I have been an Arsenal fan from the minute I could distinguish colours on the television screen and comprehend why Dad and my Grandad were screaming at the television on when the football was on.
I enjoy football, so I enjoy watching sides that play good football as well as my own beloved Arsenal and I have to say I have more than a passing affection for what Martinez has done for Wigan during his tenure here. Think back to the days of Steve Bruce, who signed the enigmatic Amr Zaki, Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and most wonderfully of all Emile Heskey. Look how far Martinez has taken this Wigan side whose first instinct was kick and run to the devastating, continental pass and move football that Wigan now employ.
It was just before christmas when the Father-in-Law said that he didn’t think Wigan would stay up this year. I countered that Wigan always start playing football from February onwards and that I thought they could escape again, citing that there are worse teams in this division than Wigan.
Yet here we are, Wigan need 6 points from 6 to stay up and Arsenal need 6 from 6 to get in the top four.
What a fixture!
Off the back of a 10 day rest our team looks pretty healthy with the beleaguered Abou Diaby being the only long-term injury, other than that we have a clean bill of health which is frankly both surprising knowing us and yet a bit refreshing to not blame injuries for form.
News has broken that Jack needs minor surgery to remove a pin in his ankle, but this was actually news about four weeks ago when the Ox said that Jack was still feeling a bit of pain from the pin itself and that it needed removing. Arsene has said that they will continue to manage the injury and play Jack only when completely necessary.
Tonight shouldn’t be one of those times. Wigan have had three days rest from an emotional, fantastic FA Cup win and we’ve had 10 days to prepare. Wigan are light in numbers defensively and both wing-backs (yes they have wing backs) are inexperienced in the Premier League in these positions. Espinoza (who looks like a decent player and had more touches than any other player on Saturday) on the left and McArthur on the right (his natural position is central midfield). Their three centre-backs will offer a different experience for whoever plays up front, but the key is to get numbers in and around our central striker otherwise he will get isolated, ala Theo at the DW stadium.
Wigan lack pace from the back, but they are not found lacking in their creative front pair of Maloney and Kone. Both have pace, the ability to beat players and an ability to get involved in the game when seemingly the other team should be dominating. Both are players who are rebuilding their careers after stints at former clubs looked to have damaged their reputations. Maloney roams around the midfield picking the ball up and running at players from deep, looking to create chances and hit shots from range, Arteta/Ramsey will need to pick up his runs and stop him. Kone tends to play off of the right-back and cut in using his pace and strength to hold off players and bring in the likes of Maloney, McArthy and Gomez. Sagna will need to be alert and win those duels, Kone might try and play off of the BFG instead, but I think he won’t get much change out of that.
I expect us to line up like this;
Fortunately for us Gooners we have been in good form of late and we are confident. If we do our job top four is still in reach and these are a determined bunch of lads we have playing for us. It has been a transitional season, but there has been a serious improvement in form recently and that can give us hope for next season – though it’s said that it’s the hope that kills you.
To tonight Gooners – Lets ‘ave it.