Premier League - Early Doors: Arsenal feel ground beneath them move

Tue, 17 Apr 06:04:00 2012

Early Doors loves a crazy statistic, especially when it is alarming but encapsulates a solid truth.

2011-12 Premier League Wigan Antolin Alcaraz Arsenal Robin van Persie - 0

Early Doors loves a crazy statistic, especially when it is alarming but encapsulates a solid truth.

Like, for example, that only Jose Enrique has made more tackles in the league this season among the Liverpool squad this season than Lucas, despite the fact that the Brazilian has been out since November.

Or how, if Manchester United retain their title this season, Ryan Giggs will have won as many league championships as Arsenal.

Another beauty in that mould ahead of the Gunners' home game against Wigan last night was that Robin van Persie had scored as many goals this season – 33 - in all competitions as the entire Latics squad.

No one had scored for Wigan at the Emirates since Denny Landzaat did more than five years ago, but the visitors scored two inside the first 10 minutes which saw them beat the Gunners 2-1 last night.

Franco di Santo celebrated his opener in the understated manner of a striker who scores with regularity, not someone who had just scored only his fifth goal of the season and his first since November. Mind you, seeing as that strike made him Wigan's top scorer, he is a goal machine in comparison to the rest of his team-mates.

Jordi Gomez made it two a minute later, and Arsenal could only muster a goal from Thomas Vermaelen in reply as their supposed march to third place took a tumble.

Arsenal have transformed from their shambolic early-season selves into a serious proposition once again, storming to the top three after spending the October international break in the bottom half of the table. Now, after talk of opening an 11-point gap between them and Spurs and Newcastle come Saturday afternoon, the Gunners look shaky again.

They host Chelsea in the lunchtime kick-off this weekend. Defeat against the Blues then would leave them just five points above their two main rivals for the final automatic Champions League place having played two games more.

More bad news was to come for the Gunners when Mikel Arteta – perhaps Arsenal's best player in recent games – was substituted after just nine minutes with an ankle injury that Arsene Wenger described as "serious" after the match. The Spaniard is likely to join defender Per Mertesacker on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

It was another injury blow for Wenger, who also revealed that midfielder Jack Wilshere would not only miss the rest of a season in which he has played no part but would also not be fit for the European Championships.

Striker and captain Van Persie looks odds on to win the PFA Player of the Year award this Sunday, and deservedly so, but he has not been performing to his own exemplary standards for a while now. In his last eight games, the Dutchman has only scored three times, with two of those coming from the penalty spot.

Wenger fielded is oldest Arsenal team for more than six years against Wigan. Anything less than a win over Chelsea on Saturday would be sure to make them age quicker than normal from the stress of a renewed three-way battle for third place.

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Many column inches - including here - were devoted to paying tribute to Roberto Martinez and Wigan after they claimed their first ever win over Manchester United last week.

Once again they have claimed a huge scalp. They did so by rigidly sticking to their own style of football, and it is now paying dividends at a crucial stage of the season.

While Wolves were picking up their first point in eight matches, Blackburn were losing their fifth straight game, QPR extended their run of no away wins since November and Bolton... er... weren't playing at the weekend, Wigan put in another outstanding performance against a top side.

Had they not been on the wrong end of some awful officiating against Chelsea, then their return in their last three matches – against each of the last three teams to win the title – could have been seven or even nine points.

A run of fixtures which must have been slowly looming ever larger over the Latics all season may have yielded enough points to keep them up for another season.

It is still not too late to declare them safe - they are more than capable of losing heavily at Fulham in their next game - but considering the shower that is the rest of the bottom five you could be forgiven for assuming their five-point gap may well do the trick.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am naturally very pleased to be discharged from hospital and would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to every single member of staff at The London Chest Hospital who have played a part in my care. Their dedication, professionalism and expertise is simply amazing and I will forever be in their debt. I also wish to say thank you to all the many well-wishers who have sent thousands of messages of support. Now I am out of hospital, I am looking forward to continuing my recovery and spending precious time with my family." – Fabrice Muamba gives thanks to all those who helped and supported him after being discharged from hospital less than a month after his dramatic collapse on the pitch at White Hart Lane. Less than an hour afterwards, it was also announced that Trevor Francis had also left hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack last Friday.

FOREIGN VIEW: If you have just eaten your breakfast, ED is giving you fair warning before you read the next sentence. Imane Fadil, a witness in Silvio Berlusconi's trial for having sex with an underage prostitute, claimed in court yesterday that the former Italian premier had a young Brazilian model "with an AC Milan jersey and a Ronaldinho mask, who stripped down to her thong" at one of his infamous 'bunga bunga' parties. Don't say you weren't warned.

COMING UP: We'll have full live coverage of a titanic Champions League semi-final first leg clash at the Allianz Arena – Bayern Munich v Real Madrid (19:45), plus see if Reading can seal promotion back up to the Premier League this evening with our live updates from a full programme of Championship games (19:45).

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