Arsenal moved into the top four of the Premier League after a Mikel Arteta penalty gave them a narrow 1-0 win away at Wigan Athletic.
Arteta scored from the spot for the third time this season after Theo Walcott, operating again as a lone striker, was brought to ground by a clumsy challenge from Jean Beausejour just before the hour mark.
It was a rather less convincing performance from Arsenal, and Walcott, after their stylish destruction of Reading on Monday night, but a welcome win still put them in third place ahead of Tottenham's home game with Stoke and Chelsea's match against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Wigan - who remain in the bottom three following a sixth defeat in eight games - toiled hard with little reward but in second-half injury time they should have had a penalty of their own when a shot from Jordi Gomez struck the arm of Kieran Gibbs, who had enough time to move it out of the path of the ball.
Arsenal had won only four of their past 12 games in all competitions, but an impressive 5-2 victory at Reading on Monday convinced Arsene Wenger to name an unchanged side, with Theo Walcott again named as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Injury-hit Wigan made a positional tweak of their own as James McCarthy was unexpectedly asked to perform as an advanced centre-back in a team that veered between two and three at the back.
Wigan's tactical uncertainty and Arsenal's in-built vulnerability made for an open start to the match and the visitors threatened after only nine minutes. Santi Cazorla, fresh from his hat-trick against Reading, produced an extravagant touch to find Arteta through the legs of McCarthy and he fed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the right, who saw a firm drive parried wide by Ali Al-Habsi.
The home side showed plenty of attacking intent but were let down by their poor delivery, Ronnie Stam particularly culpable as a succession of crosses went awry. When Franco Di Santo did play in Arouna Kone with a gorgeous pass off the outside of his boot and the striker accelerated away from Per Mertesacker, Kone's finish from a one-on-one position with Wojciech Szczesny was horrible, the ball dribbling wide.
That was the last genuine chance of the half though as the match degenerated into a slog in the mud and rain, Jack Wilshere remained in the thick of things; unfairly booked for a great challenge on Shaun Maloney one minute, then clattered by both the Scotland international and McCarthy the next as Wigan appeared to try and provoke him into a dismissal.
While Wigan played the ball around with confidence but no real reward, Arsenal were restricted to half-chances from Lukas Podolski and Walcott, the latter of whom was virtually anonymous as his bright performance against Reading faded from memory in an ultimately disappointing half of football.
Arsenal emerged renewed after the break though and quickly hit their stride, Walcott forcing Al-Habsi into a fine save from eight yards out after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got in behind the defence to cross for his fellow England international.
On 60 minutes another attack from the right bore fruit as Walcott darted into the box and was brought to ground by a clumsy challenge from Beausejour. Arteta sent Al-Habsi the wrong way to score his third penalty of the season - more than any other Premier League player.
A rather bizarre moment saw Wigan striker Franco Di Santo ordered from the field of play to take out an earring before referee Jon Moss infuriated Roberto Martinez by neglecting to allow him to return for some minutes. However, if a player leaves the field for anything other than an injury then they can only return at the next break in play, so his decision was the correct one.
Arsenal began to soak up pressure as Maynor Figueroa saw one effort deflected wide and David Jones struck a fearsome first-time shot just wide of the upright, while Szczesny had to make a fine save with his legs to prevent Kone equalising after he escaped the clutches of Bacary Sagna and drove into the box.
Francis Coquelin and then Laurent Koscielny both came on as Arsenal sought to tighten things up but Wigan pressed enthusiastically for an equaliser and were controversially denied a penalty in the second of four added minutes when Gibbs handled from Gomez's shot from 25 yards.
Arsenal, then, were fortunate to take all three points, but a third consecutive league win still represents their joint best run of form this season.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James McCarthy (Wigan) - The midfielder coped well with his unfamiliar, deeper role and also drove forward with real purpose. His use of the ball was always intelligent.
WIGAN: Al-Habsi 7, Boyce 7, McCarthy 8, Figueroa 7, Stam 5, McArthur 6, Jones 7, Beausejour 5, Di Santo 6, Kone 5, Maloney 6. Subs: McManaman 6, Gomez N/A.
ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Sagna 6, Mertesacker 7, Vermaelen 6, Gibbs 6, Arteta 7, Wilshere 6, Cazorla 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Walcott 6, Podolski 5. Subs: Ramsey 6, Coquelin 6, Koscielny N/A.
- Sports & Recreation
- Theo Walcott
- Mikel Arteta