Wigan 0 – 1 Arsenal: Arsenal’s true leader makes it a merrier Christmas

Wigan 0 – 1 Arsenal (Arteta 60)
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Mikel Arteta has scored some incredibly important goals for Arsenal…
Last season there was the dramatic winner against Man City, and in this campaign alone he’s proved the difference against QPR, West Brom and Wigan, collecting an invaluable nine points along the way.  It’s a record that cements his status as the true leader of this Arsenal team.  Thomas Vermaelen may wear the armband, but when it comes to taking responsibility on the pitch, there is no-one more commanding than Arteta.

Bacary Sagna showed his class, again…
Midway through the first half there was a little moment when Sagna, stuck on the touchline and under pressure from two Wigan players, played a left-footed curling pass between the two onrushing players, across the field, and in to the path of Thomas Vermaelen.  That is impressive enough.  What I haven’t mentioned yet is that as he did this, Sagna was falling over.  It was an incredible show of balance, strength, athleticism and technique.  And, critically, something I’m not sure Carl Jenkinson will ever be able to do.  Bacary Sagna is one of the best right-backs in the world.  It’s essential the club do everything they can to keep him.

Oxlade-Chamberlain should be starting regularly now…
He was our most dangerous attacking threat against Wigan, but a better reason to be playing him is that he represents a huge part of the future of this club.  The other options on that right flank do not represent long-term options: Gervinho is a player whose talent seems to be on the wane; Theo Walcott still looks destined to walk away on a Bosman; and Aaron Ramsey will surely settle as a central midfielder rather than auxiliary wide-man.  The Ox needs game-time to improve, and now he’s showing signs of a return to form, there’s no reason not to give it to him.

Wojciech Szczesny made a couple of crucial saves…
…that suggest he is returning to his best.  It’s clear that being dropped by Poland during EURO 2012 affected his confidence, and the injuries he was carrying in the first half of the year also undermined him.  Now, after a prolonged rest, he looks a better and more mature ‘keeper.  His save from Arouna Kone was the difference between this being one point and three.

The table is outrageously tight…
Yesterday’s results mean that we are now level on 30 points with Everton, Tottenham, and West Brom.  Chelsea sit just one point behind, but have two games in hand.  Despite their impressive form this season, I still expect the Baggies to fall away, meaning the Champions League spots will go to two from the remaining foursome.

The fact we sit in third certainly puts a shinier perspective on things.  Three league wins in a row gives us some semblance of momentum, and our remaining fixture of the year (Newcastle at home) looks eminently winnable.  The New Year will enable us to draw a line under an uncomfortable 2012, and also hopefully under our tentative transfer policy. If Arsene’s New Year’s Resolution is to loosen the purse strings, it could make for a brighter, shinier 2013.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.