Saturday, 3 December 2011

Wigan vs Arsenal Preview: Team news, The Ox and our striker problems.

Afternoon to all in the GoonerVerse,

We are approaching an increasingly vital game on the back of a mini blip of sorts. Whilst our performance was admirable mid-week a setback here and the button men on Fleet Street will be sharpening their knives to really stick it in.

I think today’s game is vital, not because the pressure is up again, I just think this is exactly the type of game we should be winning and to maintain our surge up the table we must continue in the vain of form prior to the Fulham game. I spoke at length then, that perhaps the problem may have been complacency more so than fatigue but either way this is a game we should not be taking lightly. Wenger asserted as much in his pre-match notes when he said “For us of course the three points are the target, no matter who we play. We dropped two points against Fulham and it is important we get back to winning habits."

The manager has spoken of the importance of the upcoming game and all the players have had sufficient rest, bar Koscienly, so we have no such excuses this time. I anticipate we shall return to our collaborative team ethic of working hard for each other and building from the back. From that solid base we can launch attacks against a team whose luck is bound to get better. It is imperative that we ensure we are ruthless as I think it may be a tighter affair than the table may suggest, especially given their recent successes against us. To be completely honest, I think this will play into our hands as Roberto Martinez has already spoken of the need to play football.

“We both need the points for different reasons, so it will be a great match. You can’t beat arsenal by trying to be solid and defensive, they will find a way through… there are always plenty of goals in the games here. We both treat the ball really well and play football from the back… we will have to put a lot of our energy into trying to break them down at the back.”

This is clearly an indication that it will be an open game, especially from their perspective. Martinez is unbeaten against Wenger at home and I think he thinks he knows how to hurt us. We must be prepared and I am sure the right preperations have been made. Such are the recent league results that we as fans would expect to win this match with ease but the reality is that it will be a huge battle. One, the likes of Arteta, Song, Vermaelan and Koscienly will be crucial warriors in.

With injury news relatively good in that there are no new casualties from the Carling Cup match, however the sad news that Diaby has had yet another setback has permeated through. Though it comes as no surprise to anyone that has followed his injury plagued career, I can’t help but feel sorry for the lad. He has showed glimpses of brilliance but is unfortunately now going to be stuck in a bit of loop of little niggles, recover and play, more niggles and recover etc. The other long term injuries are Wilshere (ankle), Gibbs (stomach), Jenkinson (back), Diaby (hamstring), Sagna (ankle), Ryo (ankle).

So without those players I expect the starting line up to look like this:


Koscienly                  Mertesacker                          Vermaelan                Santos



            Walcott                                   Ramsey                                 Gervinho

                                                            Van Persie

Certainly with that line up you would expect to beat a side in all sorts of trouble but stranger things have happened especially with Arsenal. I still expect a win, I would put my penny or two on a two nil win with Van Persie to score first.

Aside from the match there have been two issues which have dominated Arsenal press since the Man City match midweek. These have been what role Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should play in the squad and whether we have any backup strikers worthy of the shirt.

Let’s start with the Ox; after his sincilating performance midweek, where he caused international defenders all sorts of problems, questions are understandably being asked as to why he hasn’t had more opportunities. My feelings on this are simple enough, he is good enough so should be included in the squads and be given an opportunity where possible. The last part of that sentence is crucial though, where possible. With the situation we were in at the start of the season Arsene Wenger did not really have much choice but to stick with a consistent line-up especially as things were looking up. He has had some opportunities and I think he will get more. Arsene Wenger’s record in blooding young players is second to none so rest assured when he is completely ready Wenger will play him!

The second of the major issues is our dependency on Robin Van Persie for goals and the lack of a deputy that can come in and do a job. I do not want to use this as an opportunity to speculate what will happen in the transfer market but one thing is clear: Chamakh is not going to be good enough and neither is Park, not at the moment anyway. This means that we will need to do something to remedy this whether it is a foray into the transfer market or use someone else up there but an injury to RVP will be difficult to cope with.

I know there is lot’s of hysteria around Wenger’s comments regarding him not buying this transfer window but he has made these comments before. I can guarantee that if the right player is available he will buy him. If you look at Wenger’s comments carefully he doesn’t fully rule out a signing which is understandable, he does not want to knock the confidence of players who are already low on it.

"At the moment, I do nothing in January, we have a big squad, but if you knock at my door and say 'I have a fantastic player for you', I will not turn it down… If we have no injuries, we should get away with it because we have Oxlade Chamberlain, who can play there, Park, Arshavin and Van Persie. So we still have offensive players, but we could be a bit short if we have an injury.”

Well I think that’ll have to do it for the day. I will speak to you all tomorrow!


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