Arsenal vs Wigan: team news, injuries, tactics, prognosis
By Phil Gregory
Wigan Athletic, Arsenal’s opponents on Saturday, arrive at the Emirates Stadium on the back of their first home win of the season against West Ham.
Roberto Martinez, Wigan’s manager since the departure of Steve Bruce to Sunderland, has undertaken wholesale changes at the club. Valencia and Cattermole departed, along with hardworking central midfielder Michael Brown. P
layers such as Gomez (a product of the Barcelona academy) and Jason Scotland, both of whom spent time with Martinez when he was Swansea manager last season, arrived to replace them. Other summer arrivals included Scott Sinclair (on loan from Chelsea) and highly-rated James McCarthy.
Since an impressive 2-0 opening day win at Aston Villa, Wigan have fallen to away defeats against Blackpool in the League Cup and a struggling Everton side.
Arsenal, weakened by the ever-present spate of injuries, nonetheless have their confidence restored after an impressive comeback away to Standard Liege. Arsenal’s free-scoring home form has been impressive, with wins recorded in all games, though we have to go back to Rangers in the Emirates Cup for a clean sheet at home this season.
Arsenal are without long-term absentees Nasri, Fabianksi, Djourou and Vela, while Almunia is expected to miss the game too. Report emerged after the Liege game that Denilson will be out for “a few weeks” with a back problem and Andrei Arshavin is rated as being unlikely to be fit.
Realistically Arshavin’s unlikely to be risked for what should be a comfortable home win, but he will be a welcome face on the bench. As of yet, it isn’t known whether Walcott is fit to be involved, but Wenger has said that Van Persie could well recover in time.
Wigan are at the other end of the spectrum, with only Olivier Kapo ruled out with a knee ligament injury.
Arsenal will be looking to Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky to shoulder the creative burden in the absence of Arshavin and Nasri.
William Gallas will be looking to atone for the (albeit soft) penalty given against him at Liege and help the team to a clean sheet.
Niklas Bendtner will be hoping to continue his recent good form, and I’m tipping him to score at the Emirates on Saturday after an excellent performance in Liege was deservedly capped with a tidy finish.
For Wigan, ex Newcastle winger N’Zogbia and former Welsh international Koumas have both looked lively during the season’s opening games but haven’t had much in the way of goals to show for it. Hugo Rodallega has two Premier League strikes to his name this season and can be expected to provide most of the threat from an otherwise goal-shy Wigan Athletic side.
Arsenal expected lineup:
Sagna Vermaelen Gallas Clichy
Bendtner Eduardo Rosicky
Subs: Szczseny, Silvestre, Eboue, Van Persie, Ramsey, Watt, Wilshere
Defence and goalkeeper pick themselves. Its unlikely Wenger will want to play Rosicky as frequently as he has, but injuries are forcing his hand.
Rosicky could play at CM, with Diaby wide, though personally I think this system is the better use of the players.
Eduardo can play as the centre forward if Van Persie isn’t risked: I really can’t see the need in rushing Robin back for what should be a fairly comfortable home win, being an option to come on should suffice for him.
The bench is weak, but with nine first team players injured it is to be expected. I think we’re all hoping Jack will get some minutes, I’d imagine he’s in with an outside chance of a start if Wenger decides to be cautious with Rosicky. Given the paucity of bench options, I’m wondering why Traore isn’t included.
I was pleased to be almost on target with my prediction for the Liege game (narrow away win it most certainly was!) and this time . I’m going to go for a comfortable 3-0 home win. Given our injuries, I’d take 1-0, but Wigan just aren’t gelling as a team yet, and their form has been unimpressive. They’re struggling to score goals, but Arsenal have looked unsteady at the back too.
It’s a great opportunity for the Gooners to celebrate a clean sheet at home, and a decent performance from the back four should see us through. Even with the spate of injuries, that team is more than enough to beat a Wigan side still very much a work in progress.
See you all on Monday for the Carling Cup Preview!
The preview of this match from Alternative Universe No 7 will appear Saturday morning.