Podolski double relegates Latics and lifts Gunners up to fourth
Roberto Martinez's FA Cup winners failed to carry forward their
Wembley momentum and slip out of the Premier League as their eight-year
top-flight stay ends with a whimper
The Gunners, too, were desperate for a win to
keep alive their ambition of finishing in the top four and Lukas
Podolski capitalised on some woeful defending to hand the home side an
early lead while a Shaun Maloney free kick – won in questionable
circumstances – drew the visitors level before the break.
Martinez's side threatened to put the dampeners on Arsenal's final home
game of the season but clinical second-half strikes from Theo Walcott,
Podolski and Aaron Ramsey ensured that they both regained control of the
final Champions League qualification spot going into the last game of
the season and terminated Wigan's eight-year stay in the top flight.
side came into the high-stakes encounter with fresh injury concerns and
Arsene Wenger's decision to replace Nacho Monreal with Kieran Gibbs at
left-back was the only departure from the starting line-ups that last
featured for both.
That, though, was an issue. The emotional
nature of the Latics' remarkable turn at Wembley on Saturday offered a
draining contrast to their hosts' 10 days of inaction since beating QPR,
particularly considering that, while Wigan were enjoying the greatest
moment in their history, notable Premier League strugglers conspired
against them with crucial wins.
Consequently, Arsenal imposed
themselves on their jaded-looking visitors, were met with flimsy
resistance and took the lead just after the 10-minute mark. Alarm bells
should have been ringing when a free Santi Cazorla hit the deck to send a
controlled header skidding wide of the upright and moments later a
totally unmarked Podolski stooped to nod home a bouncing corner delivered by the Spaniard.
Gunners loosened slightly thereafter and, though Gibbs nearly got on
the end of Bacary Sagna's cross-cum-shot, it took Laurent Koscielny's
well-timed, agile interception to deny a lurking Arouna Kone.
questionable defending from a corner saw Koscielny poke narrowly wide
before Walcott saw an effort ruled out for offside as Wenger's side
threatened to render Wigan's end-of-half ascendancy somewhat impotent.
However, moments before the interval, Maloney struck a
lethal free-kick from edge of the area that Wojciech Szczesny's hand
could not prevent from nestling into the bottom corner.
started the second half in a much more confident manner, testing
Szczesny right away as the Polish goalkeeper stood firm to thwart Kone's
close-range attempt, while James McCarthy was half a yard offside when
he tucked home. Arsenal countered immediately and Joel Robles denied
Cazorla as the the home side's freshness became telling.
Robles was kept busy as he blocked Podolski's header and Walcott's near-post drive, though there was little he could do to stop Walcott from prodding home Cazorla's pinpoint cross from the right flank to re-establish the Gunners' lead.
Any hopes of Wigan pulling themselves back into the game and saving their Premier League status were dampened shortly after as Podolski
grabbed his second, capitalising on some static defending to race onto
Cazorla's header and dink over the advancing Robles before Ramsey once again breached the Latics' defence to gleefully rifle home inside the near post.
the job done, Arsenal played out the remainder of the game in the
knowledge that, having leapfrogged north London rivals Tottenham, a
top-four finish is now in their own hands when they meet Newcastle on