Ideally, I’d have preferred a week’s break after the Chelsea win just to soak it in. That would have been a nice way to celebrate the festive season. I can’t quite take my mind off that game. Hopefully, the players will not be in the same state.
I guess the best way to move on from a big win is to win the next game. The visit to Wigan gives Arsenal the chance to go joint top after Manchester United blew another lead in an away game. A five goal win might even see Arsenal in pole position but I don’t think it matters at this stage. Three points most certainly do and Arsenal must perform with the kind of discipline we have seen away from home this season.
Wigan are a team I like and Roberto Martinez is a good manager. They do have physical players like Thomas and Hendry but their philosophy is to play football. Tactically that should make things easier for Arsenal. When the opposition tries to keep the ball on the ground and move it around, it just gives the Gunners that bit extra because Arsenal’s defending on the ground is much better than their work in the air.
If all goes well, we should see some high quality football. I guess neither set of supporters will have forgotten the corresponding fixture from last season. Arsenal blew a 2 goal lead in the last ten minutes but unlike many fans I don’t think of that game as a bad performance. It was 20 minutes of horror preceded by 70 minutes of quality. Since that team was a highly depleted one, I see no reason why this year we can’t see fantastic football for 90 minutes.
Nevertheless, Arsenal cannot afford to underestimate a Wigan side that hasn’t lost at home in the League since the middle of September. We must also be wary of the curse of the Carling Cup. Having beaten Newcastle and Tiny Totts in the League Cup away from home, Arsenal lost to them at home. In the last round of the Kiddie Cup the Gunners beat Wigan at home and are now visiting them for a League encounter. It’s not logical but neither were defeats to the Barcodes or Spuds.
In some ways this is a tricky encounter and picking the correct starting eleven will not be easy. I’m thankful I don’t have to make these choices. On one hand there can be an argument for having fresher players like Rosicky, Chamakh, Arshavin, Diaby, Denilson, and Eboue in the starting line-up. On the other, one might say that Wenger should not tinker with a winning combination.
Le Boss will have to find the right balance based on form and fitness. Personally speaking, relying on the same people to do the job and allowing players to build some momentum sounds like the prudent choice. Unless someone like RvP is not ready for two games in three days or a youngster like Wilshere needs a rest, I’d not change the starting eleven except bringing Rosicky in for the suspended Cesc.
Walcott needs a run of games to show some consistency and Wigan’s style will certainly be good for him. Van Persie too needs games to settle into the central striking role. I’ll also like to see a stable partnership developing at the back. There is an argument for playing Arshavin in the absence of Cesc as the Russian has been one of the main creative threats for Arsenal. I guess it will be a tactical decision. Does Arsene want a dribbler like Nasri or some like Arshavin who can unlock the defence?
The starting line-up I’d like to see is,
Fabianski – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Rosicky, Wilshere – Walcott, Rvp, Nasri
Since there are two really tough fixtures in seven days after the visit to the DW stadium, a strong start followed by three substitutions around the hour mark would be perfect. If Arsenal have a two goal lead, Chamakh for RvP, Diaby for Wilshere, and Arshavin for Nasri will be my picks. Of course, this can change based on the way the game pans out.
Having said that, I’ll be really surprised if Arsenal don’t make more changes. Wenger has been a lot more flexible in terms of rotation this season even at the risk of a poor result. He must have good reasons for making those choices and we certainly can’t argue with his experience in these matters even if the results have been frustrating. I’ll be happy with any starting eleven as long as they don’t play Santa for the Latics.