Arsenal – Wigan Preview

A weekend without Arsenal playing is rarely worth being alive for I find, but when that weekend also consists of a late winner for some racism endorsing, Dalglish worshipping, red shirt wearing scousers it just makes it worse. Especially when the winner is nodded home by a man who consistently looks like he has just climbed out a vat of oil; has no one thought to mention to him that his hair is ridiculous? As someone on twitter pointed out, if you invite two scouse sides to London to play in a semi final, you can’t expect them to leave the stadium as they found it (!/paulgbates/status/191167441664098306/photo/1). The weekend will get worse of course when one of our London based rivals joins them in the final, but as long as it’s not the mob from down the road I won’t mind too much.

The Arsenal train is picking up some undeniable momentum at the moment, and even though there was a signal failure in Shepherds Bush we haven’t let it derail our spirit. I think that this new found spirit is the key with which we are unlocking so many teams. The squad is the same as it was in January when we didn’t pick up a league point, yet players have returned from injury and from pointless international competitions and helped to instil a belief in the squad. Perhaps they reminded certain players that we are Arsenal Football Club, we have a rich tradition of success through harmony on and off the pitch, and that languishing in 7th simply isn’t good enough. When I see players like Rosicky and Benayoun busting their gut to make a tackle in the 90th minute it reminds of players like Arshavin, Nasri and Adebayor who couldn’t be described as anything but indolent. When Sagna said after the Tottenham game that “in our own stadium, against the enemy, we could not lose”, it must surely go down as one of the greatest ever sentences by an Arsenal player, and it is the embodiment of this new found spirit.

The players will be looking to take this spirit into the game on Monday night, and it’s a fixture in which we have enjoyed much success in recent seasons. Under Martinez, much like Swansea, Wigan have a brand of football quite similar to our own; it’s continental, and it relies on swift passing to move the opposition and create space for forward players to move in to. This ought to play into our hands as we are the best at this in the league. I don’t care if you’re born and bred in Swansea, or are Adrian Durham, we are the best in the league at passing football. When teams try to play us at our own game, we usually come out on top. Therefore I don’t think its being overly confident to expect a win tomorrow evening to bring us up to juggernaut style thrust for the visit of Chelsea in a few days later.

Wenger mentioned in his press conference that Gervinho and Gibbs should be in the squad which will give us some good options off the bench. I’m glad that Santos is getting a run in the team again, I find him an exciting player and not nearly as much of a liability as everyone else seems to say he is. Having said that I did think he was poor in the last game, so he’ll need to step up his performance tomorrow night. Also, if you didn’t happen to read what he said about Balotelli’s actions last week on ESPN then have a look (–sow.html). Even if you don’t like him as a player, you can’t knock that kind of commitment to the team and to his team mates.

I would select a team as follows:

Szcz, Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Santos, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Benayoun, Walcott, Van Persie.

I assume that Rosicky was left out of the line up last week because he was fatigued, as he can’t have been dropped based on his performances alone. After having 90 minutes off I’m hoping he’ll return fresh and feisty as ever. Yossi has forced his way into the team through graft, endeavour and a work rate which puts most others to shame, so I think we’ll see him start again, especially as Wenger will be forced to rest him for the Chelsea game a few days later.

Hope your weekend was a good one, check back here for post match articles and the like.

(halls_dja on twitter).

4 Responses to Arsenal – Wigan Preview

  1. James April 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    My eyebrows were raised by your comment that the Arsenal squad is the same as in January yet players have “returned from injury and from pointless international competitions”. I can only assume that this 'pointless' competition you're referring to is the African Cup of Nations, in which case I'd like to ask what it is that makes it so 'pointless'? I'm sure you wouldn't class the European Championship as such, yet I don't really see a relevant difference between the two. The Cup of Nations is of huge importance and cherished by the billion plus Africans who very rarely get to see a world class standard of football on their continent, something Europeans are treated to every week. It's also a fantastic exhibition of exciting, attacking football with incredibly passionate fans, leading to atmospheres as good as, if not better than, football anywhere in the world. As for the players, winning the tournament is as important as a South American winning the Copa America or a European winning the Euros – a fantastic achievement which can generally be held as second only to winning the World Cup, perhaps even more so given that this is something an African nation has never done.

    If the pointlessness you refer to is the tournament's timing, in January and February each year, then I suggest you consider whether or not your assessment is largely down to your Eurocentric viewpoint rather than the actual practicality of the timing. January and February is summer for the southern hemisphere and thus is the logical time for the tournament to be hosted. FIFA is very Eurocentric but CAF shouldn't have to adjust their schedule to fit the European season, especially given that (I would guess) the majority of the players still play football on their native continent. That Arsenal (and many other times) lost key players at this time is the fault of the players making the choice to ply their trade in Europe, not the fault of CAF.

  2. [email protected] April 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    James, clearly i do have a Eurocentric viewpoint, just as the Africans that you mention who enjoy the tournament so much have an Afro-centric view point. Consider how the tournament is held during the season every two years and then also consider the negative impacts that it has on the clubs who pay the wages of the players. Gervinho has barely featured for us since returning, goodness knows how many more points we would have dropped if Cameroon had qualified and Song had been torn from our midfield.
    I don't deny how important the tournament is for Africa, nor its people, nor the players who represent their nations, but i maintain that the competition is entirely pointless from an Arsenal supporters view point, which funnily enough is the view point from which i write.
    Also i flat out refuse to blame the players themselves because they play in Europe; i think that was a fatuous statement in what was otherwise a thoughtful comment. The recent alterations made in the years in which the tournament is to be held (every other year from 2013 so as not to negatively impact the African nation's chances in the World Cup the following summer) is indicative of the lack of forethought displayed by the Confederation of African Football over the years.
    This of course means that we are subjected to another tournament next year, therefore two years running. Terrific…..

  3. James April 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Devon, thanks for replying. I'm afraid you're missing my point. Yes obviously you have a Eurocentric viewpoint given that you live in Europe but what I was trying to say was you should bear that in mind when you deride and belittle an African tournament as pointless; when it comes to deciding whether an African tournament is valuable or not surely you should think about it from the point of view of an African, rather than of a European? You say CAF are displaying a lack of forethought but I think they're acting quite rationally from an African point of view, and I don't see why they should have to consider European considerations on anywhere near the same level as their own – Europe should have no more say in how Africa hold their tournaments than Africans do in the Euros. The tournament may be in the middle of the European domestic season but it is in the summer break of the African season, and surely this is what matters for an African tournament? Yes they're moving it so it doesn't negatively impact on African nations playing in the World Cup, but after all isn't that why the Euros are played when they are?

    My comment about it being the players' fault (maybe 'fault' was a bad choice of word) was that they moved to Europe, and the European clubs signed them, knowing full well that they stood a chance of being involved in the tournament and therefore they don't have a right to complain about it if they do. In rugby if players move countries, let alone hemispheres, they're often out of the running for their national team for similar reasons (see James Haskell, Danny Cipriani, Nick Evans, Luke MacAllister) and whilst I am by no means suggesting that this should be the case in football it equally shouldn't be the case that their continental federation should have to alter their schedule to account for the large number of players following the glory and money to Europe. I'm sure if there was some polar switch that saw many of the top European players moving to Africa UEFA wouldn't feel too happy about people suggesting they should play the Euros in the rain and snow of January and February, during their domestic seasons, to accommodate for this.

    I am simply suggesting that instead of deriding the tournament as 'pointless' you should recognise it certainly as an inconvenience (one which players and managers are well aware of when making big money transfers), but an inconvenience as inescapable and as important a part of football as injuries, suspensions, or World Cup qualifiers.

  4. [email protected] April 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    yes i completely agree with you that Europe should have as much say in how Africa organise their tournaments as Africa does with European tournaments, ie none. Perhaps pointless was a poor choice of words on my part as the tournament clearly serves a purpose, yet for me and many other fans it is just an inconvenience. Just to be clear i'm not advocating anything other than my own opinion, and i'm certainly not calling for the competition to be stopped. i dislike world cup qualifiers and European qualifiers just as much, and the friendly games i dislike even more. i think the mid season international friendlies could be labelled “pointless” with more veracity than the African Cup of Nations perhaps!

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