What: English Premier League
Who: Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic
When: Tuesday, 14th May, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
Pressure On Arsenal In Top Four Race
All the pressure is firmly on Arsenal after another late Tottenham winner put the Gunners back into fifth position in the Premier League ahead of this vital clash. Arsenal must win this match or their hopes of a 16th successive season in the Champions League will be hanging by the loosest of threads. And one of the last teams Arsene Wenger will have wanted to meet is the Premier League’s ‘joker in the pack’, Wigan Athletic.
Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers in their last match was a nervy 90 minutes for the club’s fans. Just like their last visit to west London, when they beat Fulham 1-0, it was far less comfortable than it should have been. It has been a theme of the last couple of months that Arsenal have been hanging on for crucial wins, but there has been something unusual about it for a team usually associated with free flowing football and a soft centre. Six of their last nine wins in the Premier League have been by a single goal and they have kept four clean sheets in that period, conceding just four goals in total since 3rd March.
Two more single goal wins will be enough to ensure that Arsenal once again take their place in the Champions League next season. They have their arch rivals breathing down the back of their necks and it is a familiar theme now for the Gunners to edge out their fierce rivals on the final straight. This season though, there is a determination and quality to Tottenham’s play that they have not been associated with in previous years. That piles even more pressure on Arsenal.
Will FA Cup Win Spur Or Hinder Wigan?
Just days after the greatest result in the club’s long story to date, Wigan’s shock win over Manchester City at the weekend means they have an opportunity to make an unwanted piece of history and become the first side to simultaneously win the FA Cup and be relegated from England’s top flight. To avoid that fate, they simply have to win at the Emirates Stadium. A draw would leave them with the faintest of chances.
Roberto Martinez’s side cut short their celebrations to get an early night after their remarkable FA Cup triumph on Saturday with this game in mind. Complacency is unlikely to affect the Latics – but the question is what the impact of the game will be. Having completed such a monumental victory, getting their feet back on the ground and focusing on the cold facts of the battle against relegation will be a challenge.
There is no doubt that they are capable. Wigan won at the Emirates Stadium last season, just as they did at Anfield and at home to Manchester United. They beat Manchester City fully deservedly, the third time they had outplayed last season’s champions this season. Yet last week’s 3-2 home loss to Swansea was a reminder of their brittle nature.
Fulham 0-1 Arsenal (20/04; Premier League)
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United (28/04; Premier League)
QPR 0-1 Arsenal (04/05; Premier League)
WBA 2-3 Wigan Athletic (04/05; Premier League)
Wigan Athletic 2-3 Swansea City (07/05; Premier League)
Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester City (11/05; FA Cup)
Arsenal: Kieran Gibbs (doubt); Lukasz Fabianski; Abou Diaby; Olivier GIroud
Wigan Athletic: Jean Beausejour (doubt); Maynor Figueroa; Ivan Ramis; Ronnie Stam
Players to watch
Arsenal – Theo Walcott: Walcott has ensured that Olivier Giroud has not been too badly missed during his suspension by scoring early goals in Arsenal’s last two games. They have also been Walcott’s first goals since he signed his new contract back in January. Against a side like Wigan, who attack and press high, Walcott should be at his most dangerous, able to exploit space behind their backline on the counter attack.
Wigan Athletic – Callum McManaman: McManaman caught the eye at Wembley at the weekend, the youngster showing his immense potential with what was effectively a match-winning display. A constant thorn in the Manchester City defence, his direct and skilful running created havoc and goalscoring chances which almost put Wigan ahead. He brought three yellow cards from Manchester City, including the two which saw Pablo Zabaleta sent off. After forcing the corner which led to Wigan’s last gasp winner, McManaman produced a performance which should finally make people forget about ‘that’ tackle on Newcastle’s Massaido Haidara.
The Latics, fresh from their FA Cup victory, are capable of beating anyone in the Premier League on their day. It is their frustrating inconsistency which means they can be crowned FA Cup winners one day and be fighting for their Premier League lives the following Tuesday.
Both of these sides play in a similar manner; passing, attacking and take the game to the opposition. Both have defensive mistakes in them, although perhaps crucially, Arsenal’s defence has been notably tighter of late. The Gunners have played nervously during this season though and the visit of a team who beat them at the Emirates Stadium last year could mean an anxious and cautious start for the home side.
Wigan are to relegation what Arsenal are to Champions League qualification. Written off at the start of the season, they always find a way to achieve their goal. These two sides meeting each other means that something is likely to finally give. Expect a tight first half with both side attacking with care given the high stakes and for the game to burst to life in the second period with both stepping it up in search of a winner. Arsenal’s superior quality, combined with Wigan’s depleted defence, may therefore be the decisive factor. Arsenal 2-1 Wigan.