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Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal - The Match Report

A valiant effort from Wigan Athletic saw them push Arsenal all the way to penalties in the F.A. Cup semi-final. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be but the Latics can be proud of their achievements in their defence of the trophy.

Michael Steele

Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal

Date: Saturday 12th April 2014

Venue: Wembley Stadium

Referee: Michael Oliver

Score: 1-1 (AET) 2-4 on penalties

Who’d have thought when Wigan Athletic lifted the F.A. Cup on the 13th May 2013 that they would be returning to Wembley for a fourth time in a year?

After a quarter final win over Manchester City, little Wigan were drawn against long term specialists in failure, Arsenal.

No Latics’ fan expected anything. How wrong they were. And it shows just how well Wigan played when everyone surrounding the club is saying that they probably should have beaten a shaky Gunners’ side.

Jordi Gomez’ penalty had put the Latics ahead and within touching distance of another F.A. Cup final but Per Mertesacker’s late equaliser gave the 49,000 Arsenal fans in Wembley hope of winning their first trophy since 2005.

Wigan held on throughout the half an hour of extra-time and so it came to penalties.

Unfortunately, with Lukasz Fabianski saving penalties from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, Arsenal scraped through to the final where they with meet a very good Hull City side.

Wigan appeared slow out of the blocks as Scott Carson denied Yaya Sanogo from point blank range early on to keep the scores level.

Just minutes later Carson was called into action again as he denied Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a one on one situation. From the resulting corner, Wigan were stretched at the back and Bacary Sagna should have put the gunners ahead from a tight angle but instead saw his shot fly just wide of the goal.

It took the Latics a significant amount of time to get into the game but even then they were putting themselves under unnecessary pressure. James McArthur carelessly gave the ball away on the halfway line. The ball was looped over the Wigan defence and Sanogo found himself one on one with former England number one, Carson. Once again, the Latics keeper was equal to the shot and kept Wigan in the game.

In the second half, Wigan decided to push on for a goal and their main danger man was Callum McManaman. Every time he received the ball he looked as though he was capable of tearing the Arsenal defence apart. And in the 58th minute, he did.

He drove the ball into the box, took on two Arsenal defenders before being brought down by Mertesacker. There was no doubt that it was a penalty.

After a lengthy delay, Jordi Gomez was able to take the penalty, which he converted with absolute ease.

Could this be Wigan’s year again?

Shortly after this goal, however, McManaman was substituted as he had cramp in both legs. This changed the complexion of the game as the liability that is Nick Powell came on in his place.

This was an odd substitution given that Shaun Maloney was on the bench and Powell has been atrocious since returning from injury after Christmas.

Wigan decided to sit back on their 1-0 lead and invite Arsenal pressure. They hit the post before Carson made a world class save from the head of Kieran Gibbs.

Wigan were tiring and replacing Josh McEachran with Collison did not help the matter.

A Santi Carzola corner was not cleared very well by the Latics’ defence and eventually Oxlade-Chamberlain took a shot. This shot was scuffed but it turned into an excellent ball for Mertesacker, who was lurking at the back post, to head into the net.

Hope for Arsenal. Extra time.

The half an hour extra time continued in the same vain as the majority of the second half: Wigan on the back foot whilst Arsenal pushed for a winner. However, the Latics did have a couple of chances to in the game themselves.

Collison saw a header fly just wide of the post before Powell ran from the halfway line with the ball and finally had a weak shot at goal.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s thumping shot hit the crossbar before the referee blew for full-time. Thus, penalties ensued.

Fabianski saved penalties from Caldwell and Collison before McArthur and Jean Beausejour scored for the Latics. Arsenal scored all four of their penalties with Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Carzola all converting.

Wigan should be proud of what they have achieved in defending their trophy but there is just a feeling that maybe if they had attacked Arsenal a little bit more then they would be looking forward to their second ever F.A. Cup final.

Nick Powell is an absolute joke of a football player. He is so laid back and does not seem to care about Wigan Athletic. If he was a good as he thinks he is then he would be in the Manchester United first team already. Taking off McManaman and putting on Powell made it seem as though Wigan had ten men on the pitch at times and he, along with Marc-Antoine Fortune, offered very little up front.

Finally, the penalty takers were questionable. Why should Gary Caldwell, playing his first football since May, take the first penalty in an F.A. Cup semi-final? What were Powell, Fortune, and Gomez doing at this point? It was their chance to make a name for themselves and they failed.

Overall, Wigan played extremely well against a low on confidence Arsenal side. And the Latics can take great heart from seeing the Gunners celebrate beating a Championship side on penalties as though they had won the Champions’ League.