April 12, 2014; 17:07 BST
Wembley will hosts the first FA Cup semi-final of this season as Championship side Wigan Athletic faces Arsenal FC. Wigan at of course the defending champions of this tournament and Arsenal won’t make the mistake of taking them lighting following their performance against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, a ground where the Gunners conceded six goals earlier this season. The Latics have already knocked out three Premier League sides on their way to this semi-final and Uwe Rosler will be looking to repeat Roberto Martinez’s feat this season as well.
Wigan are currently fifth in the Championship table and they looked to have booked their place in the promotion play-off this season. But they are heading into this game on a poor run of form after winning just two of their last seven matches. They suffered a shock defeat at home to relegation contenders Millwall on Tuesday as Carlos Edwards’ early goal proved to be the winner. Uwe Rosler will hope that his side can recover in time from that defeat.
Like Wigan, Arsenal haven’t enjoyed good form off late as well. The Gunners have won just five of their last 15 matches in all competitions and they slipped out of the title race and have been knocked out of the Champions League during this period. Their away form has been even worse with just one win in their last seven matches.
The Gunners are currently fourth in the league table and could find themselves out of the top four by the end of this game-week if Everton win their match against Sunderland. The defeat they suffered at the hands of the Merseyside club at the weekend as put their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in jeopardy. The FA Cup remains their only hope of salvaging this season and there is tremendous pressure on Arsene Wenger and his men to deliver this trophy.
Team news and tactics
Uwe Rosler doesn’t have any new injury concerns ahead of this big semi-final. Ben Watson is still nursing his fractured leg and is out for the rest of the season. Chris McCann, whose last appearance was in the FA Cup tie against Manchester City last month, is also unavailable for selection due to fitness concerns. Apart from Watson and McCann, Rosler has a full fit squad to choose from.
Rosler rested a lot of his key players during their 0-1 loss against Millwall on Tuesday. He is expected to make as many as seven changes to the line-up he used in that game. One of Rosler’s prime strength as a manager has been his side’s tactical flexibility. They have used varied formations this season from 4-5-1, 3-5-2, 5-3-2 to 5-4-1. Rosler used a more conventional 4-2-3-1 in their last match against Millwall, but he is expected to switch back to a more counter-attacking formation of 5-4-1 against Arsenal – like they did against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium.
Ali Al-Habsi will return in goal, replacing Scott Carson – the 28-year-old made his 14th league start this season against Millwall in the last game. Ivan Ramis will return to the center of the five-man defence in his role of a sweeper. James Perch will start as the right wing back with Emmerson Boyce moving in to the role of a the right center back. Leon Barnett will start as the left center back, while Jean Beausejour moves out wide as the left wing back.
James McArthur will partner Joshua McEachran in the center of the midfield with Jordi Gomez and Callum McManaman looking to support Nick Powell, who will be leading the line, on every occasion. Wigan will be looking to exploit Arsenal’s weakness in the wide areas of the pitch. Both Bacary Sagna and Nacho Monreal have looked vulnerable defensively and that could provide the opening for the Championship side.
Expected starting line-up (5-4-1): Al-Habsi (GK); Perch, Boyce, Ramis, Barnett, Beausejour; McManaman, McArthur, McEachran, Gomez; Powell
Arsenal have recently faced a massive drop in form and their problems have been compounded by the every growing injury list. Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny are still unavailable for selection and Arsene Wenger has insisted that the German international could be fit in time for their match against Hull City next Saturday, while Laurent Koscielny could return for their match against West Ham on Tuesday.
Jack Wilshere, Ryo Miyaichi and Theo Walcott remain their long term injury concern, while Abou Diaby will return to full training next week and could possibly make an appearance before the end of this season. There are also concerns about the fitness of Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs ahead of this game and Arsene Wenger revealed that all three of them will undergo late fitness test before the match to confirm their availability. Serge Gnabry is still struggling with his fitness as well, while Mathieu Flamini remains unavailable for selection as he serves his suspension.
The good news though is the return of Aaron Ramsey, who made an appearance in the second half of their match against Everton. Wenger has confirmed that the Welshman will make his first start in over three months in this game. The Frenchman has also revealed that Lukas Fabianski will start in goal following some wonderful performances in tournament.
Arsene Wenger is expected to make three changes to the side he used against Everton at the weekend. Lukas Fabianski will replace Wojciech Szczesny in goal, while Aaron Ramsey makes his way into the midfield alongside Mikel Arteta, in place of the suspended Flamini. Yaya Sanogo will lead the line upfront with Olivier Giroud dropping to the bench.
Arsenal lacked cutting edge against Everton, as they have done in a lot of their recent matches and they have looked vulnerable as well whenever the Merseyside club attacked them. Santi Cazorla has been in the news recently where he has questioned the side’s winning mentality, but in truth even the Spaniard has failed to step up when the Gunners have needs him the most. It will be a test of character for Arsenal against a well-oiled Wigan side, who will get men behind the ball, hold their shape and then hit them on the break.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski; Sanogo
Players to watch-out for: Callum McManaman (Wigan Athletic); Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-2 Arsenal