Arsenal vs Wigan: The huge importance of Mertesacker’s equalising goal
It is rather fortuitous that Per Mertesacker stooped low to head past the dive of the imperious Scott Carson and cancel out Jordi Gomez’s composed penalty. He is a man of very little goals, scoring at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season and in an international friendly against England where he captained Germany at Wembley.
Arsène Wenger deliberately did not show much emotion. From his time in Japan, managing Nagoya Grampus Eight, Wenger learnt to mask his emotions, claiming you would be the subject of laughter were you to show any emotion. Yet, his relief was clear.
He had resorted to biting his fingernails at one point with his bold substitutions, when he withdrew Lukas Podolski for Olivier Giroud, publicly scrutinised. He was visibly a frustrated man, lamenting Sanago’s constant offside positioning. The tension was getting to him, before Mertesacker stepped up to amend for conceding the penalty.
A recent poll, per the Daily Mail, revealed the thin line Wenger is treading on. Failure to win the FA Cup or qualify for the Champions League and it’s curtains on an illustrious 18-year reign.
Had Mertesacker not scored, Arsenal would have been eliminated from the FA Cup with their permanent residency in the Champions League in serious doubt. They return to Premier League action on Tuesday to face West Ham at home, and Sam Allardyce would have been watching in delight as the Gunners’ injury-hit squad played 120 minutes.
Relief reverberated around the Arsenal end at the end of the game, out-numbering their Latics counter-parts with a ratio of 5:1, as the players wheeled away in euphoric celebration, confirming the huge importance of the goal. The momentum was with them, and after extra-time and Fabianski’s shootout heroics, Cazorla ambled up to fire Arsenal, not Wigan, into the FA Cup final.