Arsenal will be looking to build on Monday’s stroll against Reading with another victory against Roberto Martinez’s injury hit Wigan side.
With their Boxing Day match now postponed, Arsenal are likely to lose ground in the race for 4th- albeit with a game spare- and will look to make sure the table makes as pleasant reading as possible come 2013.
Arsene Wenger was effusive in his praise for Wigan’s set up, particularly their scouting model, in unearthing players,
‘They always have good players. They always have technically talented players and they scout countries where nobody else goes.
‘They have for me an intelligent idea ? they say, ‘if we go to France, Germany, we face Arsenal, Man City, so let`s go where nobody goes`.
“There must be a good player in every country and usually they find him. They have done that very well.”
Meanwhile Roberto Martinez says his side have to be ‘perfect’ to beat Arsenal, ”We know we need to be perfect to be able to compete against this Arsenal side but, in this situation, if we can get a positive result and a strong performance, I think we’ll reap the rewards further down the line when we’ve got the full squad ready.
‘We’ll never be happy if we’re not in a position that we feel we should be, but I think the performances have been very similar to the ones we had in the final nine games of last season and I’m very pleased with that.’
Wigan Athletic Team News:
Midfield cog James McCarthy faces a late fitness test before deciding whether he will be ok to face Arsenal, whilst Adrian Lopez deepened Wigan’s centre half crisis by tearing his mastring against Norwich last Saturday.
Ryo Miyachi would have been inelegible to play in any case, but has an ankle injury. Ben Watson (broken leg) and Albert Crusat (knee) are other long term concerns.
Gary Caldwell (hamstring), Ivan Ramis (hamstring) and Antolin Alcaraz (groin) are also unavailable.
Wigan Athletic (from): Al Habsi, Pollitt, Boyce, Stam, Golobart, Figueroa, Stam, Maloney, Jones, McCarthy, McArthur, Mcmanaman, Fyvie, di Santo, Kone, Gomez, Boselli, Beausejour.
Player to watch: Shaun Maloney
Assuming James McCarthy doesn’t pass a fitness test, then Shaun Maloney could pose the biggest danger to Arsenal. The Gunners have had a habit this season of backing off of midfielders from range.
Maloney is certainly capable of letting fly from range. He also has a cool head in the box. If Arsenal allow him a chance anywhere in their defensive third, he can punish.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal have no new injury concerns but no returnees either, so will take the same squad to Lanchasire that travelled to Berkshire on Monday.
That means Abou Diaby (thigh), Andre Santos (stomach / being sold in January), Johan Djourou (calf / being sold in January), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) are out.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Gibbs, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, S.Cazorla, Rosicky, Walcott, Chamberlain, Gervinho, Podolski, Arshavin, Chamakh, Giroud.
Player to watch: Theo Walcott
Having had a 90 minute soiree as a centre forward on Monday, it will be interesting to see where Theo is played tomorrow. I would suggest back on the right hand side.
Gunnerblog wrote an interesting piece this week suggesting that Arsenal play much better with a more mobile striker, such as Gervinho or Walcott.
Match Facts & Stats
Thomas Vermaelen has scored in his last three appearances against Wigan Athletic.
The Latics have conceded seven goals to defenders in the Premier League this season; more than any other side.
The Gunners have won four and lost just one of their seven Premier League visits to the DW Stadium and overall they have won 10 and lost just two of the 14 meetings with Wigan.
Wigan have lost five and won just one of their last seven Premier League matches.
Arsenal have averaged 60% possession in their games so far this season, Wigan average 58% in their home fixtures.
The referee will be Jon Moss. I’ve never heard of him either.
I’m fairly confident here. Wigan’s injuries don’t mean a lot I don’t think, if Bradford can shut us out effectively, it’s hard to derive any satisfaction from that.
But I think Arsenal will outnumber Wigan in midfield and win 2-0. Arteta and Walcott to score.
Arsenal play Newcastle United next Saturday at home. Wigan are away at Everton on Boxing Day.