Arsenal’s next game is against Wigan away at the DW Stadium. We all painstakingly remember what happened here last season. In April this year, our title hopes went up in smokes with the worst capitulation that I’ve ever witness from any Arsenal side. 10 minutes of shambolic display towards the end of the game saw Wigan recovered a 2 goal deficit to beat Arsenal.
It is a sort of humiliating performance that still brings out the anger in me, whenever I think about that game. If Monday’s game was to right the recent bad run of results against Chelsea, this match is to right that 3-2 reverse. Yes, I am still over the moon with our last league result but that will have to be out of the player’s system when they run out at DW Stadium.
If anything, the lessons that the team is supposed to have learnt is that no team can expect to win just by turning up. No matter the gulf in individual quality, without the right application, the stronger side can still lose. Wigan are highest in the relegation zone and have only won 4 out of 18 games, 2 of which are at home. They are the most unpredictable side in the league. Quite capable of producing extreme results like winning away at Spuds and lose to Blackpool at home by 4 goals.
In Roberto Martinez, Wigan have a manager not quite dissimilar to Arsene Wenger. Both prefer to play football on the ground and sticking to that philosophy no matter the opponent. In that respect, should Martinez line his side up as per usual, we can expect Arsenal to have lots of the ball in an open contest. They have quality wingers too, in the shape of Tom Cleverly and Charles N’Zogbia, so our fullbacks will have to be wary of their movements.
With the game in exactly 48 hours after our exploits against Chelsea, tired legs will be the main worry. The travelling that the team had to endure would have eaten up quite a lot of the resting time. This will be the time when the strength of our squad is tested. Of course, Wenger could plump for a totally different side than on Monday (quite like the Carling Cup) and it is a testament to the strength of the squad that these alternative side could still feature those like Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Tomas Rosicky and Sebastien Squillaci.
However, as it always is, making numerous changes could also be detrimental to the team’s chances. Cohesion of play could very well be affected with fielding different sets of players. In Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, we have 2 players who are young enough to have good recovery in short period of time and should play from the start. Cesc Fabregas’ yellow card on Monday means that he is suspended for this game. Rosicky is the preferred choice by the manager and I doubt it would change for this game.
Here’s my shot at tonight’s line-up
That would leave a strong bench of Samir Nasri, Alex Song, Robin Van Persie, Johan Djourou and Nicklas Bendtner. Changes could be made from half time onwards with the likelihood of those who played on Monday being afforded a rest. However, these changes could and should only be made if Arsenal have establish a good lead. With the current Arsenal team, that means at least 2 goals and above.
With Manchester United only managing a draw against Birmingham yesterday, we can go top if we win by 6 goals. A big ask of the team but given Wigan’s unpredictability, it is not totally out of the question. However, that should not be the target of the team. Any win would be sufficient. We cannot allow that Chelsea result to go to waste by dropping points here. Time to banish the memories of last season.
Come on you Gunners!!
On a special note, I’m also excited about the 2nd leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final. Malaysia holds a 3 goal lead going into this final game. Defensively, Malaysia have shown their mettle and ability to handle 90 minutes of defending. Though, an early goal either side could change the way Malaysia approach the game. I’m hoping that we would not surrender meekly like the group encounter. This Malaysian side have done far too well for it to end with a capitulation of any kind.
Come on you Harimau!