In the last round of play in 2010 Arsenal went to Wigan and dropped two valuable points. Manager Arsene Wenger was roundly criticized for the number of changes he made to the Arsenal side for that game.
Critics seemed oblivious – or chose to be so – of the four games in nine days that Arsenal faced. And now whether fans and critics like it or not if Arsenal hopes to maintain a challenge for four trophies the stark reality is that changes will be a necessary part of Arsenal’s strategy over the next four months.
The two games a week schedule has already kicked in with a midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Ipswich ten days ago and a Third Round FA Cup replay win against Leeds on Wednesday. There will be more to follow.
But before the Carling semi final second leg (Arsenal trail 1-0) in midweek at Emirates against Championship side Ipswich, Wigan come calling. Somewhat ironically Wigan was the team that knocked Arsenal out at the semi final stage of the Carling Cup five years ago.
Wigan led 1-0 after the first leg but the second leg required extra time and a last minute goal from Jason Roberts sent Wigan to the final on the extra time away goals rule followed in the Carling Cup.
Just think, if Arsenal had gone on to win the Carling Cup that year every soccer commentator would be reminding us that Arsenal had not won a trophy since 2006, rather than 2005…..yawn. (Could one of them at least show some originality and maybe do it in another language – say Latin? “Arsenal who have not one a trophy since MMV……”)
Wigan’s other trips to play Arsenal in London have not had the same silver lining of that defeat in 2006. The good news for Arsenal is that when Wigan come calling on league business there has only ever been one outcome – a win for Arsenal. The Gunners have won all five, scoring 15 while conceding only 3.
Wigan have found it close to impossible to remain clear of the relegation zone for long this season. Time and time again they have fought their way out only to be sucked back into the dreaded bottom three.
Like other sides in the same predicament Wigan have become a tough team to beat while finding it difficult to win. For example over the last seven Premier League matches Wigan have only lost once, but have only won once and the other five games have finished as draws.
The way the relegation fight is shaping up this season it seems unlikely that 35 or 36 points are not going to be enough to avoid the drop and it may well the oft repeated but rarely needed 40 points that will be required. A few wins along the way would certainly make it a lot easier for Wigan.
To get the wins that they need Wigan need to find a way – or someone – to score goals. It was a problem that Wigan hoped had been solved by signing Mauro Boselli but the Argentine striker never looked comfortable in his five starts and three substitute appearances. Now he has been loaned to Genoa and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t see the DW Stadium again.
Wigan seems to spend too much time thinking of their half time cup of tea and not enough time on the job at hand. In the last 15 minutes before half time Wigan have been outscored by 10 goals to 1. Their total goal difference is -13 so a substantial part of the deficit can be put down to the lead up to the break.
Out of the blocks fast – that is Arsenal. They are the only team that has yet to concede a goal in the first 15 minutes of a Premier League game this season and they have also scored 7 before the first quarter of an hour is up.
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