This is the third time in seven weeks that Arsenal are playing Wigan. We can be sure there will be no surprises for either team. Roberto Martinez had respect and praise for Arsenal. Arshavin is hoping for a landslide victory while Arsene says any win will be a massive result.
I liked the way Arsene is looking at things. He knows there are 9 home and 7 away games remaining and results at home will make the key difference come May. I feel Arsenal will need 12 wins out of those 16 games and 8 of these will have to come at home. Tough ask but achievable, starting with a solid display against Wigan who have failed to score at the emirates in their last five visits.
Nonetheless, the visitors must not be underestimated. They’ve achieved some good results at home and are unbeaten in three away games. The Latics also have a tighter defence away from home having conceded 8 goals fewer than at home albeit with two games less. It’s easy to see why Wenger doesn’t share Arshavin’s desire of a landslide win but those who have seen the previous two encounters of these teams will certainly expect a full strength Arsenal side to take three points.
Tactically, we can expect a Martinez to use a 4-5-1 that he seems to favour. The attacking threat will come from the pace and skills of Rodallega up front and from wide areas with players like N’Zogbia running at the defenders.
Arsenal will have to avoid the organizational mistakes we saw at Wigan that left the defence exposed. They’ll also have to do much better on set-pieces. The height and presence of Szczesny might be an advantage on this front. If the Gunners can maintain the collective shape and defend free-kicks we could see the fourth consecutive clean sheet in the Premiership. That will be some achievement!
Defensively Wigan have not conceded more than one goal in any game since playing Arsenal. We can expect the visitors to be organized and hard working. They won’t park the bus but will get men behind the ball and press hard in the middle of the park. It’s a strategy that got them a win away to Spuds early in the season.
This tactic will rely a lot on counter attacks and that’s another reason Arsenal will have to maintain the right shape. The defensive midfielders will have to be close to the back four to win the ball back early.
I have a feeling that Arsenal’s attackers can have a good game in this one, especially if they get an early goal. For that to happen, the Gunners will have to start aggressively, press higher up the pitch, and win the individual battles. I feel we have enough quality in attack to convert some of the chances that will be created but we must hope the game won’t have a start similar to the City game.
I don’t expect to see many changes to the side that played against West Ham in the League. That means Walcott, Van Persie, Fabregas, Wilshere, and Clichy should come back into the team. Sagna should keep his place ahead of Eboue.
Preferred starting eleven,
Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Wilshere – Walcott, RvP, Nasri.
Arsenal have four successive home games now and seven of the next eight are at the Emirates. As Arsene said, the home form will be crucial and it’s time to make a strong impression. Usual Jinx disclaimer applies 🙂