Ai??The Emirates, North London
April 16, 2012 – 1900 GMT
Wigan Athletic’s position in the Premiership table can be the biggest distraction for Arsenal ahead of this game on Monday at The Emirates. Any show of complacency from the home team can turn out to be very dangerous in their run for the last automatic European place. Wigan caused a lot of problems to Chelsea and managed to stun Manchester United recently.
With loads of confidence and just above the relegation zone, they travel to North London to face an Arsenal side, defeated only once in their last ten league games. It is expected to be a mouth-watering fixture for the neutrals, and with it being the last game of this round, the home side will have all the results of the other games already in their minds to motivate them for a win.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Arsenal will start this game as clear favorites having played themselves into considerable amount of form in the last two months or so. They now have five games to stay above the European Drop Out Zone, coasting along being five points ahead of perennial rivals – Spurs. Interestingly, Spurs and Chelsea don’t play this weekend in the league as they clash against each other in the FA Cup, which means Arsenal can open up a huge 8 points gap on their nearest rivals before they play again.
As far as injury news is concerned, Arsene hasn’t cleared the return of Left Back Kieran Gibbs into the frame. The English Full Back is still a 50-50 for the game, which means Brazilian Andre Santos will keep his place. Ivory Coast International Gervinho is a more assured prospect for the game, but due to shortage of match practice, Arsene will rather go for the in-form Yossi Benayoun or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Abou Diaby and Coquellin are short of match practice, they will return to full training next week.
Due to suspension, Koscielny won’t be taking any part in the game, Djourou will deputize for him. Thomas Vermaelen will partner the Swiss with Bacary Sagna, available as usual for Right Full Back duties. Mikel Arteta and Alex Song will continue in the middle of the park, the former recently having done a favor to Manchester United. Arsene will surely bring back EA Sports Player of the Month – Thomas Rosicky for this game, having given him a deserved rest-day against Wolves. Theo and Yossi will run on the flanks with main man van Persie ahead of everybody leading the attack – quite literally, with 27 league goals already in this season.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1):Ai??Szczesny(GK); Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Santos; Song, Arteta; Rosicky, Walcott, Benayoun; van Persie
The Latics are placed 17th in the table, and their recent fight against top teams, have made everybody stand up and notice. Arsene Wenger is expected to do his homework as Wigan doesn’t look like pushovers from any stretch of imagination. Ahead of this game, Hugo Rodellaga is the only concern for the away side, as he is fighting against time to prove his fitness, not having played for more than a month now, due to a knee injury. Roberto Martinez has a full squad to choose from ahead of this trip to the Emirates.
The manager has denied all reports regarding his possible exit from the club and is committed to the cause – finishing above the drop-zone at the end of this season. The big win over Manchester United has given Wigan a huge boost in their battle for survival – in fact they are out of the drop zone for the first time since last October, that strike from Maloney means Wigan need around 9 points in the last 5 games to stay safe – based on the theoretical 40 points safe zone. After Chelsea, United and Arsenal, they will have to play another top team next – Newcastle United, their job doesn’t get any easier from nowAi??onward.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-4-2):Ai??Al Habsi(GK); Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce; McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Moses; Di Santo, Maloney
Key Match Facts
- Robin van Persie has now scored against 17 different teams this season, in the league.
- Arsenal have scored 11 goals in their last four league games at The Emirates.
- Arsenal have scored 17 goals in their last 6 meetings with Wigan, in all competitions.
- Wigan won a memorable game 3-2 against Arsenal at The DW two seasons back.
TheHardTackleai??i??s Player to Watch Out For
Alex Song (Arsenal)
The Cameroon International has not only been Arsenal’s top man with assists, but the league’s leader as far as most through-balls are concerned. Song has been efficient with his defending responsibilities but he has never shied away from providing assists to the strikers. His role is massive in the middle of the park, and his contribution more or less decides the fate of most of Arsenal’s games.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Wigan
With Arsenal in top form, it won’t be easy for Wigan to pull of another shocker in back to back weeks. Though they will be running into the face of the Gunners whenever they get the ball, the defensive effort from the home side should be good enough to handle that – it has been quite top-class in recent weeks.
TheHardTackleai??i??s Blast From The Past
TheHardTackleai??i??s Poll Of The Week