• Arsenal v Wigan, Premier League preview

Wenger wary of desperate Wigan

ESPN staff
May 14, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he is unsure how Wigan's battling FA Cup win at Wembley will impact on their performance at the Emirates Stadium in a match Roberto Martinez's men must win to keep alive realistic hopes of staying in the Barclays Premier League.

However, Wenger wants his team fully focused on delivering the required result themselves.

"Wigan had a contrasting week because they were on a low against Swansea when they lost at home, a game that of course was a massive game for them, but you could see on Saturday they have quality and they played a remarkable game when they played against Man City,'' he said.

"What kind of team will we face? We don't know. We know just one thing - we want to be at our best in a game of that importance.

"We are on a remarkable run, we have been hugely consistent and we are in a position where our destiny depends on us and we want to finish the job.''

Martinez accepts there is no margin for error in their final two matches with the team staring relegation in the face. Anything other than victory would effectively send the Latics down - they have a vastly inferior goal difference to nearest rivals Sunderland, who are four points ahead - just three days after winning the FA Cup.

But the situation is not an unfamiliar one for Martinez, as the last two seasons their top-flight existence has gone down to the final couple of matches.

"There is no margin for error, you need to win your 'finals' - that could be survival or winning trophies like we did on Saturday,'' the Spaniard said. "You prepare for 10 or 11 months to get to crunch time and make sure you win the games and that is exactly the situation we are in.

"When you start the season you plan the campaign to try to be successful in the league: some clubs plan to win the league and some plan to stay in it. Six points at this stage of the season is vital. Two years ago we had to get all six, last season we had to get three out of six, other years we've needed one.

"I don't see it as an extra pressurised situation as the players have been coping with it year after year. We have six points to get and finish the season on a real high."

Form

Theo Walcott has 13 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal so far this season © PA Photos
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The signs aren't good for Wigan. Arsenal are the league's in-form team, having won six and drawn two of their last eight matches, and still have all to play for themselves as they bid to secure a place in next season's Champions League.

But the Gunners have been less than watertight at the Emirates - they've conceded 22 goals at home so far this season, eight more than they have shipped on the road.

Wigan won this fixture 2-1 en route to survival last season, and know that their fate is in their hands - beat Arsenal on Tuesday and Aston Villa on the final day of the season and their Premier League status is assured.

But while Roberto Martinez's side have taken more points on the road than at home, earning 18 of their 35 points away from the DW Stadium, the Latics have won just one Premier League match since March, while their 67 goals conceded is the joint-worst defensive record in the league.

Team news

Arsenal expect to have goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (rib) and full-back Kieran Gibbs (hip) available but striker Olivier Giroud is serving the last game of his three-match ban, while midfielder Abou Diaby (knee) is a long-term absentee.

Martinez can select from the same FA Cup-winning squad he took to Wembley. The Latics boss is concerned about fatigue after a physically and emotionally draining final at Wembley and could freshen up the starting line-up.

Midfielder Jean Beausejour and defender Adrian Lopez could return for Sunday's final match of the season at home to Aston Villa.

Shaun Maloney, Wigan's playmaker, insisted that work for the Arsenal game had started before the FA Cup final, but he will need to be at his best to unlock the Gunners' defence. Martinez believes the 30-year-old Scot is the side's talisman, and his dead ball delivery could prove vital.

Head-to-head battles

  • Per Mertesacker v Callum McManaman

    Defender will be tested by the youngster's pace

  • Santi Cazorla v Emmerson Boyce

    Can the Spaniard unlock the Wigan defence?

  • Aaron Ramsey v Ben Watson

    The FA Cup match-winner must marshall midfield

Key battle

Theo Walcott will lead the line for Arsenal, but will he face a back three or a back four? Martinez was forced to field three centre-backs against Man City at Wembley but the formation worked wonders, and the Spaniard may opt to field the same defence at The Emirates.

They'll have their work cut out against Walcott, however. The striker has 13 goals and 13 assists this season, and has found the net in his previous two games.

Prediction and bet

No team has won the FA Cup and been relegated in the same season, but there's a first time for everything. Wigan's fate may be in their own hands but to survive they must derail Arsenal's plans, and that seems a tall order.

Expect goals at both ends, but a couple more for the home side - a 3-1 win for the Gunners is available at 9/1 with Bet365.

Final score: 3-1

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