After our performance in the San Siro we must push on, both on a European and a domestic front. That starts this Sunday with the Premier League match at Wigan Athletic. The pitch up there will be awful and I doubt they will want to sort it out before we visit the JJB! On a brand new pitch we dominated Milan with our slick passing game. It will be difficult to carry out the same possession Football on such a ripped apart pitch.
If we want to win the Premier League we need to win these types of game. This game and the one at Bolton are the types of game that has caused us problems in recent seasons. To win the title we must prove that is behind us. We can go 4 points clear again and put the pressure firmly back on United to win their game in hand. It is tough always playing catch up and we cannot afford to give them any advantage.
Although we played 4-5-1 in the San Siro, I would like us to revert back to 4-4-2 against Wigan. Wigan should pose a far smaller threat in midfield and their defence is susceptible. We need to start scoring more frequently and having two up front makes a difference. One other reason for this is that the midfield area will become very congested on such a terrible pitch. Packing that area could have an adverse affect here.
Injuries will also dictate how and who we play. Walcott is out injured after a meaningless behind doors friendly against Colorado Rapids. The match may have been to help Van Persie in his return but what baffles me is why Theo was even playing? He is close to the first-team and his performances have looked promising of late but now he is out after such a stupid match. With the players available to Wenger it means Bendtner will get a chance up front. That will enable us to bypass the congested and bogged down midfield as we will inevitably try and hit long balls towards the two big front men.
Adebayor and Bendtner clearly do not get on well but neither did Sheringham and Cole during Man Utd’s treble winning season. They are both similar in their styles and as they are both outspoken it was always a risk something like this would break out. On Sunday they must show that they are professional and put it behind them for the good of the team. I would hope Ade did not pass to Bendtner at Birmingham because he felt he could score rather than disliking him. They linked well for the equaliser against Villa and more of the same will do nicely.
Diaby is also injured for this game after injuring his calf against Milan. What is it with Arsenal players and picking up so many injuries? Diaby did not seem to be struggling during the game and even played the full 90 minutes. The question of whether Wenger sends them to the treatment table after the smallest of niggles arises in my mind. I rarely see an Arsenal player playing in the side with a slight injury. I envy it when I see clubs like Liverpool who have the likes of Gerrard prepared to play through small problems without side effects. I doubt Wenger would ever let his players do the same.
With Eboue still suspended it is likely Hleb will play on the left with the right side filled by Fabregas or Denilson. I would prefer Wenger to stick with the same central midfield duo as in the San Siro as they will want to carry on what they did that night. These two are the mainstay of our midfield and right now part of the spine that will hopefully take us to the end of the season. Gilberto seems to have lost the ability to keep the ball and that will be crucial in this game, we must not allow Wigan to dominate us. That means we have Denilson to fill in on the right side.
Again the problem of squad depth arises and people will question Wenger’s judgement in not entering the transfer market. Again I will say there was no need for serious changes as we do have so many players to return very soon (I hope!). Maybe a winger would have been a good addition but with Walcott blossoming and Van Persie ready to free Hleb from his forward role our squad could have become too full.
One option Wenger has is to play either Clichy or Traore out wide on the left. Both can cross the ball and we would be secure down the sides. That is the area from which Wigan will want to attack and this gives us added protection down the wings. Saying that though i think Wenger will prefer to have natural midfield players in the side and it is a good game for Denilson to learn from.
The width will again have to come from the full backs with our midfield likely to be so narrow. Against Milan they were always prepared to get forward and their job will be to do the same and deliver crosses to the two big men up top. We have a huge threat with Bendtner and Adebayor and we must use this to its full extent. If it needs to be whipped in or kicked long lets just do it!
It is too early for Van Persie to start but he should be on the bench alongside Toure. Once again, these two will only be used if they are needed. We may well be short of numbers on the bench this Sunday and it will be down to those on the pitch to ensure the bench is not called upon. Toure was thought to be ready to come back in for Senderos.
In my eyes that would be extremely harsh on Big Phil who has improved massively over the last few weeks. The Villa game aside he has looked far more assured at the back alongside Gallas. With these two in central defence we look far more solid in the air and with Heskey Wigan’s main threat, this solidity could be very useful. Toure needs to work for his place.
On the face of it this game is not such a big one but in my view it is massive. After two draws we need to get back winning on a domestic basis. The must use the Milan game to provide confidence and make sure complacency does not creep in to their minds at all. Winning this game will send out a message that Arsenal are well and truly back on track.