Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal
FA Cup Semifinal
Saturday, April 12, 12:07 PM EDT
Wembley Stadium, London, where the PA is overused
TV: Fox Sports 2
Form: Arsenal WLDDL | Wigan LLDWL
So...it's been kind of a week for Arsenal supporters. The form is pretty gnarly lately, the team totally failed to turn up against Everton, and the list of injured players goes to eleven. At Goodison Park, the players looked stuck in the mud and had trouble breaking down a defense while still looking open to the counter.
It's time to get out of this dream, and the FA Cup presents a chance to do it.
Arsenal have looked very good in the competition so far this year, and although I don't think that simply changing the name on the competition really changes much about the team or what they need to do, perhaps there is something there for the players in terms of refreshing their minds and bodies a bit, altering their approach. They will have to do it against the cup holders, Wigan Athletic, who basically just charge forward and take names, having eliminated Manchester City--away--in the previous round. The Latics sit fifth in the Championship, too, and have retained a number of players from their Premier League days.
If Arsenal are to succeed, they will have to stop looking vulnerable on the counter (it feels weird to write that about a match against Wigan, but Wigan scored when City were the most disorganized, so). Arsene Wenger knows this, saying
"Better defending...We feel that we have a team who has experience, who has been all over Europe to play against big teams, who has a stable defence. But we want to defend better as a unit.
"The FA Cup is also an opportunity to regenerate the team," he added. "We have produced remarkable games against Tottenham, Everton, Liverpool in this competition and we want to continue on that run.
"What is important is that we just go out on the day and be faithful to the performances we have put in this FA Cup until now. We have gone through very difficult opponents, so this is one more to add to that list."
And Arsenal will have to go through Wigan without a number of key players, although the return of Aaron Ramsey last weekend was a beacon of hope in the brown storm. He will probably start tomorrow, as there're not very many options in the midfield otherwise, due to Mathieu Flamini's suspension for accumulating 10 yellows this year (sigh). Tomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all doubts as well, along with long-termers Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Özil. That means that Kim Kallstrom will probably have to play, and he will probably start if Rosicky can't go. Here's a likely setup:
Sagna - Mertesacker - Vermaelen - Monreal
Kallstrom - Arteta
Ramsey - Cazorla - Podolski
One key for Arsenal will be not letting their left flank get torn up again as last weekend at Everton; Wigan did score up that flank against City, so will be incumbent upon Lukas Podolski or whoever plays on that side to help Monreal and Vermaelen keep the Wigan attack at bay.
Let's hope they can, and let's get out of this dang sleep chamber and confront the menace that's been boarding our ship.