Gary Caldwell, the Wigan Athletic captain, has criticised Robin van Persie for refusing to shake hands after the visitors' surprise victory at Arsenal, with the centre-half's disappointment heightened by the fact he voted for the striker as the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year.
The Latics claimed their first ever points from a trip to Arsenal by prevailing 2-1 on Monday night, a win that thrust them five points clear of the relegation zone and checked the hosts' progress towards Champions League qualification at the other end of the table. The evening had been marked by the home side's frustration by Wigan's attempts to slow down the contest and waste time, with Van Persie's exasperation maintained after the final whistle when he brushed off Caldwell's attempt to shake hands.
"To be at a great club like Arsenal you have to be a bad loser, but I think you also have to have a bit of dignity at the end," said Caldwell. "When we got beaten 4-0 at the DW stadium earlier this season I shook everybody's hand and I expect the same back. He was obviously unhappy. I went to shake his hand and he threw me away, then just gave me a wee pat, which is disappointing. I suppose others wouldn't have done that, but he's a great player because he has that will to win, and a fantastic ambassador for Arsenal.
"These moments happen when you're really disappointed at the performance and the result. You wouldn't want to change that in him, but it's just disappointing from my point of view. There was an incident where I just tried to block him off as I knew the goalkeeper was coming out, and Van Persie gave me a push. But you get on with it. These things happen. I've been in the same situation myself. You lose games and you're bitterly disappointed and you show that in a manner of different ways. Like I said, he's a fantastic player. I actually voted him for player of the year, and I'm sure he'll go on to win that."
The impressive victory maintained Wigan's eye-catching recent form with Roberto Martínez's side having lost only two of their last 11 league games, a sequence that includes wins against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United and an unfortunate if controversial narrow loss at Chelsea. "We looked at the run of fixtures and everyone gave us no chance, so to come out with the point total we've got has put us in a fantastic position," said Caldwell. "The spirit and mood have been good for a number of weeks now.
"Our escape last season stands us in good stead for the run-in, and the manager has a real calmness about him in this situation, when you can really start to panic and lose your head a bit. He really keeps the group calm, and focuses on performance rather than result, and I think if you do that then the results come.
"We've learned a few lessons that, when we're in front, we have to keep playing and be a lot more solid when we're defending. And we have learned from that quickly and it's showed with the results we've had. You know when you're 2-1 up at Anfield or at the Emirates you're going to get put under pressure and you have to be strong and see that out. And I think we are better at doing that now than we have been in previous weeks. But we're still in the thick of a relegation battle, we've done nothing yet and there's a long, long way to go. We've got to get our feet on the ground, recover, and focus on another massive game at Fulham on Saturday."