 89% (source: the Sunday Mirror), while Ramsey achieved over 90% mark. Olympiacos pressed them very hard and were always looking to intercept passes, but some passing by Arsenal players was just sloppy and too casual.

Arsene Wenger admitted "I don't think we had the right tactical approach." Could anybody explain this? Did he mean his selection of players? It looked like Arsenal played 4-4-2, which was similar to the last week's Carling Cup game, but each player did not seem to understand their role very well, hence no shape to offensive nor defensive moves. The system worked well against Man City, thanks to the two young defensive midfielders' outstanding performance, but in this game, Arsenal looked short of creativity. When Rosicky came off the bench, he highlighted what Arsenal had been missing.

For Olympiacos, their qualification was at stake and they had everything to play for in this game. On the other hand, the result meant very little to Arsenal, who had already secured their place in the last 16 and won Group F. However, this group of players had a lot to prove and should have been desperate to impress. While Olympiacos showed their determination and commitment, there was no urgency nor desire to win seen from most of Arsenal players (especially those who needed playing time).

It is difficult to find positives we can take from this game. Experience? Maybe for the young players like Chambo, Coquelin, Frimpong, Miquel, and Mannone. If fact, these players, except for Mannone, were better players than most of the more experienced players on the pitch.

Hopefully, Saturday will be a totally different story with many changes to this evening's line-up. The injury to Santos, the only proper left-back we had since Gibbs was sidelined, was a huge blow coming from this game, but fortunately he does not seem to be out for very long. In the meantime, Vermaelen is likely to slot into the left-back position, with Koscielny paired with Mertesacker in central defence and Djourou at right-back. Hopefully, Djourou will improve his performance significantly from this game!

As for the usual (Arsenal) Man of the Match, it is difficult to choose one player for wrong reasons, but we choose Benayoun, who was one of a few players who showed their desire and scored a goal on the miserable night for Arsenal.

Player ratings: (Before we start, we don't do 2s or 3s as some of our members suggested)

Fabianski: 5
The first goal was a bit unlucky, but his performance was never convincing to the moment he was stretched off at 25th minute due to a deep cut in the knee.

Djourou: 4
He was sloppy and not alert or sharp. You cannot dwell on the ball in your own box with the opponent attacker on you.

Squillaci: 4
Old Squillaci was back just when we thought he was a new player after the last week's game.

Vermaelen: 6
Not his best game. But at least he tried to win the game.

Santos: 6
We don't know why Arsene Wenger played him. He should have been rested as well as other key players because he was the only proper left-back we had. Miquel should have started instead.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
He was quiet for the first 15 minutes or so, but he displayed his talent. His crosses were good and he beat tough Olympiacos defenders on several occasions. The game was a good test for him to test his strength.

Coquelin: 7
Survived a brutal challenge from an Olympiacos player. Replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the 67 minute.

Frimpong: 7
He was one of a few players who showed their desire to win. As combative as usual, but he received a yellow card for a reckless challenge, just after he claimed in his pre-match interview that he was no longer reckless and he thought twice before going into challenges.

Benayoun: 7
Technically superb strike to net Arsenal's only goal. He showed some creativity and commitement. His performance on the night made many Arsenal fans wish to see him play more often for the Club.

Arshavin: 5
Some good moves, but he gave away too many balls. Failed to prove his worth.

Chamakh: 4
Had a few good moments, including a great run in the first 15 minutes but not enough to impress. He missed a great chance to score because he didn't bother to make a little extra effort. He didn't even jump to meet crosses. I fondly remember how he saved the first half of Arsenal's season last year when RVP was injured, but he didn't do himself any favour in this game to save his career at Arsenal.

Subs

Mannone: 4
He has to take a sole responsibility for the second goal. He came out of his area to clear the ball with a header, which went straight to Fuster, and then the young Italian keeper failed to realise the situation where he could have simply gathered the ball, but instead he went for it with his feet. Reportedly Mannone told the Club to play him or sell him earlier this season. He got his chance. Hope Szczesny will stay fit for the rest of the season so that we don't have to rely on the back-up keepers.

Miquel: 5
51st-minute substitution for injured Santos. He looked tired, slow to get back to defend.

Rosicky: 7
Made an immediate impact when he came off the bench.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wigan 0 Arsenal 4

Although Arsenal were 2-0 up at half time and had the last 25 minutes of the first half in control, when Wigan started the second half brightly, they reminded us how tricky this place has been for Arsenal for the last two seasons. However, Arsenal have been the comeback kings of late, with the highest number (7) of games they came from behind to win or draw, so I was confident about their resilience and mental strength in case Wigan had come back and pulled back a goal. In fact, Arsenal kept their concentration to the last minute and did not take their foot off the gas. They displayed a thoroughly professional performance. It was a comfortable win in the end.

The first two goals were untypical of Arsenal; Arteta's shot from outside the box and Vermaelen's header from a corner. The most efficient way to score. As we are often frustrated by Arsenal's usual attacking display of passing around just outside the box till they get dispossessed, we didn't mind the way they scored these goals.

Arsene Wenger expressed his delight for Gervniho's goal in his post-match interview and we feel the same. He has been working hard and doing everything right but the final ball. This time, his split-second decision was spot-on and finishing was good. He was in the right place at the right time, but his reaction to Al Habsi's save was more than just a tap-in. It took some skill to put the ball at the back of the net as the rebound still had a nasty spin on it.

The fact that we had four different goal scorers in this game should shut up all the criticism about Arsenal's dependence on RVP for goal sources, while RVP extended his impressive run of a goal-scoring form as well. On top of these, a clean sheet was another positive outcome from this game.

As a result of the fine performance from the entire team, Arsenal has risen to the 5th in the league table at the expense of Newcastle and on the strength of the much-improved goal difference.

As for the Man of the Match, Sky Sports and the Sunday Mirror chose RVP and Aaron Ramsey, respectively, while Arteta topped fans' voting with 34% of total votes on the Arsenal.com site. It is difficult to pick one player as our Man of the Match because the emphatic win was the result of collective efforts and a great team performance. However, we would like to take this opportunity to choose Arteta as his work often goes unrecognised.

Player ratings:

Szczeny: 8
His decisions were spot-on in this game.

Koscielny: 8
He had another good game, following the midweek action against Man City in his much familiar central defensive position. He often overlapped Walcott, showing signs of confidence as the right-back.

Mertesacker: 8
The return of the Verminator clearly benefitted him. He had an inclination to make wrong decisions and wrong passes under the pressure of opposition challenges, but these days he only needs to look at Vermaelen, who gives him instructions as to whether to pass back to the keeper. Having a reliable defender with more experience in the EPL and natural leader alongside him must have taken a burden off his shoulders. He looks more comfortable these days.

Vermaelen: 9
As reliable as usual. Scored a great goal with precision. This is just like his debut season when we were all excited with our acquisition of a new centre-back who can score freely. How much we missed him during the last season and the first three months of this season!

Santos: 7
His bizarre defensive move nearly cost us a goal. Didn't he know there was no Wigan player behind him? On the other hand, he apparently "blocked" Jordi Gomez's close-range shot, which would have gone in otherwise.

Ramsey: 8
He made all the right moves and obviously posed a threat to the Wigan side as he was fouled all afternoon. The understanding and attack-defence balance among the midfield trio was perfect. They may not be as dynamic as their counterparts last season (Fabregas-Wilshere-Song) at their best (which we didn't see as often as we liked because of Fabregas' hamstring problems and his inconsistency in performance), but this season's midfield is getting better and stronger gradually.

Arteta: 9
Excellent.

Song: 8
Did his job well.

Walcott: 8
He did well to stay on his feet when he could have gone down and looked for a penalty. He continued his run and pulled back a great pass to RVP. Captain showed his gratitude to Theo's good work after he scored. Great strike partnership.

Gervinho: 8
Finally, his hard work bore fruit. Hopefully the goal has boosted his confidence and more goals will come from him.

Van Persie: 9
Cool finish. He tirelessly created space and chances for his team-mates and himself.

Subs

Arshavin: 6
He lost the ball in a simple backward pass to Santos. I like Arshavin as a person and appreciate that he has made his mark in Arsenal's history by scoring four goals against Liverpool, but I haven't been impressed with his performance lately. However, his departure in the January transfer window is unlikely (unlesss we buy Eden Hazard or Mario Gotze) as he will be the first choice to fill the void Gervinho will leave when the Ivorian goes to African Nations' Cup.

Benayoun: 7
Nearly scored.

Coquelin: 6
Got a yellow card for a totally unnecessary foul.

Referee (We don't usually do this, but we were compelled to do it because his performance was appalling)

Mark Clattenburg: 5
Ramsey was clearly held by the Wigan defender in the box, but the ref waved play on. It did not affect the result, but if he had awarded Arsenal a penalty, it would have added to RVP's goal tally most certainly (That said, the Dutchman missed a pen against Wigan at the Emirates last season). Booking Song was another poor decision.