x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Vermaelen is the star of the show

Having described life at Arsenal as a circus since he joined in the summer, Thomas Vermaelen is certainly having fun.

Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, centre, heads home the opener at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, centre, heads home the opener at the Emirates Stadium.

LONDON // Having described life at Arsenal as a circus since he joined in the summer, Thomas Vermaelen is certainly having fun. The Belgian defender inspired them to an easy victory with two contrasting yet clinical goals. The first was simple, rising high to power in a header from Robin van Persie's corner. But his second oozed style, marching forward, releasing Emmanuel Eboue before collecting the return pass and curling a left-foot shot over Chris Kirkland.

Eboue added a third, deflecting in Eduardo's low drive. To round things off, Cesc Fabregas finished off a right-wing cross from Nicklas Bendtner for his first goal since the 6-1 hammering of Everton on the opening day. After successive defeats in Manchester to both championship rivals United and City, Arsenal needed to get back to winning ways in the league. That was never in doubt once his opener came in the 25th minute after their early domination. It calmed some nerves as Arsenal had created and wasted a conveyor belt of chances. Despite their four goals, there is no doubt they still lack a cutting edge up front.

But it would not have been an injustice had they scored 10 yesterday and Van Persie will wonder how he was not among the scorers. He was difficult to handle, but perhaps he ought to be more incisive than intricate, punishing than pretty. William Gallas, resolute at the back and rampaging in attack, had a header cleared off the line by Titus Bramble as Wigan tried to keep them at bay. But the pressure had to tell and the floodgates opened after the break. Vermaelen's 49th minute effort made it three in two games for him after scoring in the Champions League comeback win at Standard Liege.

Ten minutes later, Eduardo, who got the crucial winner in Belgium, thought he had joined the defender at the top of the Arsenal scoring charts with four this season. After initially hitting the post, the Croatian striker picked up the loose ball and fired past Kirkland, who endured a forgettable 100th league appearance for Wigan. But it touched Eboue en route and he will be claiming it. Roberto Martinez had wanted his Wigan side - who have never beaten Arsenal in their eight attempts - to be brave. That they were, but not bold enough as they were continually penned back in their own half.

Alex Song summed that up with a mazy run unchallenged, but his effort struck the outside of the post. Charles N'Zogbia threatened with his pace as Arsenal's defence, having conceded eight in three games, looked hesitant again. But Vito Mannone - again deputising in goal for the injured Manuel Almunia - was alert and rarely troubled, pushing out a close-range header from Emmerson Boyce that flew straight at him. When Wigan did find the net, through the substitute Paul Scharner after Jason Scotland's shot had been parried by Mannone, it was ruled out for offside.

It was amazing to think these two sides started on the same number of points at the start of this match. Like a gulf in class yesterday, there is likely to be a gulf in points at the end of the campaign. Even though he was struggling with injury, Fabregas added the finishing touch by netting from four yards before Kirkland beat out Tomas Rosicky's drive in injury time. Wigan were spared by the whistle. Had it been a boxing match, this would have been over well before the end.

Martinez conceded that the Gunners did not let his side play: "We made it too easy for Arsenal. We we allowed them to dictate things. Overall the biggest point is that we couldn't be ourselves." The American Hollywood filmmaker Spike Lee, meanwhile, who is an Arsenal fan, will have left the stadium impressed with the London side's show. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae