Arsenal vs. Wigan: Complete Preview of Vital Premier League Battle

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 13, 2013

WIGAN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22:  Jean Beausejour of Wigan Athletic brings down Theo Walcott of Arsenal to concede a penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at the DW Stadium on December 22, 2012 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The term "must-win" is used liberally, but Wigan Athletic's circumstances dictate that they win both of their remaining English Premier League games to stay up.

The dogfight to avoid relegation is close to reaching its stunning conclusion, and the Latics are left with the ultimate test in escapology: On Tuesday, they travel to North London and meet UEFA Champions League chasing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Should Wigan draw or lose to the Gunners, Aston Villa become mathematically safe despite squaring off with them at the DW Stadium on the final day.

A draw would also see Sunderland safe barring the most ridiculous of circumstances—the Black Cats hold an 11-goal advantage in goal difference, and that needs to disappear before the Latics can overtake them once drawing level on points.

So with that clear in their minds, and FA Cup success fresh in their memories, Roberto Martinez's troops will knuckle down and attempt to do the impossible for what seems like the 100th time.

But the opponents they meet in Arsenal are also going to be up for it, and it's arguable Arsene Wenger's troops have not been more dangerous throughout the season than they are now.

The Gunners are second in the form table with four wins and two draws in their last six outings, conceding just three in the process.

But despite that unbeaten run, Tottenham's win over Stoke City at the weekend dumped Arsenal out of the top four. A win against the Latics will allow them to clamber back into the Champions League qualification places, but a draw would see them fall a point short going into the final day.

Two wins for Arsenal sees them into the Promised Land, regardless of what Spurs do.


Team News

And it starts on Tuesday against a depleted Wigan side. Martinez's squad has been ripped apart by injury recently, forcing him to field James McCarthy in an emergency right-wing-back role at Wembley.

Later in the game fellow midfielder James McArthur was moved there, while holding player Roger Espinoza filled in on the left.

Jean Beausejour, Maynor Figueroa and Ronnie Stam are all still out, but Ben Watson's FA Cup-winning goal puts him in contention to start.

In the red corner, Olivier Giroud is still suspended, but there are no fresh injury concerns for Wenger to deal with. He could name an unchanged side to the one that dispensed QPR the previous weekend.


Who Wants It More?

At this late stage in the season, teams with nothing to play for often roll over in front of those who are eager.

But this matchup is particular intriguing, and it's difficult to identify who wants it more: Arsenal must secure UCL football for next season, while Wigan need a win to have any chance of staying in the division.

Both teams play football, both teams pass the ball well. A nerve-racking, but beautiful, 90 minutes lies ahead.


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