Preview: Arsenal did themselves a good favor after doing a clinical job on Wolves and cementing 3rd place. Arsenal are now 5 points clear of Sp*rs and Newcastle with 5 games left to play. With Sp*rs involved in the FA Cup, we could be guaranteed 3rd place by the next time they play in the league. It’s well documented and well communicated that nobody thought Arsenal could turn their season around so dramatically. Sp*rs were 2 points of ManUtd, and the media labeled them as title contenders, playing the best football in England. It’s remarkable how short-sighted football fans and journalists have become. I guess it’s the time we live in. Everyone wants instant success and instant glory. People have no value for history and tradition. The 2 most used words in British press over the course of this season have been ‘ Power Shift’. Everyone’s been talking about the power shift in Manchester and in North London. In the end, it seems like a big pie has been smothered over the faces of the advocates of the ‘Power Shift’. Arsenal are 3rd and looking very likely to finish there. Manchester United are 1st and looking very likely to finish there. What is important to note here is that both these teams have been nothing but average this year. ManUtd’s team has been very mediocre as have been the Gunners. However, it just goes to show that it’s not just the players who determine the success of a football club. It is just so much more that goes on behind the scenes. So much more that an average fan is oblivious to; that a young journalist doesn’t see. Arsenal & ManUtd, in some people’s opinion, may have inferior players to their respective rivals i.e. Sp*rs and ManCity, but they both have far superior managers who have all the experience in the world.
Arsenal next face Wigan at The Emirates on Monday night. This weekend in the premier league is very light, with 4 teams involved in the FA Cup semi finals. Wigan are coming from a miraculous victory against the champions and current leaders Manchester United. The spirits will be pretty high in the Wigan dressing room. There will be no lack of determination and drive since they are fighting for survival once again. I don’t remember a season when Wigan weren’t involved in a relegation battle at this part of the season. Arsenal have to be wary of complacency setting in come Monday night. After going 2 goals up and seeing Wolves a man down, Arsenal played one of the most gutless football I’ve seen them play. It felt like they wanted to go home and relax. Come Monday, if they repeat that performance against a determined Wigan side, we can expect an upset.
Team News: Arsenal squad has been fit and healthy (touchwood) since February. For this weekend again, there is no big injury concern. Laurent will serve his 2nd game of his suspension while Johan will deputize in his absence. He did a decent job at it against Wolves, though, they were a man down. Other than that, Rosicky might come in for Ramsey
(who again spared someone his/her life by not scoring sitters). Benayoun, to everyone’s surprise has been starting games recently, in front of Gervinho and Oxlade. The former apparently missing out because a late knock. If fit, I expect, Gervinho to start this game. Wenger has preferred a conservative ball holding/playing player on the left in away games. It has worked with some success and it failed in a few other games. But at The Emirates we see out and out wingers so Gervinho should get the nod.
Key Battle: Theo vs Beausejour
Theo has performed well recently, with a couple of goals and assists to his name. He does fade out of games often, as he did against Wolves after scoring early. He is still a very vital part of this Arsenal team. Even though RvP has done most of the scoring, Theo’s contribution this season shouldn’t be over looked. A majority of Arsenal’s attack have come from the Right side. Theo has 8 goals and 8 assists to his name this season. He will be against Beausejour on Monday night, who has been one of Wigan’s better players this season. He will have his work cut out against the speedy winger and will have to play intelligently to make up for Theo’s pace.
Stats Zone: (www.whoscored.com)
Prediction: Everyone will be very cautious about Wigan now. They have beaten top club ManUtd, the former top now laughable Liverpool; they’ve drawn against Chelsea as well. They have made sure that no one takes Wigan lightly. Arsenal cannot make the mistake they made against QPR. It is a very good opportunity to increase their lead on CL contenders; with Chelsea and Sp*rs playing each other in FA Cup and Newcastle not playing. I expect this to be a tight one, with Wigan throwing the kitchen sink at Arsenal. A very narrow 1-0 home win.
- Arsenal have won 9 of their last 10 matches in Premier League
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Arsenal’s last 10 games in Premier League.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 10 of Wigan’s last 11 away games in Premier League.