Struggling to assert themselves in the game despite creating a lot of chances, Arsenal scraped their way into the FA Cup final by beating holders Wigan on penalties to keep alive their hopes of ending a nine-year trophy drought. Jordi Gomez’s penalty put the Latics on course to reach another final, but Per Mertesacker’s late equaliser maintained Arsenal’s hopes of winning their first silverware since they claimed this trophy in 2005. The teams could not be separated by extra time and, when it went to penalties, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved Wigan’s first two spot-kicks, from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, to put Arsenal on the way to a meeting with either Hull City or Sheffield United.
Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom and Olivier Giroud were all on target for Arsenal – while James McArthur and Jean Beausejour scored for Wigan – leaving Santi Cazorla to send the Gunners fans wild with celebration and relief with the decisive penalty. Arsenal had the better of the chances before penalties, with Wigan keeper Scott Carson twice denying Yaya Sanogo, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting the woodwork in extra time. And this win will seem crucial for Arsenal because earlier in the day, Everton moved ahead by 2 points into 4th place, pushing Arsenal to 5th with just 5 games remaining in the league. Wenger stuck with his policy of replacing Wojciech Szczesny with Fabianski and playing Sanogo in attack, and the youngster almost made the crucial early breakthrough. McManaman was the central figure as Wigan went ahead after 63 minutes, referee Michael Oliver having an easy decision as Mertesacker dived in recklessly in the area. An injury to Monreal, which required his replacement by Kieran Gibbs, meant almost a four-minute delay before Gomez could take his kick, but he remained commendably cool to beat Fabianski with a perfect penalty.
Wenger needed to react but his decision to replace Lukas Podolski, rather than the struggling Sanogo, with Giroud was met with a loud chorus of jeering from the increasingly anxious Gunners fans. Arsenal, as they had to do, finally demonstrated a greater sense of urgency, and a frantic few seconds led to the equaliser after 82 minutes. Sagna had headed against the post and Carson had again saved superbly from Gibbs before Mertesacker arrived at the far post to score with a stooping header from Gibbs’s scuffed shot. The Gunners had gathered momentum and only the woodwork saved Wigan as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful shot rattled out off the angle of post and bar with Carson helpless. Then came penalties – and the shot at a trophy Arsenal have waited for since 2005. Next up is either Sheffield United or Hull City.