Arsenal 3 Wigan 0

Ronnie Stam runs at the Gunners
Ronnie Stam runs at the Gunners
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ROBIN van Persie showed no mercy whatsoever with a clinical hat-trick as woeful Wigan suffered more capital punishment.

Latics have a wretched record in the smoke, the 1-0 win across north London at Spurs earlier this season the solitary bright spot in recent years.

Once more they were put to the sword as Van Persie ran riot to keep Wigan deep in the relegation mire with games fast running out.

Incredibly, the Dutchman wasn’t even the most outstanding player the pitch.

That honour went to Ali Al Habsi, without whom this could and probably would have been as bad as the eight and nine-goal beatings suffered at Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane last term.

Van Persie could even afford to miss a penalty and hit the post with another effort, such were the opportunities afforded him by his team-mates and the overly-generous Wigan rearguard.

The visitors’ afternoon was compounded by the late dismissal of skipper Gary Caldwell, a miserable end to a thoroughly unhappy afternoon.

In contrast, the day had started so well for the Caldwell clan, with Steven being drafted in for the injured Antolin Alcaraz to line up for alongside his brother for the very first time at club level.

But the Scottish duo, along with the rest of the Wigan defence, were immediately put under huge pressure by almost relentless home attacking.

Al Habsi made a fine save to deny Samir Nasri with barely three minutes on the clock, but that was nothing compared to the stop five minutes later that kept Latics on level terms.

Theo Walcott did well down the right to pull the ball back to Van Persie, and the Dutchman must have thought he’d scored when he made a decent connection with his right foot.

However, Al Habsi stuck up a hand and somehow diverted the ball away at point-blank range, a stunning save that brought applause from all sides of the stadium.

Wigan had a brief shout for a penalty in between when Charles N’Zogbia appeared to be tripped on the edge of the box by Gael Clichy, only for ref Kevin Friend to wave play on.

The official was in friendlier mood to the Gunners moments later, penalising Gary Caldwell on the edge of his own box for a tug on Van Persie, although he only blew for a free-kick and not the spot-kick the home side were after.

Thankfully, the set-piece from Nasri was hit straight at the wall, but there was more danger on the way as Walcott again got to the byline and his cutback found Cesc Fabregas.

This time, though, Gary Caldwell threw himself in the way of the shot and the ball deflected over the top.

However, the one-way traffic had to tell at some point, and the opening goal duly arrived on 21 minutes.

Alex Song played the ball through for Van Persie down the left channel, with Maynor Figueroa playing him onside on the near side, and the finish was emphatic into the bottom corner.

There was more trouble on the half-hour mark as Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Nasri combined to tee up Fabregas, whose volley was parried away to safety by Al Habsi.

But it really should have been two on 34 minutes, when Latics got caught upfield at a corner and the Gunners broke with devastating effect.

Walcott was played in right through the middle but, instead of going for goal, he tried to be far too clever, sliding a sideways pass towards Fabregas, which allowed Momo Diame to get back and make a timely tackle.

The ball rebounded back to Walcott, but by the time the England man shot, Wigan had numbers back and Steven Caldwell made the intervention.

Al Habsi then tipped over a long-range shot from Nasri, before denying Fabregas from the resulting corner with a magnificent reflex save.

The Oman international was needed again four minutes before half-time to deny Nasri, enabling Latics to go in to the break battered and bruised but somehow still in the game.

Not surprisingly, Martinez made changes at the break, bringing on James McArthur and Franco di Santo to add some fresh legs, with Ronnie Stam and Diame making way.

And Latics showed more in the opening couple of minutes of the second half than they had in the opening 45 minutes, McArthur firing on to the roof of the net to at least give Wojciech Szczesny something to think about.

Normal service was resumed by the hour mark, however, when Fabregas’ long ball evaded Gary Caldwell and was volleyed home by Van Persie, Al Habsi this time unable to do anything about it.

After Di Santo headed wide from a Figueroa cross, Wigan’s afternoon went from bad to worse on 65 minutes.

Fabregas found himself on the end of a lovely move and, just as he was about to pull the trigger, he was tripped by Gary Caldwell for a clear penalty.

The letter of the law also dictated that the red card brandished by Mr Friend was inevitable, and Latics were staring down the barrels at a horribly long final quarter.

Fortunately, Van Persie did his bit to keep the scoreboard respectable by skying the penalty well over the bar, although moments later he did rather better, striking the outside of the post with a delightful effort.

Di Santo again got his head to the ball in the Arsenal box, although once more he failed to hit the target, and Wigan’s intentions for the rest of the game were shown when N’Zogbia made way for Emmerson Boyce for the final quarter of an hour.

But goal number three eventually arrived on 85 minutes when Walcott held off Figueroa far too easily in the Wigan box, allowing Van Persie to steal in and smash past Al Habsi at the near post.