Arsenal vs Wigan Key Battles

Arsenal take on FA Cup champions Wigan Atheltic at the Emirates Stadium in a high-profile clash which could define both clubs’ seasons.

Wigan vs Arsenal: Jean Beausejour, Theo Walcott

By FOX SPORTS Staff

The Gunners, currently two points behind fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur, can secure Champions League qualification if they win their remaining two games. 

Meanwhile, things are looking increasingly desperate for Wigan at the other end of the table following last weekend's round of Premier League results. The Latics, currently on 35 points, need to beat Arsenal in order to ensure they take the fight for survival in the top flight of English football to the last day of the season.

FOX Sports profiles the key battles that could decide the encounter at the Emirates Stadium.

Predicted Starting XIs:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski

Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho

Form guide: WWDWDW

Wigan: Robles, Caldwell, Boyce, Espinoza, Scharner, McCarthy, Watson, McArthur, Kone, Maloney, McManaman 

Subs: Al Habsi, Stam, Golobart, Jones, Gomez, Di Santo, Henriquez

Form guide: DLLDWL

Kieran Gibbs vs Callum McManaman

McManaman was roundly praised for his match-winning display in Wigan's FA Cup final triumph over Manchester City. The 22-year-old tormented former Arsenal player Gael Clichy throughout the game with his trickery, pace and creativity, but he will have a much tougher time when he goes up against Gibbs, who has been excellent for the Gunners this season. 

Unlike his predecessor, Gibbs is a more versatlie defender and, on his day, is capable of going toe-to-toe with the best. Still, McManaman will be brimming with confidence after the euphoria of winning the FA Cup, and this could edge the battle in favour of the Englishman.

Laurent Koscielny vs Arouna Kone

Kone has firmly established himself as the spearhead of Wigan's attack ever since he moved to the club at the beginning of the season. The Ivorian's strength, technical ability and clever link-up play make him a nightmare to defend against, and he has already scored a respectable 11 goals in 32 appearances for the Latics this season.

But in Koscielny, Arsenal have one of the best centre-backs in the world, let alone the Premier League, within their ranks. The French international, reportedly a target for German giants Bayern Munich, reads the game exceptionally well and usually times his challenges to perfection. 

Koscielny should be able to keep Kone quiet, but he will need to dovetail well with defensive partner Per Mertesacker if they are to prevent Wigan from breaching their goal.

Mikel Arteta vs Shaun Maloney

Arteta has been the silent hero for Arsenal this season, doing an unspectacular but effective job of providing defensive cover for the back four while effectively recycling possession for the Gunners from deep. Take Arteta out of the game, and Arsenal lose the ability to make a quick and smooth transition from defence to attack. 

Although extremely adept at keeping the ball in all circumstances, Arteta will have his hands full when he comes up against the energetic Maloney, who has arguably been Wigan's best player this season. The 30-year-old, a set-piece specialist, is the lynchpin in the Latics' midfield and serves as the main creative outlet for his side (nine assists in 34 games this season). 

Arteta should have more than enough experience to keep Maloney under wraps for most of the time, but one can never write off the Scottish international who needs only one opportunity to turn the game on its head.

Theo Walcott vs Emmerson Boyce

Walcott remains an enigmatic figure. The England international's finishing has improved leaps and bounds as compared to last season, but he fails to offer much else in terms of team play. Frustratingly (if you are an Arsenal fan) inconsistent, Walcott does have the potential to terrorise defences when he uses his electric pace intelligently, but more often than not, the former Southampton player spends his time as a virtual bystander.

But Walcott certainly cannot afford to give anything less than 100 percent on Tuesday, especially when he goes head to head with the increasingly impressive Boyce.

Boyce was another standout performer in the FA Cup final, helping keep the likes of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez quiet and ensuring his side would end the game without conceding a goal. Deceptively quick and physically imposing, the 33-year-old is rarely bested in one-on-one situations.

However, Boyce has a tendency to get caught out of position at times, and this could work in Walcott's favour.



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