Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted Emmanuel Eboue could have handed Wigan a point if the substitute had not been replaced in the last minute at the Emirates Stadium.
Eboue was brought on in the 32nd minute of the 1-0 win but suffered ignominy of being taken off again after a series of mistakes, including taking the ball off team-mate Kolo Toure then passing straight back to the visitors. Home fans gave ironic cheers when Eboue stormed off.
"It was a difficult decision but he had completely lost his confidence," said Wenger. "He couldn't keep the ball any more and had become a danger."
He added: "I just didn't want the 90 minutes' work to go to waste. The fans contributed. He's a sensitive boy who wants to do well and he cares about the club.
"It was very sad but the important thing was that we won the game. I can understand him going straight down the tunnel because the crowd were very hard on him."
Emmanuel Adebayor grabbed the only goal of the game, latching onto Cesc Fabregas' pass after Titus Bramble had been held off by Alex Song.
Victory was important for Wenger as this clash was seen as a true test of the Gunners' title credentials.
They had beaten Chelsea last Sunday but too many memorable recent results have been followed by defeats against so-called lesser opposition.
"We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot this time," Wenger said. "It was a nervy game because we didn't finish things off.
"We played with the handbrake on because of our recent history but there have been times when we have played well and didn't win - we didn't play well but we won."
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