Arsenal 3-0 Wigan
Arsenal’s Carlos Vela made one goal and scored another
Arsenal’s youngsters produced another outstanding display to brush aside Wigan and book their place in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.
A pinpoint pass from Jack Wilshere set up fellow teenager Jay Simpson to poke home on his first start for the club.
They added a second when a blistering counter-attack ended with Carlos Vela squaring for Simpson to sidefoot home.
Vela outpaced Titus Bramble before chipping Chris Kirkland with a stunning lob to complete the scoring.
The Mexican’s finish was reminiscent of his breathtaking effort in the demolition of Sheffield United in the previous round.
It was met by joyful appreciation from manager Arsene Wenger on the sidelines and it was hardly surprising after seeing his side, with an average age of just 19, take apart a Wigan side full of Premier League experience.
Wenger stuck with 10 of the side that demolished the Blades in the previous round, with the one addition of Simpson making it eight teenagers in the starting line-up.
They looked nervous in the opening stages and keeper Lukasz Fabianski was less than convincing in coming a long way out of his goal to try and collect a long throw only to completely miss the ball.
But it was his opposite number Chris Kirkland who was the busier of the two goalkeepers throughout.
The England stopper pulled off a string of top saves to deny a Gunners side that got better and better as the game progressed.
Vela was the first to test him as he raced through on goal and held off the challenge of Emmerson Boyce, only for Kirkland to pinch the ball from his feet as he tried to go round the keeper.
Simpson turned well before firing a shot against the top of the bar and Kieran Gibbs saw his effort saved by Kirkland.
Wigan’s attacks were infrequent, with only a Daniel De Ridder shot at Fabianski and a Jason Koumas effort over the bar to show for a disappointing opening period.
Arsenal stepped up the pace and Aaron Ramsay’s free-kick almost found its way into the top corner, only for Kirkland to get across brilliantly to keep it out.
Kirkland seemed to be struggling after landing awkwardly, but he was still able to tip another Vela effort around the post.
The goalkeeper was proving to be a one-man blockade but even he could do nothing to prevent the opener.
It was Wilshere – the youngest player on the pitch at just 16 – who was the creator with a defence-splitting pass for Simpson to run onto and slip through Kirkland’s legs.
Wigan had appeals for a penalty when Johan Djourou seemed to handle in the area, but the visitors were forced to spend the rest of the second period chasing young shadows.
Simpson headed a Fran Merida cross over the bar and Ramsey slipped in a delicious pass for Kieran Gibbs, who drove a shot at Kirkland.
Arsenal and Simpson got a deserved second when Fabianski cleared a Wigan cross and the home side launched a sweeping counter-attack that saw Vela pick out his strike partner to sidefoot home.
They saved their best for last as a Djourou pass out of defence sent Vela on his way and he outpaced Bramble before cheekily clipping the ball over Kirkland.
Fabianski ensured a miserable night all round for Wigan when he somehow kept out an Amr Zaki close-range effort in the dying stages.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
“I am very proud of the players and of the quality of the display. Overall the whole team has done very well.
“That’s the most complete side of youngsters we have had and with many good young English players.
“It’s very good for the future of the club to see that it is in safe hands.”
Wigan manager Steve Bruce:
“We didn’t make it a cup tie. We had to make sure their good players didn’t play and enjoy themselves like they did.
“It was a blatant penalty but I’ve got no excuses – they were better than us on the night.
“They have some wonderfully talented players but I’m bitterly disappointed. They have kicked our backsides.”
Arsenal: Fabianski, Hoyte, Song Billong, Djourou, Gibbs, Wilshere (Bischoff 76), Randall, Ramsey, Merida, Simpson (Lansbury 76), Vela (Fonte 84).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Coquelin, Ogogo, Frimpong.
Goals: Simpson 42, 66, Vela 70.
Wigan: Kirkland, Cattermole (Brown 67), Boyce, Bramble, Melchiot, Valencia, Koumas (Camara 58), Palacios, De Ridder, Figueroa, Zaki.
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Taylor, Scharner, Kilbane, Cywka.
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).