With both Chelsea and Tottenham coming away with 3 points against Aston Villa and Stoke City respectively, the pressure is on Arsenal now to reciprocate the same against the new F.A. Cup champions, Wigan Athletic. The Latics are immersed in joy over their first major trophy to date and they rightly deserve to be so for a long time, for despite their struggle to beat the relegation zone this season, they are guaranteed for UEFA Europa League play next season. While Wigan’s glory might unfortunately not overshadow the match at the Emirates tomorrow due to the danger of relegation looming for them (how cruel fate can be sometimes!), Arsenal must continue putting their best foot forward and avoid losing ground to Tottenham.
The last two league games for Arsenal saw lightning quick strikes from Theo Walcott and before we even realized what was happening, the club was holding an early lead – a rare and comforting situation that calms initial jitters and sets the tone of the game. Against Wigan on Tuesday, Arsenal must similarly pounce and attack from kickoff and notch a goal or two before the break to establish control over the match.
BE FURIOUS IN DEFENCE
Failure to hold an early lead against Manchester United had cost Arsenal two crucial points that could have meant a far better cushion going into tomorrow’s match. Their defense was admirable against the relegated QPR last week and they managed to hold on to the lead for 90 minutes. Another such gritty effort will be needed against Wigan who will certainly go all out in the match to avoid certain as their closest rival, Sunderland, lead them by four points.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FATIGUE FACTOR
Wigan played a physically demanding and a mentally exhausting match against the star-studded Manchester City lineup during the weekend and the effects of that final will continue to linger on them. Arsenal’s high-tempo possession play will no doubt test Wigan’s resolve and stamina and the Ginners have to stamp their authority all over the pitch and play without giving up possession which will push the Latics around and wear them out quickly.
NEGATE CALLUM MCMANAMAN
Callum McManaman’s scintillating performance in the FA Cup finals forever etched his name in Wigan folklore and his man of the match performance against Manchester City will again put him in spotlight against Arsenal. If Arsenal succeeds in keeping him silent, Wigan might find it tough to draw inspiration and repeat another miracle in London. The 22 year old English midfielder might just be Wigan’s best chance tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how Wenger will counter him.
NOT JUST ANOTHER GAME
If Arsenal drops points against Wigan, they will enter the final week of the season with their hearts in their mouths into a vicious and buoyant atmosphere against Newcastle (which has finally secured Premier League play for next season) at St. James’ Park. The only way to lessen the immense pressure is to play with all their might for three full points against Wigan. A win will put them back into the top four again and with Chelsea all but locking up third spot, Arsenal and Tottenham must slug it out for the final Champions League place. Win and they stay in the hunt, lose and disaster will beckon and haunt them.
For Arsenal it is down to this simple thing - show up with a big game mentality and avoid being complacent.