Date: 9th March 2008 at 8:01pm
Written by: baskerville

All the media hype before the game both during the week and today was focused on the state of the JJB pitch and no doubt the newspapers tomorrow will harp on about it but in truth this will be unfair as both sides sought to play a passing game ( and largely succeeded) and it also detracts from yet another committed team performance from the Latics.

Steve Bruce chose to keep faith with the starting line up from last week, the only changes being on the bench with the return of Killer and Taylor from injury at the expense of Olembe and Bent.

Arsenal bouyed by the tremendous victory in the Champions league at the San Siro on Tuesday started with purpose and could have been ahead in the first minute when Adebayor broke free and was one on one with Kirkland who did well to save.

Most of Wigan`s good play came down the right hand side with the skilful Melchiot linking with the mercurial Valencia who kept Clichy occupied all afternoon.

Latics best chance in the first half was when Valencia broke through and created spaced for a shot but inexplicably passed back to Palacios who blasted the ball wide.

Arsenal were playing the ball up the other end with some lovely one touch football making a mockery of the criticism of the pitch and the Latics back four who were outstanding had to be in top notch form.

When Arsenal did breach the defence they found Kirkland in imperious form which must put him in contention for an England recall.

Brown and Palacios worked hard in midfield amazingly Brown escaped a caution from a card happy Mr Styles whose only booking in the first half was to Bentner for taking the legs from under Koumas.

At one stage Heskey looked to be heading for a card of some colour when he clashed with Fabregas by the West stand and Fabregas went down clutching his face.

Mr Styles ignored Heskey and proceeded to admonish Fabregas but didn`t book him.

Heskey who once again looked off the pace the pace but challenged strongly in the last couple of minutes in the first half winning a corner but getting injured in the process.

Latics started the second half as if they had received a rocket form the gaffer with Brown, Koumas and Valencia looking particularly lively.

Heskey was limping with a foot injury (and is due to have an x-ray tomorrow)and it was no surprise when he was replaced in the 55th minute by Siberski .

Siberski immediately looked lively and whilst he hasn`t the pace of old he has a good footballing brain and was looking to lay the ball off to the wingers and to King who looked more at ease playing with the Frenchman than with Heskey.

The game was end to end stuff with both sides having chances to win it but both sides coming up against goalkeepers in top class form.

Alumina saving brilliantly from Valencia and Fabregas by Kirkland. Indeed in the last couple of minutes Latics could have won it when a three on two break wasn`t capitalised on and a corner resulted.

At the final whistle the roars that greeted the Latics heroes showed how important the crowd viewed the point and the third clean sheet on the trot gives the team a great platform to build on

Player Ratings

Could have been caught cold in the first minute but saved well and bravely. Only blemish was not calling for a ball which resulted in a clash with Scharner the ball bouncing free but thankfully the shot was blocked.

If the skill shown by super Mario is how the full backs in Holland play we need to establish a scouting network over there and sign as many players as possible. A class act.

Solid and unspectacular

Had his hands full with Bentner and Adebayor but didn`t lose anything in comparison.

Like Boycie Scharner had his hands full with the Arsenal forward line but also like Boycie came out on top

Quiet first half in which no one seemed to want to pass to him. Came to life in the second half and could have won it for us late on.

He was absolutely everywhere, a superb terrier of a player who gets in amongst the opposition. Would hate him if he played for the opposition but thankfully he doesn`t.

Was up against Fabregas and Hleb and worked hard, not allowed to dominate games the way he can do.

One of his best games for Latics but should have shot early on in the first half as evidenced by his shot in the second half.

A poor first half before he was injured, desperately needs a goal but no shots on target again today.

Working hard but again no shots on target, trying to hold the ball up but is easily knocked off it .

Showed the other forwards how it is done, holds the ball up well, lays it off and shows good anticipation. Should start for me.

Not on pitch long enough to have an influence

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce?7

Credit for sticking with Koumas when a defensive midfielder such as Killer might have been the easy option. Sorry he dropped Bent from the bench in favour of Taylor

Ref Watch
Mr Styles?6

Refused to be conned by Fabregas et al but was very quick to flash he card in the second half.

The pitch?5
Didn`t cut up as bad as was expected although it apparently took the commentators only 6 seconds to criticise it