Arsenal go into tonight’s match against Wigan at home, looking to extend their lead over Spurs. It’s five points now and a win would take us eight points clear of them, though they’ll have a game in hand. After their crushing defeat in the hands of Chelsea in the semifinal of the FA Cup yesterday, it would probably make the tiny white section of North London suffer a little more should we take all three points tonight.
Though it won’t be easy despite the league table telling us otherwise. Wigan are in a precarious position and they are just outside of the relegation zone. 17th but having played a game more than Bolton who are two points off them. Results at the weekend have favoured Wigan a little. With Aston Villa and QPR losing, it’s a good opportunity for Wigan should they be able to get something out the match tonight.
Roberto Martinez is not in an unfamiliar position, having battled with Premiership survival almost on a yearly basis now since he has taken over. Wigan tends to pick up their form just at the business end of the season to ensure that they stay in the top flight. Only four wins on the road for Martinez’s side in the Premier League this season but their current form is fantastic at the moment. They’ve won twice and lost the same number in their last four games. Two wins came against Liverpool (away) and Manchester United (home) while it was unfortunate to not at least come away with a point at Stamford Bridge.
Martinez has no injury crisis at hand and will only be without the service of Hugo Rodallega for this match. It is a big credit to the Spaniard for persevering with the way they play and not change that in order to climb up the league table. The pass and move style is not dissimilar to what other clubs like Swansea or even us, are trying to do. The qualities though differ from club to club.
While Wigan on the occasions has troubled us in the away game, we do have a 100% home record against them. That’s not to say this match will be an easy one. They are fighting for their lives to stay in the league and will throw everything that they got into the match. However, we do unquestionably have the bigger and better players. If we come out tonight with real intent and purpose, I don’t doubt that we’ll take all three points.
In terms of Arsenal team news, we’re probably looking at the same set of players from the Wolves game. Kieran Gibbs looks to have recovered but with Andre Santos back in the mix, there’s really no need to rush the English left back. Gervinho too should be available but such is the form and performance of Yossi Benayoun lately, I hope that Arsene Wenger will stick with the Israeli. Elsewhere, Laurent Koscielny serves what is likely to be his final match suspension of the season (unless he gets a red card from now till the end of the season).
One thing which was probably not given as much credit from the last game was how well Johan Djourou did. The big Swiss defender came in for a lot of criticism this season. Most of it warranted but he can hardly be at fault for it. He’s not particularly good in wide areas, Djourou is best suited in a central position. He has been asked to fill in at right back while the full backs were out and has suffered from it. Erratic performances in those position seemed to have affected his confidence, something which honestly started since the tail-end of last season. Hopefully these two games will help to restore and rebuild some of that confidence that saw him excel in the early part of 2010/11 season.
The change will likely involve Aaron Ramsey replacing Tomas Rosicky on the substitute bench. I’m sure the selection of Ramsey on Wednesday was just to give Rosicky a breather. The Czech has played in successive matches for the first time since when he first arrived. Fitness has not deserted him yet and Rosicky has rewarded us with fine performances as the playmaker in the side. It would be unfair not to put him straight back into the first eleven.
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Published with permission from ArsenalHeart.