WIGAN, United Kingdom: Mikel Arteta’s controversial penalty gave Arsenal a hard-fought 1-0 victory over struggling Wigan at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
The three points lifted Arsene Wenger’s team into third place in the Premier League table, although Chelsea and Tottenham can both climb back above the Gunners with wins this weekend.
But the narrowness of the margin reflected the considerable contribution of Wigan, who did not look like a team languishing third from bottom, and another erratic performance from Arsenal.
Arsenal’s third successive league win was secured by the second half penalty converted by Spanish midfielder Arteta after Jean Beausejour challenged Theo Walcott from behind.
“It was very important because we beat West Brom at home and now we have two away wins (against Reading and Wigan),” Wenger said.
“It was a difficult game because they stopped us from playing. I believe they are in the wrong position in the table.”
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez added: “The penalty was very soft. Theo Walcott is very clever there.
“We are in the middle of a period where calls are not going our way but we played with a great mentality and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Arsenal had an early scare when Arouna Kone was flagged marginally offside from James McArthur’s pass as Wigan took the game to Arsenal.
Latics goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, making his 100th appearance since being signed from Bolton, had to save from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a smart move from Arsenal.
Santi Carzola, their hat-trick hero in Monday’s 5-2 win at Reading, produced a fabulous pass to send Arteta surging through the middle to threaten Al Habsi’s goal.
At the other end Kone, heading for the Africa Cup of Nations next month with Ivory Coast, slipped past two tackles but elected to shoot from long range and gave Wojciech Szczesny a routine save.
But Arsenal were finding plenty of space in the Wigan half. Lukas Podolski saw his fierce shot beaten out by Al Habsi and Boyce was obliged to clear Cazorla’s low raking cross soon after.
Franco Di Santo’s fine backheel set up a one-two with Shaun Maloney but his team-mate’s return was too far ahead and Szczensny got there first.
Then after 23 minutes Di Santo conjured the pass of the game, a brilliant effort from inside his own half that allowed Kone to get the advantage over Per Mertesacker, only for the striker to pull his shot wide when Szczesny rushed out.
The huge groans of frustration from the home crowd indicated that they were not expecting to have many more chances of that quality against Wenger’s team.
Ronnie Stam did cut in after a good Wigan passing move but his weak shot was easily smothered at the near post.
Jack Wilshere became the first player in the referee’s book but was extremely unlucky to be penalised for what replays showed to be a perfectly fair tackle on Maloney.
Al Habsi had to mark his century appearance for Wigan with a marvellous save from Walcott to prevent Arsenal taking the lead after 48 minutes.
Oxlade-Chamberlain reached the byeline before pulling the ball back for the unmarked Walcott to shoot first time from six yards but Al Habsi was equal to it.
But when the Gunners did take the lead on the hour, Walcott was at the centre of things as he went down in the penalty area under minimal contact from Beausejour.
Referee Jon Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, and Arteta stepped up to send Al Habsi the wrong way with the penalty kick.
Wigan’s response suggested an equaliser might be on the cards, but Maynor Figueroa’s low shot was saved and Kone had another beaten out by Szczesny.