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22.01.2011 International

Arsenal 3 - 0 Wigan

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Robin van Persie scored his first hat-trick as Arsenal outclassed Wigan.

Keeper Ali Al Habsi gave Wigan hope with superb saves, the best of them denied Cesc Fabregas and Van Persie.

But he was finally beaten when Van Persie lashed in from inside the box and again when the Dutchman sweetly volleyed in from Fabregas's long pass.

Van Persie skied a penalty, conceded by Gary Caldwell who was sent off, and also hit the post before scoring his third with a shot at the near post.

Arsenal's victory keeps them in touch with leaders Manchester United and moves them above Manchester City to second place in the table - although the Eastlands side play later on Saturday.

The performance was a sign of real intent for Arsenal as they continue their pursuit for silverware on four fronts - and with Van Persie firing on all cylinders, the odds look good on them winning a first trophy since 2005.

Home form could well determine the Gunners' success, this match being the first of four games for them at the Emirates in 11 days - and on this evidence they will fancy their chances of winning them all.

Wigan looked every inch a side languishing in the relegation zone and there was never any indication they would arrest a run that had seen them lose all of their previous eight Premier League matches at Arsenal.

But take nothing away from Arsenal, who were driven on by the brilliance of Van Persie and Fabregas and only prevented from being out of sight at half-time by the feats of Al Habsi.

The Wigan stopper saved from the lively Samir Nasri early on and followed that up with a better stop to deny Van Persie from close range.

Both Fabregas and Van Persie had returned to the starting line-up after being on the substitutes' bench for the FA Cup win over Leeds in midweek - and the pair were at their influential best.

It was the Dutchman who finally ended Wigan's resistance when he cracked home first time from Song's through ball.

Fabregas almost followed his team-mate's example but a lunge from Gary Caldwell brilliantly blocked his shot.

The Spaniard was then denied by Al Habsi again when the keeper beat away his rising drive.

A great pass from Van Persie split Wigan's defence and gave Theo Walcott a free run on goal, but the winger bizarrely opted to square the ball for the onrushing Fabregas, who was tackled by Mohamed Diame.

Al Habsi kept Arsenal at bay yet again when he tipped over Nasri's fizzing effort and Wigan were grateful to reach the interval only one goal down.

But the onslaught continued after the restart, with Nasri and Walcott firing off target.

When the second goal came, it was a belter - Fabregas launching an inch-perfect ball over the top for Van Persie to volley in without breaking stride.

Two goals down and with little chance of getting back into the game, Wigan's task was made impossible when Gary Caldwell was dismissed for bringing down Fabregas in the box.

It was the first penalty Wigan have conceded in the league all season, but Van Persie failed to convert when he smashed the ball high over the bar.

And when the Dutch striker curled a sublime effort against the post shortly after, it seemed he would miss out on his hat-trick.

Then with five minutes left, Walcott held the ball up in the area and Van Persie duly cracked home from close range.

While Arsenal will revel in having a fully-fit and in-form Van Persie available, Wigan will be glad to leave London and look to resume their fight against relegation in their next game - against fellow strugglers Aston Villa.

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