Arsenal 4 Wigan 2

  • By: Jim van Wijk, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: October 16 2012, 9:58 BST

Thierry Henry provided a fitting finale for Highbury as his hat-trick secured Arsenal a place in the Champions League next season, when Wigan were beaten 4-2 in the last match the famous old stadium would host.

Hleb tries to find a way through

Knowing they had to better the result of north London rivals Tottenham, who were at West Ham, to claim fourth spot in the Barclays Premiership, it was a composed display by Arsene Wenger's emerging side against the Latics, who had done their best to spoil the party.

As news of the Hammers' 2-1 win filtered through, the Highbury faithful were able to revel in their team's achievements in what has been a season of transition.

Now, all that remains is the European Cup final showdown with Barcelona in Paris on May 17 and who would bet against Arsenal starting life in their new state-of-the-art Emirates Stadium as European champions in August?

Wigan have enjoyed a superb maiden season in the top flight, their Premiership status secure well before this afternoon. Paul Jewell had masterminded a famous result here earlier in the campaign to book their place in the Carling Cup final - and the Latics again looked keen.

Arsenal, though, soon found their passing rhythm and were ahead on eight minutes. Cesc Fabregas sent the ball over from the right, which Gilberto headed down.

Robert Pires' initial shot was well saved by Mike Pollitt, but the Frenchman reacted quickly to stab the loose ball in from close range.

No sooner had the goal celebrations died down, news of West Ham taking the lead over Spurs reverberated around the ground.

Perhaps those cheers were premature, however, as Wigan snatched an equaliser on 10 minutes. David Thompson's free-kick from the left went through to Paul Scharner - and the Austrian sidefooted past Jens Lehmann.

Wigan should then have been awarded a penalty on 15 minutes. Jason Roberts got ahead of Sol Campbell down the right, and burst into the area. Although the veteran England man tracked back, he clearly chopped down the Wigan striker with a sliding tackle. Referee Uriah Renee, however, was unimpressed - and booked Wigan defender Matt Jackson for his vehement protests.

At the other end, Fabregas slipped Pires in on the overlap, but this time the French midfielder was off target with an angled drive from 10 yards.

Wigan midfielder David Thompson then silenced Highbury when he smashed in a 35-yard free-kick on 33 minutes. There seemed little danger when the winger, once on the fringes of the England team, took a long run-up, just to the left of centre. He got some venom behind the strike - and the flight of the ball completely wrong-footed Lehmann, bouncing in and up past the despairing right-handed dive of the German international.

Normal service was resumed, however, with 10 minutes to go before half-time. Henry beat the offside trap when he latched on to Pires' pass, and made no mistake when slotting the ball under Pollitt for his 25th Premiership goal of the season.

Thompson had another go with a free-kick from a similar position on 43 minutes, but this time Lehmann collected the ball well at his right-hand post.

It was a positive start to the second half by Wigan, with Roberts laying off a pass to Lee McCulloch from the edge of the area, but he fired over.

Henri Camara then tricked his way into the left side of the six-yard box, and sent an acrobatic scissors-kick just over the bar.

Henry then made it 3-2 on 56 minutes. A poor choice of pass back towards his own goal from Thompson was latched on to by the French striker and the Arsenal captain duly skipped past Pollitt before rolling the ball into an empty net.

With 27 minutes to go, Pires skipped down the left side of the area, before flicking the ball back from the touchline. Fabregas sent a darting header goalwards, which was first palmed away by Pollitt from point-blank range and then hacked clear by Jackson.

No sooner had Freddie Ljungberg come on, for Pires in the final 20 minutes, then he won a penalty after being tugged back by Andreas Johansson - who was promptly sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity just moments after having been introduced as a substitute himself.

Henry sent Pollitt the wrong way - and dropped to his knees in homage to the North Bank faithful in what some suggest could be the Frenchman's final Premiership match in Arsenal colours. Veteran Dennis Bergkamp was given a hero's welcome when he came on for Reyes with 12 minutes left, just as news of West Ham's winning goal from Yossi Benayoun filtered through - and the celebrations could then begin.

Teams: Arsenal Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Campbell, Cole,Hleb (Van Persie 79), Fabregas, Silva, Pires (Ljungberg 74),Reyes (Bergkamp 79), Henry. Subs Not Used: Almunia, Djourou.

Booked: Fabregas.

Goals: Pires 8, Henry 35, 56, 76 pen.

Wigan Pollitt, Chimbonda, Jackson, Scharner, Baines,Thompson (Johansson 73), Kavanagh, Ziegler (Francis 66),McCulloch, Roberts, Camara (Connolly 82). Subs Not Used: Henchoz, Wright.

Sent Off: Johansson (76).

Booked: Jackson.

Goals: Scharner 10, Thompson 33.

Att: 38,359

Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).