The FourFourTwo Preview: Wigan vs Arsenal
Fearless holders versus frightened favourites.
If last season’s FA Cup win was a fluke, how did Wigan manage to get to Wembley again this year? Solving this riddle is key to Arsenal’s chances of avoiding an upset. Only there isn’t an obvious answer. After all, Wigan have a different manager (their second since Roberto Martinez’s men lifted the trophy last May), a tweaked team (only two who played in the FA Cup final lined up against Millwall in midweek, though many were rested) and a totally different mindset.
- Wigan 0-1 Millwall (Ch'ship)
- Wigan 1-0 Leeds (Ch'ship)
- Wigan 2-2 Leicester (Ch'ship)
- Bolton 1-1 Wigan (Ch'ship)
- QPR 1-0 Wigan (Ch'ship)
- Everton 3-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Spurs 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
Whereas 2013's unlikely run to glory provided a welcome distraction from an unsuccessful relegation scrap, 2014's vintage come into the game sitting comfortably in a Championship play-off spot. This lofty league position is largely due to an eight-game winning streak between mid-February and mid-March, which also included another shock defeat of Manchester City, this time in the cup quarter-final.
Uwe Rosler, who took over from Owen Coyle in December, revealed that the Martinez tactical blueprint – a mixture of high pressing and swift counter-attacking – was key to victory. He’ll be hoping a similar approach can unnerve Arsenal.
At least complacency shouldn’t be a problem for the Gunners, who’ve struggled to find any consistency since January. With Arsene Wenger’s team no longer assured of a Premier League top-four finish, defeat against Wigan doesn’t bear thinking about. Rosler’s team have struggled for goals of late, but as they proved against Man City, they might only need one.
Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs are doubts for Arsenal, and Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere – as well as long-term absentees Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby – are still out. Laurent Koscielny and Ozil should be back by next weekend, while Aaron Ramsey "is ready to start" having made his first appearance since Boxing Day in the 3-0 loss at Everton.
Rosler will again shuffle his Wigan pack after playing three Championship games in a week. With last season’s FA Cup final hero Ben Watson out for the season with a broken leg, Manchester United loanee Nick Powell and Callum McManaman should return to the midfield after sitting on the bench in midweek.
Player to watch: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
For all their stellar playmakers, Arsenal only have one top-class centre-forward. And as Everton proved at the weekend, if you nullify the Frenchman, the Gunners’ attack lacks a focal point and therefore a serious threat. As you can see from our graphic, Giroud was basically living off scraps at Goodison Park, managing 1 shot on target, barely winning a header, and frequently being forced into the middle third of the pitch. Wigan, take note: it might be your best chance.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 4-1 Wigan (Prem, May 13)
- Wigan 0-1 Arsenal (Prem, Dec 12)
- Arsenal 1-2 Wigan (Prem, Apr 12)
- Wigan 0-4 Arsenal (Prem, Dec 11)
- Arsenal 3-0 Wigan (Prem, Jan 11)
Wenger and Rosler have no previous, the latter having been sent off on his Man City debut against a pre-Arsene Arsenal, with City relegated from the Premier League just before the Frenchman’s arrival. The pressure is all on the Gunners’ manager this weekend, something his German counterpart has been keen to point out.
“We’re going to Wembley – we can’t lose, we can only win,” said Rosler mischievously. “Everybody highlighted the fact Arsenal now really have to go for the FA Cup and win the FA Cup. Their own players said that and obviously that puts a little bit of extra pressure on Arsenal.” Ouch.
Lightning won’t strike twice. 0-2.