Arsenal welcome end-of-season-rampant Wigan Athletic to the Emirates tomorrow for their 34th Premier League clash of the year. Wigan are doing their Wigan thing, climbing out of relegation at the last possible moment by doing things like winning against Manchester United, so Arsenal must not take them lightly at all. Arsenal did beat Wigan 4-0 at the DW Stadium back in December, but that was when Wigan were not yet aware that relegation was a thing, apparently. It could be a very different contest tomorrow.
More after the jump. Let's go!
Arsene Wenger revealed his injury news ahead of the match on Friday, and there are a couple of positions up in the air still:
There is a possibility for Gibbs [to play against Wigan]. It is 50:50 that he will be available again. He is improving day to day and has been practising but not with the team...
Gervinho is a strong possibility to face Wigan, he is 80:20.
Even if they both end up being healthy, one wouldn't be crazy to think that this game will still see Andre Santos starting at left back and Yossi Benayoun or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting at left midfield/wing. However, given Wenger's propensity to use the Israeli for bigger matches, there is a chance he will
save Benayoun for Chelsea on Saturday [edit: he can't play against Chelsea--use him tomorrow, then!] and roll out Gervinho or Ox tomorrow.
There is no other injury news beyond that Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin are close to returning to the squad, but they won't factor in tomorrow.
Wigan played weirdly narrowly against Manchester United in their 1-0 win, with right mid Victor Moses drifting inside quite a bit. Central midfielders James McCarthy and James McArthur...
...really. James McCarthy and James McArthur? Come on, Wigan. Seriously.
...they will patrol the middle while Franco di Santo will most likely play up front on his own. Jordi Gomez offers a bit of skill in the midfield should Martinez elect to use him, and his name is nothing remotely like McCarthy/ur/arthy/ur at all.
Overall, this is a match that Arsenal should win, and if they do, their grip on third solidifies even more. Tomas Rosicky stressed the importance of the match:
"Wigan beat Manchester United on Wednesday, so that’s an indication that it will be a tough test for us," he told the Official Arsenal Magazine.
"We’ll have to be on top of our game to win, no doubt about it. Wigan have some very good players and a good young manager, so this will be a very tough match for us.
"We have a great chance to stay in [third] position, but now we have to make sure of it. That starts against Wigan on Monday - and make no mistake, it’s a very big game for us.
"People might not usually regard a match against Wigan as such a big one, but they are still battling relegation, so there is a lot at stake for both of us.
"We saw what can happen against a team fighting for its life when we played away at QPR, and we expect the same kind of performance from Wigan on Monday. We have to give 100 per cent to get the result."
One wouldn't be surprised to see Aaron Ramsey start in Rosicky's place, but there is enough time before Chelsea that the resurgent Czech could play both matches, too. Laurent Koscielny is still suspended.
Anticipated lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Santos; Song, Arteta, Rosicky; Gervinho, van Persie, Walcott.
Match prediction: McCarthy and McArthur combine to form Jimmy-Jim MaccamacCarthyarthur, a super-sized midfielder with the hair of a thousand men, the heart of a president, and the slick social skills of the finest Wigan politickers. Alex Song is duly impressed, but is able to resist in the end, setting up Theo Walcott for the opener. Arsenal eventually prevail by a score of 4-0, but only after MaccamacCarthyarthur eats three members of the crowd and Lukasz Fabianski.