Match day. Last Premier League match to be played was ours against Reading and now we’re the first Premier League match of the weekend fixture list. That sounds like we’re being given the short stick by the organisers but in reality there was a 4 days gap between both games, so we shouldn’t have too much to complain about. The team travel to DW Stadium today looking to notch our third consecutive win in the league, for the first time this season. That in itself, shows well (not) this season has been going for us.
In my mind, I’ve seemed to depict Wigan as a bogey team for us. Looking at the record, I am certainly not 100% correct. Perhaps I’m only remembering the heartbreak matches between both teams. The League Cup loss when they first achieved promotion to the PL, the final minutes reversal that ended our title challenge a couple of seasons back and being outplayed at home last season may have clouded my perception. So it’s far to say that we’ve got nothing to fear and should approach this game the way we do for every other game (except the Norwich and Bradford and…..)
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan is a strange team if I’m being perfectly honest. There’s no question the way he sets the team up to play, that they can be very endearing to the non-partisan crowd. Let’s not forget that Swansea would not be where they are now without Martinez’s contribution. However, year on year, they seemed to linger within the relegation zone until revivals towards the end of the season helped them stay up. This season is starting to go along those lines as well – 17th and already lost 10 out of 17 games. That doesn’t mean the game is going to be easier for us today.
They play with a back 3 nowadays and that could be a problem for us. This is because we always set up in the same manner and are accustomed to playing against a flat back 4 with our formation. It may well take some adjustments here and there to ensure that we find enough creativity to win the game. With that in mind, I’m not quite sure that retaining Theo Walcott in the central striking position is the best possible solution. Sure, with his pace, Walcott could exploit the space behind if Wigan keep a high line. However, I’m worried that for most parts, he will be shackled by 2 imposing centre backs and he will find it tough to wriggle his way out of those situations.
I’m hoping that Olivier Giroud gets a start. There are space to exploit between the wing backs and the centre backs. One which we could utilise to great effect with Walcott driving in from wide positions. A flick on between those channels and the “contract rebel” would be through and within shooting sight of the goal. Giroud takes him time to get into the game and haven’t shown sign (at least not to me) that he could be useful coming off the bench in the 65 – 70th minute mark. If it’s up to me, there would be another change that I might make. Despite his scoring-assist-full game show on Monday, I might put Tomas Rosicky in for Lukas Podolski as the Czech is better at exploiting the aforementioned gaps.
With the postponement of the West Ham game, we’ve now a bigger rest period between games and due to that reason (despite my earlier paragraph), Arsene Wenger might opt to start with the side that played Reading. If he does that, using the logic above, you can’t really fault him. Our inconsistency has meant that there’s a greater push for results and the mind generally goes to achieve that by using the best players in the squad. Even if Laurent Koscielny is fit again, I don’t think he will play today.
Since we’re the first fixture of the day, should we win that game, we could go as high as third (heady heights indeed) albeit only temporary if the other teams won their game after that. I’m not denying that we’re not a team in crisis. Perhaps crisis is too strong a word but I don’t think that there is a single fan who thinks that we are doing swimmingly well this season. However, even with our own horror shows, we are still within a hair’s breath of the teams above us in the league. A good run of wins would help us open a gap to the teams below us and drive away those talks of crisis.
Some Christmas cheer for the fans please, Arsenal. Up The Arsenal!