The Emirates Stadium, North London
19:45 GMT, 14th May 2013
It can get bigger than this. For one team survival in the Premier League is on the line, while for the other it’s the last Champions League qualification spot. This game will have massive imprecations on the future of both the clubs. However, it is actually more important for Wigan than Arsenal FC, because the Gunners can still grab the fourth place if they win their last match and Tottenham loses theirs. For Wigan though, it is a must-win game, as even a draw won’t be good enough as Sunderland have a big advantage in the goal difference column.
Wigan will come into this game on a high after beating Manchester City in the final at Wembley to lift the FA Cup. It was a historic moment for the club, but perhaps presently their Premier League safety is of more important currently, which is perhaps why the players weren’t able to celebrate their victory in the cup with utmost freedom.
Their loss to Swansea in their last Premier League match , despite having the lead in the second half, could still come back to haunt them. Actually it is quite simple for Roberto Martinez’s men – win your last two games and you are safe.
For Arsenal, the good news is that their fate is in their own hands. If they win the last two match, they will qualify for the Champions League. The Gunners are currently two points behind Tottenham, but they have a game in hand. In fact, if Chelsea lose their last game and Arsenal manages to win the next two – they win even have the possibility of finishing in third place in the league.
The Gunners have been in wonderful form off-late and are unbeaten in their 9 matches in all competitions. In fact they have lost just once in their last 14 matches in the league. A victory against Wigan will go a long way in ensuring that they qualify for the Champions League for the 16th time in a row.
Strangely for Arsenal, Abou Diaby is the only injury concern at the moment. Both Fabianski and Gibbs are close to full fitness and are likely to be the substitutes in this match. Giroud will serve the last of his three-match suspension, which means that Podolski will start upfront once again, although many believe that Gervinho might be given the opportunity in this game.
Somewhat worryingly for Arsene Wenger, the Gunners have managed to score only three goals in the last four matches. Against QPR, despite getting off to a flying start with an early goal from Walcott, they failed to find the net for the rest of the 89 minutes. They have shown a lack of incisiveness in the final third, they certainly need to be a lot more clinical.
Wenger might look to use Alex Oxlade Chamberlain a bit earlier in this match as he seems to be the only Arsenal attacker who can provide the width to the team. Against Wigan though, Arsenal should be able to create a lot more chances as Roberto Martinez’s men will be adventurous in going forward themselves.
The role of Monreal and Sagna will be crucial in this match as Wigan tend to use the full width of the pitch while attacking, hence both the Arsenal full-backs might be forced to play a more subdued role in this game. Sagna and Monreal will have to deal with the in-form McManaman and Maloney. Ramsey will also have to make sure that McCarthy isn’t allowed too much time on the ball when Wigan are in possession, Arsenal need to close him down early.
With Wigan likely to play a 3-4-3 formation, Arsenal’s wide players need to maintain their width in order to stretch the three-man defence. Wigan are likely to concede more space in front of the defence with only two midfielder protecting that space. It will be an interesting tactical battle between these two sides.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla; Podolski.
Roberto Martinez has a long list of injured players to contain with. Ronnie Stam, Ryo Miyachi, Ivan Ramis, Michael Jean, Beausejour and Maynor Figueroa are all out at the side-lines at the moment. The Spaniard is expected to make only one change to the starting line-up which took them to that historic triumph against Manchester City at the weekend. Ben Watson, who scored the winner in the 90th minute of that match, is expected to start in this game alongside McCarthy in the midfield, in place of Jordi Gomez.
Wigan changed to a more defensive 5-4-1 formation against City, which was understandable since it was a Cup final. But against Arsenal they should again switch back to the 3-4-3 formation as they don’t have much choice other than to go for it. This change will off-course mean that McArthur and Espinoza, who dropped deep against City, will pay in a more attacking role.
This will allow Maloney and Macarthur the freedom and room to stretch the Arsenal defence, forming almost a front three along with Kone. Arsenal’s central defence pairing of Mertesacker and Koscienly have been quite solid recently, but the full-backs of Arsenal are still vulnerable and Wigan will look to exploit that.
In defence it is crucial that Wigan doesn’t allow too much time space to Cazorla and Rosicky. They are a side who generally press well as a team and in the past this has proved to be very effective against Arsenal. They will once again need to put in a very hard shift out there and put pressure on the Arsenal outfield players as soon as they get on the ball.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Robles (GK); Boyce, Alcaraz, Scharner; McCarthy, Watson, McArthur, Espinoza; McManaman, Koné, Maloney.
- Arsenal have scored 43 goals at home in the Premier League this season, second only to champions Manchester United.
- The Gunners have only one ever-present in their squad, that being Santi Cazorla (pictured right), who has appeared in all 36 of their games so far.
- The Latics took their first-ever league victory over Arsenal at the Emirates last season, with two quick-fire goals from Franco Di Santo and Jordi Gomez gave them a 2-1 win.
- Of all the teams around them, Wigan have taken the most wins on the road in the league this season, with five ahead of their trip to the Emirates.
Player To Watch Out For
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Santi Cazorla has undoubtedly been the most influential player for Arsenal this season. The Spaniard has settled in well in his first season at the club and lot more is expected of him in the coming years. However, Arsenal’s future might depend on whether they are able to win the last two matches and hence they will once again turn towards Cazorla for a massive performances in these last two games. The attack has looked a bit blunt in recent times and this time for the little Spaniard to step on the gas and carry Arsenal over the line.
Arsenal 2-1 Wigan
With so much at stake, you can expect a cagey opening in his match – with players looking to avoid making any mistake. However, this game should come to life as soon as the first goal goes in the second half. This match will almost have the feel of a Cup final. Expect Arsenal to show their superior quality on paper and snatch a win, but Wigan will make it very, very tough for them.