Arsenal goes into tonight’s match against Wigan at home, looking to increase the lead to Sp*rs. It’s 5 points now and a win would take us 8 points clear of them, though they’ll have a game in hand. After their crushing/thrashing (delete as preferred) in the semifinal of the FA Cup yesterday, it would probably make the tiny white section of North London wince even more should we take all 3 points tonight.
That though won’t be easy despite the league table telling us otherwise. Wigan are in a precarious position of just outside of the relegation zone. 17th but having played a game more than Bolton who are 2 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 find something from 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 4 wins on the road for Martinez’s side in the Premier League this season but worth looking at their current form. They’ve won twice and lost the same number in their last 4 games. Two wins came against Liverpool (away) and Manchester United (home) while 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 the 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 the lives to stay in the league and will give everything that they got. 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 3 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’m hope that Arsene Wenger do 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 take all the 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 2 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 to involve Aaron Ramsey replacing Tomas Rosicky’s bum 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 continuous 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 to him not to put him straight back into the first eleven.
In other news, Wenger was praising Wojciech Szczesny on his growing maturity when this come out. There was a period where the Pole seemed to make a mistake or two in games. The Fulham away one sticks in the mind but have bounced back from it almost immediately. He’s trying less of those drag backs and hacks the ball clear now. From the second article, you can tell where his heart lies. He’s a Gooner himself and that much is clear. I’m not going to even think that he’s leaving the second we win anything, such is a perfectly reasonable assessment of his words.
There’s also talk on Wenger being given an extension to his contract. Peter Hill-Wood adamant that he wants the boss to stay beyond 2014 when his contract runs out. It’s been a tough season for Wenger and I still believe that he will extend. However, much of it would depend on where we finish this season and the impact of the summer reinforcement would have over our trophy challenges next season. Despite all that, I’m very sure that at this point, all Wenger has in his mind are 3 points against Wigan.
That should be the sole focus for every single player as well. Up The Arsenal!!!