Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Saturday March 8 2008
It'll be quite a come-down for Arsenal when they visit Wigan on Sunday, after their historic win against AC Milan at the San Siro.
Although I find it hard to believe, Arsene Wenger insists his side will go into this game with as much hunger and desier as they took into the game against Milan.
Both teams have massive reasons to win the match. Wigan sit just two points and three places outside of the relegation zone with ten games to go.
For Arsenal it's a chance to go four points clear and slam all the pressure squarely on the shoulders of United and Chelsea.
Arsenal will have been boosted by the shock defeats of United and Chelsea. It'll no doubt damage the confidence of both teams, something Wenger will be delighted about with both teams snapping at the heels of Arsenal.
Arsenal may have made Milan look more like Milwall on Tuesday, but their form recent form gives us nothing to shout about. They've won only two of their last six games. Both were 2-0 wins, one over Milan, the other over Blackburn. There's also been a 4-0 stuffing at the hands of United at Old Trafford. Draws against Milan, Birmingham and Villa complete's Arsenal's last six results.
Like Arsenal, Wigan have won only two of their last six. Wins over West Ham and Derby has given them six prescious points in recent weeks. Boro, Chelsea and Sunderland have inflicted defeats of the Lactics in the last few weeks and they have just the one draw lately. A 0-0 with Manchester City.
When asked if he would settle for a draw against Arsenal on Sunday Steve Bruce replied: 'We would take that now I am sure, especially after the performance that they produced at AC Milan in midweek.
'I was sitting watching and thinking it's as a good a performance as I have seen from a British team abroad.
'But that is the beauty of being in the Premier League - you get your moments against them.'
Wenger says that both teams have plenty to play for. The Arsenal boss also stated that he LIKES the fact that some places like Wigan have a poor playing surface: 'It will be a big test because they play not to go down. We expect a big commitment.
'They are under pressure like we are under pressure, so we are both in the same conditions.
'I've heard from reporters that their pitch is not like the Emirates. But I like England because to be champions here you have to go from Milan to Wigan - and win the game.
'It's a completely different kind of game but you have to find always a response to what you face.
"That's real quality for me.'
Wigan have a full squad to choose from after Ryan Taylor (ribs) and Kevin Kilbane (foot) returned from injury.
The Austrian defender has been leading by example in recent weeks. He grabbed a goal against Derby a couple of weeks ago. He's also been in fine form at his own end of the pitch. He'll need to be on the very top of his game to stop Arsenal.
Arsenal have been boosted by the possible return of Kolo Toure (calf) and Alex Song (medial ligament) from injury.
However, Theo Walcott (thigh) and Abou Diaby (calf) have joined Tommy sick note and Eduardo on the injury list.
Robin Van Persie played an hour in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Colorado Rapids. Wenger was concerned about how tired Van Persie was, and says he will look at things on Sunday morning. Wenger said: 'Robin played an hour and he looks OK. But it [the Wigan game] looks early for him, he finished the game very tired so I will have to analyse that.'
The Frenchman didn't recieve enough praise for his epic performance in Milan. He seemed to pop up from nowhere and nick the ball.
Before the Milan game Wenger said that he would stick to his usual zonal marking policy. He just forgot to mention that Flamini's zone was the entire pitch!
Wigan will offer a scrappy game, something Flamini will be well up for. I've no doubt he'll not stop running as usual.
Rob Styles will (hopefully) take charge of proceedings on Sunday. His card count would suggest he is a reasonable man. He's dished out 3 red cards and 68 yellows in his 21 games this season. An average of 3.57 cards per game.
My own opinion, yet alone that of fans in general, is divided about this game. On the one hand we've just become the first English team to beat Milan in their own back garden, and put in one of the best footballing performances I have ever witnessed. On the other hand, Wign is quite a come down, and it'll be hard for the players to motivate themselves as they did in Milan. That combined with the facts that Wign are fighting for their Premiership survival, and the piss-poor pitch at the JJB means that Wign will be in with a shout. That said, I'm going to back Arsenal. 1-0 to The Arsenal. Adebayor to grab the only goal of a scrappy match.
Date:Saturday March 8 2008
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