Wigan Athletic v Arsenal: A Preview of the Preview

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Wigan v Arsenal
Kickoff: 3 PM GMT/10 AM EST/7AM PST, Saturday December 3, 2011
DW Stadium, Wigan, Lancashire
TV: Fox Soccer Plus

Premier League action returns as Arsenal make their third trip to Lancashire this season, going away to 19th placed Wigan. The two previous trips to Lancashire didn't end well; Blackburn was a defensive nightmare, and it is best if we do not speak about the other one. However, Arsenal a very different team to early September, and have won their last two away games, against Norwich and Chelsea (Hi John Terry!). With Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta all rested during the week (not to mention Alex Song), Arsenal should be sharper than they were a week ago.

In terms of injuries, Tomas Rosicky is unfit, though he could feature against Olympiakos. Ryo Miyaichi is out until the end of the month, though it is extremely doubtful he would've been considered anyway. Finally, Abou Diaby is out for 10 days, in an injury shocker that Arsenal may never recover from.

Wigan have been struggling in the Premier League, but have got two promising results in a row, unluckily drawing with Blackburn Rovers (there was a totally illegal corner that lead to a goal) and somewhat fortiuously beating Sunderland with a 90th minute goal from Franco Di Santo. Wigan, of course, are managed by Roberto Martinez, a thoroughly likable manager who tries to get his team to play in the right way, and has some sense of loyalty unlike some Premier League managers. Playing in a more open style, however, has often lead to a wobbly defence, with Martinez unable to find a consistently strong back 4, though their keeper, Ali Al-Habsi is a frustratingly good shot stopper. Going forward, Wigan are a threat with their passing game, but often struggle with the final ball. With Charles N'Zogbia gone, Jordi Gomez, Hugo Rodallega, Victor Moses and James McCarthy are the main threats, but with Wigan often lacking pace up front, aside from Rodallega and Crusat, Arsenal should be able to deal with their attack.

With the Arsenal first team, aside from Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou, rested in the week (although Vermaelen and Gervinho came on), expect a return to the side that beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1. Gervinho and Theo Walcott should provide good width and chances from wide areas, and hopefully Aaron Ramsey will be back to his best after a well-deserved rest. Arsene Wenger should be trying to rotate more in the coming weeks, but with a pointless fixture away at Olympiakos, there'll be plenty of time for Arsenal's impressive Carling Cup side to get more playing time, before being integrated into the first XI. The only real position up for grabs, then, is at right back. If Djourou starts, Laurent Koscielny may play along Thomas Vermaelen; if not, then Koscielny will move to right back and Mertesacker will slot in at centre back.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Song, Arteta; Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho; van Persie
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Coquelin, Arshavin, Benayoun, Chamakh, Park

Prediction: Robin van Persie decides to sit down in protest until Gervinho finally scores a goal. Thankfully, he does early, allowing van Persie to join in and score one himself. Wigan get a goal back, but Aaron Ramsey finally scores after approximately 2,048 attempts. Arshavin appears, miscontrols, and laughs manically.

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