Referee: Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal last five games with Clattenburg: P5, W5, D0, L0. Cards: 20Y, 3R (Boyata, Wheater, Squillaci). Two penalties (Arsenal, Arsenal). Chance that a center half will get a red card for “denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity”? 7/5
Injuries: Arsenal: Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Miyaichi, Sagna. Wigan: Boyce (possible), Alcaraz (suspension for spitting).
Stats you will hear repeated often: Arsenal have only taken one point from their last two away games to Wigan. Both the loss and the draw happened when Arsenal conceded goals in the last 10 minutes of the two games. Arsenal have the best record coming from behind earning 7 points from losing positions in their last 4 games. If van Persie scores it will be his 40th goal this calendar year (record?).
Stats you will not hear: Wigan lead the league in dribbles per game on home turf (10.7). Wigan are third in the league in hoofing long balls at home (73 per game). Wigan lead the League in fouls per game (13.8) and are third in cards per game at the DW. Wigan have only scored 8 goals in all 6 of their home games.
Arsenal away: The Gunners are 19th in Aerial duels won per game on away days. Arsenal are second in tackles per game (18.7) and 4th in interceptions (18.5). Offensively, Arsenal lead the League in shots on target per game on away days (7) and are third in overall shots per game (16.7). The Gunners lead the League in through balls per game, are second in possession, dead last in long balls per game, and second only to City in short passes per game.
A reporter from Wigan gave Arsenal supporters some insight into the Wigan plan of attack on the dot com this morning. Basically, Wigan play a 4-5-1 with Moses left alone to create up front but what Martinez has been experimenting with is a 3-6-1 and Paul Kendrick from the Wigan Evening Post hinted that Wigan might try to overload the midfield with 6 players against Arsenal.
This is a tactic that Borussia used against Arsenal and the first time it worked. Arsenal were overrun and outpassed in midfield at Signal Iduna Park as the bees harried and outworked a hapless three man Arsenal midfield.
In the return leg Borussia tried a similar tactic and Arsenal were ready for it with quick ball movement and by utilizing Koscielny on the right and Santos on the left to help bring the ball up into the midfield and in the attack. My beef that day was with Ramsey as I thought he tried to hide up front and left Arteta too isolated in midfield. These games where the opposition flood the midfield are where you need your attacking midfielder to stay a little deeper and provide an outlet for the holding mids.
If you end up seeing Arteta dribbling out of trouble, between multiple defenders, too often then you will know that Ramsey isn’t helping out enough in midfield.
Meanwhile, the game will in all likelihood be very compressed in midfield and the temptation for Wigan will simply be to hoof forward and see if Moses can split the red sea.* With Arsenal 19th in aerial duels and Wigan third in hoofing long balls I have no doubt that Arsenal supporters will have hearts in mouths on no less than (say) three occasions.
Personally, I would be tempted to play a back line of Koz, Per, Vermaelen, and St. Andre with Santos allowed to roam forward. I would take the unusual step of using Koz or Vermaelen to mark Moses or Di Santo out of the game. This is probably because whenever I see a team adopt foolishness like 4-5-1 or 3-6-1 I think that the threat is easily nullified by marking the shit out of their 1. Koscielny is Arsenal’s best aerial defender having won 23/30 duels while Mertesacker (8/18) and Vermaelen (10/21) are still struggling to find the ball with their heads.
In attack Arsenal should look to do what Wigan wants to do to us except with a little more quality. Gervinho and Theo will need to put in a full shift in both midfield and as an outlet for Arsenal’s attack. Both wing players will need to do their shift providing an outlet both in terms of neat passes in the middle of the park and good crossing in to their opposite and the goal-hungry Robin van Persie. Moreover, there’s no shame in lobbing balls over the top for those two to run under especially if Wigan wants to pack the midfield.
Clattenburg is a hard ref to judge, he tends to let people get away with really strange fouls (Adebayor stamp on van Persie) but in three of the last four Arsenal matches he’s refereed he has shown a red card to the center half for the last man foul. Given that both teams will be looking to exploit space behind the defense I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of the two teams gets a Clattenburg special. In the last 4 years Per Mertesacker has only had 4 yellow cards and 1 red card. I wonder what the odds are on a red card for him from Clattenburg?
In the end, this should be a fairly open game and could even turn into a high scoring affair a 3-2 or something, likely with some drama at the end. We could also see a cameo from The Ox™ as Arsene Wenger has been saying that he might be ready to be moved into the Arsenal first team. Either way it should be a good game and with the entire Arsenal starting lineup well rested I expect that the Arsenal will come out gangbusters and look to put this game to bed. As many others have already said, this is the kind of game that Arsenal need to win if they have any hopes of making a top four finish.
What did I miss?
*You’re welcome, that joke will now be repeated ad nauseum should Moses score.