Fans of both Wigan and Arsenal are entitled to expect an open and entertaining match at the DW Stadium this coming Saturday, with both teams aiming to play a flowing brand of football. Both Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez appear to have the shared aim of having their team playing in the style of Josep Guardiola’s Barcelona, with Arsenal clearly closer to emulating the Spanish and European Champions. Whilst the Latics like to monopolize possession wherever possible, the superior ability of Arsenal’s players at keeping possession compared to the majority of Premier League sides may force Martinez to slightly alter the way he tells his team to play for this match.
A change from the norm in relation to playing style was certainly evident in this fixture last season. Forced to play on the counter attack as Arsenal dominated possession, Wigan took their chances and secured a 2-2 draw, whilst having to cope with the dismissal of key man Charles N’Zogbia. Despite having almost total control of the game, failure to take their chances and defensive frailties cost the Gunners two points on this occasion.
The two managers rarely stray far in terms of tactical approach from their favoured 4-3-3 systems, although Martinez has experimented with a 5-4-1 system both at home to Blackburn and in last weekend’s victory at Sunderland. However, I believe that this system was introduced partly in order to accommodate Ronnie Stam during the absence of regular right-back Emmerson Boyce, with Stam having proved to be a liability when played in a back four on numerous occasions last season. Consequently, I am expecting the likely return of Boyce to the starting line-up this coming weekend to coincide with the return of a 4-3-3.
Despite the form of Jordi Gomez and the workrate offered by Connor Sammon against Blackburn and Wolves, I would expect to see these two make way to allow the reintroduction of Di-Santo and Rodallega against Arsenal. I believe Martinez’s first choice front three remains Rodallega, Di-Santo and Moses when all are on form, with the misfiring of Rodallega at Wolves explaining his recent absence from the team whilst Di-Santo has been a slight injury concern. Rodallega has often been criticised for his shooting accuracy in the past and his shooting accuracy of 33% registered against Wolves appears to have convinced Martinez that he needed some time on the bench in order to get back to his best.
Defensively, Wigan will obviously need to be aware of the threat posed by Robin Van Persie. Currently regarded by many as one of the best strikers in world football, Caldwell and Gohouri will have to maintain their concentration all afternoon to give Latics any chance in this game. With Van Persie playing in the relatively deep ‘false nine’ role occupied to great effect by Lionel Messi at Barcelona, the decision making of the two centre-halves will have to be almost perfect in regards to when to drop off and when to get tight to the mercurial Dutchman.
I’ll leave you with some stats from the new Quick Stats area in EPLIndex Stats Centre* (Subscribe Now) showing the passing stats from the corresponding game last season. As you can see there are many other tabs in the system but this is just one of the pages from the Stats Centre.
(*All Stats are via Opta)