Arsenal make the trip north to play Wigan Athletic in the Premier League later today. Their run of five wins in a row came to an end last week when Fulham held them to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates thanks to a goal at either end from Thomas Vermaelen. The result could have been worse, as Arsenal had to come from behind and only managed to equalise in the last 10 minutes.
Today's opponents managed a last minute win away to Sunderland to lift themselves off the foot of the table. They had a decent start to the season with five points from their first three games, but they then lost their next eight league games in a row. Their inability to score goals has been a real problem for them this season, and for the past few seasons as well.
I like the way Wigan play and I would like to see them stay in the Premier League, but I think they will have a very tough battle against relegation all season long. As well as not scoring enough goals they are also letting in far too many, and that's never a good mix. Their win at Sunderland last week will have been a great boost for them though.
Arsenal have had their problems away to Wigan over the last few seasons, and it's about time they took three points from them. Last season Arsene Wenger picked a second string team to go up there in the middle of a very busy Christmas schedule, and it backfired when Wigan struck with a late equaliser for a 2-2 draw. The season before that was even worse when Arsenal led 2-0 with 10 minutes left, but Wigan managed to win 3-2.
In team news Arsenal have no further injury worries which should mean that the team which starts will be a fairly similar one to the one that played against Fulham last week. Abu Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Ryo Miyachi are all out with short term injuries, and Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna are out until some time in the new year at least.
I think Wenger will go with his strongest available team, and that should mean he picks the same 11 that started against Borussia Dortmund 10 days ago. Arsenal won that game to win their Champions League group, and they can now play a second string team away to Olympiacos this coming Tuesday. With the Carling Cup exit to Manchester City on Tuesday night Arsenal can now concentrate on the Premier League for the next month.
In early January they will have an FA Cup third round match, but at least they won't have to squeeze in midweek Carling Cup semi finals at a very busy time of the season. I was happy to see Wenger use that competition for fringe players and returning injured players only this season, and now it can be forgotten about until next season. The overall cost of the Carling Cup final defeat last season was huge, and it wasn't worth it for such a low profile competition.
From what I saw of Wigan's win at Sunderland last week they rode their luck, as Sunderland missed chance after chance to put the game beyond them. Wigan scored in the final moments of each half to secure an unlikely win which shows that they will keep going right until the very end. Arsenal cannot relax or take their foot off the gas if they take a lead today.
Wigan will offer up a lot of opportunities to Arsenal, and Arsenal need to put away a fair share of those opportunities. There is an chance to make up some ground on the teams above them in terms of both points and goal difference too. Arsenal's poor start to the season has meant their usually high goal difference is very low, and it's something they need to change.
They had the chances to do so against Norwich two weeks ago, but they only took two of them which made for a nervous finish on the day. Every so often Wigan get well and truly thrashed in the Premier League, and if Arsenal can be ruthless today that is a distinct possibility for them. I'm not being over confident, and I know Arsenal will slip up if they are.
I just feel that Arsenal can win and win well if they take even half of the excellent scoring chances they will get today. If those chances fall to Robin van Persie it's more than likely they will go in, but a few others need to start putting their names on the scoresheet too. It's about time Gervinho finished off a chance or two, as he has got himself into some great goalscoring positions in recent games but failed to find a good finish.
I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal with RVP again being the star player, but maybe Theo Walcott adding his name to the scorers too. With Newcastle playing at home to Chelsea, and Liverpool not visiting Fulham until Monday night there is a chance for Arsenal to move out of seventh place for the moment at least. It would be great to see them in fifth place tonight, and looking to push for fourth.
Arsenal play at home to Everton next Saturday in a game that has been designated to mark the club's 125th birthday. I'll be going to that game with some good Arsenal friends of mine, and I'll be celebrating my own birthday at it too. The club's actual birthday was on December 1st and mine was the day after them, but if they can postpone the celebrations then so can I.
It promises to be a great day, and I'll do my best to get photos of the events in and around the stadium and post some of them on tumblr when I return. The link to my tumblr page can be found at the end of this piece, as can the links to my fantasy league which will have over 1,000 teams in it after the games this weekend.
That's it for today.
It's not too late to join the almost 1,000 other teams in my fantasy league, and there are prizes for the top three teams at the end of the season. Just go to the site and use the code 125540-42785 to join my league when your team is set up.
To join the predictions league, just go to the site and set up your predictions. Then use the code F688F-JCO to join my league. I'll update the league table in my predictions every week.
Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, too.
I'm also a member of a very good and very active Arsenal group on Facebook which you can join here.
See You Tomorrow.