Match Preview: Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic

Jamie McDonald

They don't get much bigger than this. Forget Bramall Lane 2007and forget the Britannia Stadium 2011, if Wigan Athletic are to survive, then this will be higher than those two games in the needs of must wins. Wigan Athletic now have two games, and two finals to keep their Premier League survival.

Football is a cruel mistress. Only 24 hours after beating Manchester City at Wembley stadium, Wigan Athletic are staring down the barrel of relegation. Withe Newcastle United and Norwich City winning it meant that only two wins will now do the Lancashire side.

The first is tonight's encounter against Arsenal. The gunners who have had over a week off to prepare and rest for this game, are looking to get a place in the top four. To do that, they will have to also win their next two games. At either end of the table this has massive importance.

Latics come into the game in great form after Saturday's win. With Antolin Alcaraz fit and ready to go, the Wigan ship had been balanced as captain Gary drops to the bench. The belief in the camp is high, but what at fatigue levels? The game tonight will be Wigan's fourth in ten days, that is some turn around, is everyone fit?

Hopefully yes, none looked to be struggling towards the end of the game, and hopefully the added morale boost can spur us on. If the lads keep the same level of confidence they did to play Manchester City then we could get a win in this one, it won't be easy by any means but we can do it.

The way to win will be the battle in the middle. Both teams love to get the ball down and knock it around, so it will be vital that James McCarthy and Jordi Gomez are up to the challenge. Both of them had a great game against City had kept their big name stars quite, with Shaun Maloney dropping deep for reinforcements the midfielder duo/trio works well.

Winning that battle and being able to get the ball up to will be key. Arouna Kone and Callum McManaman will have to be on form yet again. Callum this time will face the returning Kieran Gibbs as his wing opponent. Will Gibbs be up to it? Arsenal will hope so.

It is the reason I feel we could win this, is because of our front two. Arouna Kone has played more or less every defender in this league when given the chance. The ball at his feet with a defender coming in, he is fantastic at holding the ball up and creating some space, while he can brilliantly run the channels and get to the ball ahead of other players.

It may not be a bad idea for the Wigan players to try and hit the ball long today, we may have some joy.

So what of Arsenal? Well Arsene Wenger will become the longest serving manager in the league at the end of the season, and the Arsenal manager wants to stay around, to do that he will need to gain Champions League football. With two players returning to the fray this week (Kieran Gibbs and Lukasz Fabianski), Arsenal more or less have a full strength side.

The threat of Arsenal is all over the pitch, if we don't close the space and allow them time on the ball then we could be over run. Especially if Theo Walcott gets on the ball, his pace is something that could really hurt Latics in behind. Roger Espinoza will be squaring up to the England international and will have to be ready for the test.

We have to pray and hope we can do this. It won't be easy but the signs are there that Latics could pull this off. Get in their faces and play the ball about well and we could cling on to the final day, where we will have to do it all over again.

Keep the Faith!

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