Recent trips to Wigan have been eventful but the memories aren’t particularly pleasant for Gooners. Arsenal have dropped 5 points in the last two visits after conceding late goals in games that the Gunners dominated and should have won.
I hope the dominance continues but the ‘Be a Gooner, be a Giver’ mantra is not taken on to the field. Arsenal have already surpassed their season’s quota of charity on the pitch.
The starting line-up for the game should be straight forward.
Szczesny – Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos – Song, Ramsey, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Gervinho.
The only possible change I can foresee is at Right Back. Djourou could retain his spot in the line-up if Wenger believes the Swiss defender has done better than the Frenchman. The chances for that are slim though as Djourou has already played against Fulham and City. It’s doubtful that Arsene will play him for the third time in 8 games.
This should be an open game. Wigan are a team I like. Martinez has set them up to play football and deserves credit for sticking to his principles despite going through some tough times. In a similar vein, I also admire the faith the Latics have put in their manager. Both are rare qualities and I hope they stay in the Premier League.
That said, it will be extremely disappointing if Arsenal don’t pick up the three points on Saturday. Martinez hasn’t been able to get enough goals out of his side, currently the joint-lowest scorers in the League, and they aren’t defensively as strong as teams that base their game on parking the bus and route one football.
The Gunners should score at least a couple. Van Persie will again be the centre of attraction but I am hoping some of the other attacking players – Ramsey, Gervinho, and Theo – also get their names on the score sheet. The Ivorian, in particular, should get a number of chances against the likes of Emerson Boyce and Gary Caldwell. Walcott probably won’t get that much joy against Figueroa.
After the departure of N’Zogbia, Wigan’s biggest threat will probably come from the runs of Victor Moses and the movement of Rodallega who has been struggling for form recently. Ben Watson has scored in Arsenal’s last two visits to the DW and Martinez might pick him alongside Diame, Jones, and McCarthy if he wants more of a battle in midfield. I don’t know much about Conor Sammon who has started the last two games ahead of Rodallega.
Wigan will rely on counter-attacks, shots from distance, and set-pieces. As long as there aren’t any blunders at the back, the Gunners should get the desired result. But in the last three games we have seen a counter-attacking goal with a number of players at fault, an own goal from an inexplicable error from the highly rated Vermaelen, and a physically weak moment from the big German. Against Arsenal the opponents always have hope.
The Latics know that as well as anyone else and will not give up even if they are trailing by a couple of goals with 10 minutes to go. A solid effort with unwavering concentration will be needed for the whole duration of the game. Since most of the players have had a break in midweek and are likely to get another one in the Champions League, there can really be no excuses for a poor performance. No lack of sharpness, no naïveté, no nothing.
On an unrelated note, if you like stat-based analysis, watch out for a statistical comparison of goalkeepers – Almunia, Fabianski, and Szczesny – for the last few seasons. There are some interesting/surprising numbers in there. I will be posting that on Epl Index later in the day and it should come up on NewsNow and GoonerNews. You can also join me on twitter to get a link when it is posted.