There is no sense of panic at Wigan Athletic despite a defeat that condemns them to a place in the Premier League's bottom three at Christmas. Arsenal's ups and downs are rarely viewed with the same perspective but three successive victories leave Arsène Wenger's side well placed in the league table after a difficult December.
Wenger said Arsenal's performance on Saturday was "more determined than dominant" after Mikel Arteta's 60th-minute penalty secured a win that puts the defeat at Bradford City firmly behind them. "Let's not go overboard," he said. "I believe, as much as we don't have to be over depressed after what happened, we have to keep our feet on the ground and focus on the next game."
"In the end the will was there to win it and the domination was not maybe convincing but we got the three points. It is important in the season that you win these kind of games as well."
An Arsenal defeat is often met with accusations of an effete approach while victories usually spark epithets of eminence. This display was somewhere in between, not a performance of vintage quality but one which demonstrated resilience when under pressure for large parts of the game.
Arteta's winning goal was the result of a challenge on Theo Walcott by Jean Beausejour. Wigan's injuries in central defence persuaded their manager, Roberto Martínez, to line up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Beausejour dropping to left-back, but the Chile international endured a torrid afternoon that was as miserable as the Lancashire weather. Often exposed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Beausejour's natural attacking instincts left him woefully out of position on numerous occasions.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had the first opportunity of the match but his low shot was palmed away by Ali al-Habsi at the near post. The best chance of the first half fell to Wigan's Arouna Koné following a wonderful pass from Franco Di Santo but, despite running clear of Per Mertesacker, he dragged his finish wide of Wojciech Szczesny's goal.
The referee, Jon Moss, awarded the penalty after an hour in controversial circumstances when Walcott softly went down after minimal contact from Beausejour. Martínez claimed he "bought" the decision but afterwards was optimistic on Wigan's chances of another great escape this season.
"It is not a position that we want to be in but the truth is that in this league you have to fight for every game until the end of the season and that will never change for us," he said. "I don't look at the table until we get to February or March.
"Wigan Athletic is an incredible story, we're in our eighth season in the Premier League and we know what we've got in front of us but we're going to fight like we always do. We'll do it playing good football and playing the right way."
Martínez also confirmed that the Manchester United teenager Angelo Henrique, signed from Universidad in Chile, would be joining the club on loan. "He's a young man and his movement in the box is of a typical scorer," said the Wigan manager. "He needs to adapt to the British game but we are more than happy to be in a journey with him. What we did with Tom Cleverley in the past, it's something very similar."
Koné and David Jones both came close to equalising but Arsenal held strong in the closing stages. Following the postponement of their Boxing Day fixture against West Ham because of a London Underground strike, Wenger now has ample time to prepare for the match at Newcastle United on Saturday.
"I always said the group is very good mentally, that will come out in the end and hopefully we can enjoy that now. Our game is based on movement, technical quality and fluency, that demands confidence so it is very important that we have confidence to play," he said.
"We had some encouraging games and some stuttering ones. Now the team is more settled and the consistency will come out." On his Christmas plans he added with a wry smile: "At the moment we have a lot to do. There is always phone calls in football. I sit down with the family and we'll watch a game during Christmas dinner."
Man of the match Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
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