Before we have the opportunity to book a place in the Carling Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve got the bread and butter of our league standing to attend to. Wigan arrive at the Grove tomorrow to face a buoyant Arsenal who seem to have put their recent poor form behind them.
The Latics are hovering around the relegation zone having only won 4 times this season. Their last 5 visits to N5 in the league have all ended in home wins and clean sheets. But on the other hand, Wigan have only lost one of their last seven games (but won just one of those); our last two games with Roberto Martinez’s men – both ‘oop north’ have yielded just one point out of six.
They have some talented players in N’Zogbia and Rodallega, the latter especially capable of creating a goal out of nothing. So while there is room for confidence, there is no room for complacency, as we discovered to our cost against Leeds and Ipswich.
I imagine that we’ll see something like a full-strength team with Fabregas returning to captain the side, along with v Persie and Wilshere. At the back the only question is whether we’ll see Kieron Gibbs or Gael Clichy. I’d prefer to see the Englishman continue his run in the side, and put some pressure on Clichy to get rid of the lapses in judgement / concentration / brainwaves that lead him to make glaring errors on a matchly basis.
Another selection dilemma is whether to continue with Arshavin. The bonkers little Russian doesn’t seem happy at the moment, and it’s easy to see why. Last season he’d have games where he’d hardly touch the ball, only to pop up and score or set someone else up with a marvellous bit of skill.
This season it’s been more the case that he’s worked hard, occasionally got an assist, but has only managed 4 league goals and at times looked badly out of sorts. His run of the mill passing is great, but when he tries anything beyond that, more often than not these days it ends up coming to nothing. As tempting as it is to bring Theo on as an impact sub to attack defenders’ tired legs, I’d prefer to see him play a whole game, and give the bonkers Russian a rest.
Another player who could do with a rest is Nasri. But when a player’s in his kind of sparkling form, it might be wisest to play him for the first 60 mins, and if a victory is secured throw on Rosicky in his place.
So I expect from Wigan:
Al-Habsi; Gohouri – Gary Caldwell – Alcaraz – Figueroa; Stam – Watson – Diamé – Thomas – N’Zogbia; Rodallega
And for us:
Szczesny; Sagna – Koscielny – Djourou – Gibbs/Clichy; Song – Fabregas – Wilshere; Nasri – v Persie – Arshavin/Walcott
Arsenally betting tips
Tellingly, the best odds on a home win are 2/9, and 5-0 is a miserly 9/1 with Victor Chandler. The Arsenally quids are boldly placed on a 5-0 romp at 22/1 with SportingBet. The same firm have 50/1 on 6-0 which may well get a few pennies. As for goalscorers, it’s got to be the captain, who of course takes the pens. Cesc to score first is 11/2 with Paddy Power.
In other news, it seems we’ve broken the habit of a lifetime and professed to an interest in another club’s player during the transfer window – shock, horror! It’s Bolton’s Gary Cahill, of whom AW said:
At the moment, I cannot come out with any name. I think Gary Cahill is a very good player but I cannot tell you more.
He really does crack me up sometimes, Arsène. I think his ‘silence’ speaks volumes. AW seems to be on good terms with Owen Coyle after Jack Wilshere’s loan spell, and more importantly, Bolton have signed David Wheater from Middlesborough as a possible replacement. He’d be a good signing – experienced, Premiership match fit, and used to battling against stronger opposition. My bullsh*tometer gives this a mere 2/10 – quite likely, but there’s a funny smell in the room.
In another break from our tradition omerta, “There’s a slight chance” that Almunia will leave in this transfer window. Given that this has been stated on the official site, it gets a 1/10 on the bullsh*tometer – as likely as it gets, and only trained dogs can sense the hint of cow.
Aaron Ramsey and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas are to go to Dave Jones’s Cardiff on loan, according to the ‘holic. It’ll be a great chance for the both of them to get some games under their belt. For Ramsey, this means recovering and getting back into his football by playing games not warming benches; for JET, it’s a chance to show AW that he’s got what it takes to stay at the club and push for a first team place. Good luck to the pair of them. I hope they return hungry to get (back) into the first team and push on with their careers.
I shall be travelling down to my mum’s this weekend for Christmas. Yes, I know what date it is, but she was away in Australia over the 25th December, so we’re having our family Christmas this weekend. And seeing as it’s Christmas, I’ll be going with the other men over to the pub at about, say, 3pm?
COME ON YOU GOONERS!