The Gunners have struggled at the DW Stadium in recent seasons, but victory against Roberto Martinez's side can hand Arsene Wenger's men a huge psychological boost
By Jamie Dunn
Over the years, Wigan - or specifically Wigan at home - has developed into something of an albatross around Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's neck.
In the six meetings between the two sides at the DW Stadium in the Premier League, the Gunners have won just three games, only managing one victory in their last four visits to the Lancashire club.
The two most recent away trips to the Latics have been games Wenger would surely rather forget.
In April 2010, Arsenal relinquished a two-goal lead to lose in spectacular fashion, as Wigan scored three times in the closing stages to hand the Gunners a shock defeat and all but end their title hopes for the season.
And in December of the same year, Wenger's side were dealt another blow as, despite coming from behind on that occasion, a late Sebastien Squillaci own goal handed the hosts a share of the spoils.
Arsenal have been a side vastly improved since their dismal start to the campaign, going unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions before the 1-0 League Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester City.
That defeat to Roberto Mancini's side followed quickly off the back of an uninspiring draw with Fulham on Saturday evening, so Arsenal should address some issues from previous trips to Wigan to avoid a repeat result of recent years at the DW Stadium, and nip a potential dip in form in the bud early and avoid a morale-sapping result.
Field the strongest available side
Last season, Wenger opted for a front pairing of Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, while Denilson also featured and Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Gael Clichy were left on the bench.
The previous season, Craig Eastmond was handed a surprise start, while Walcott and Tomas Rosicky were replaced in the closing stages, and only after Wigan had levelled was Robin van Persie introduced from the bench as Arsenal succumbed to defeat.
Wenger would argue he has never taken a single game for granted, but with Champions League progression secured and Olympiakos next in midweek, the Frenchman can afford to pick his strongest available XI, including the potent combination of Van Persie and Walcott.
Gervinho, too, should be selected, as the Ivorian has looked much more threatening than Andrey Arshavin so far this campaign, with the Russian particularly anonymous against Fulham last Saturday.
Stem the flow of goals
Despite attempting to play a free-flowing, passing game, Wigan have been among the lowest scoring sides at home in the Premier League over the last two seasons.
Yet, in their previous two games against Arsenal at the DW Stadium, the Latics have scored five goals.
Wigan's style leaves them open to punishment at the hands of an Arsenal side who, at their best, are fast, fluid and incisive going forward, but they can at times be equally sucseptible to frailty at the back as their struggling counterparts.
The presence of Thomas Vermaelen, who appears to be fully fit and close to his best form, will surely help stop the rot, while Laurent Koscielny, who may deputise at right-back in the absence Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson, has displayed a maturity in recent weeks which suggests he has developed significantly as a defender.
Cut out individual errors
Trips to the DW Stadium have been riddled with solo nightmare moments for Arsenal. Last season Koscielny conceded a soft if somewhat harsh penalty to Charles N'Zogbia, while Wigan's eventual equaliser went in off the head of the now out of favour Squillaci.
The previous campaign had seen some equally calamitous defending allow Wigan back into the game too, as Lukasz Fabianski flapped under pressure from a corner and fumbled for Titus Bramble to equalise in fortuitous circumstances.
The more reliable, if also more eccentric Wojciech Szczesny is now Arsenal's No.1 which should serve to calm the nerves in the back line.
Vermaelen, meanwhile, will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his own goal against Fulham last Saturday.
Finish the game as the stronger side
In their last two trips to the DW Stadium, Arsenal have surrendered points to Wigan in the final 10 minutes.
Squillaci's own goal nine minutes from time handed the hosts a point last December, while all three of Wigan's goals in their victory in April 2010 came in a miraculous finish to the game.
It has been levelled at Arsenal in the past that they allow teams to wrest the initiative from them as games draw on, as 4-4 draws with Newcastle United and Tottenham attest, despite their general dominance of proceedings.
But Arsenal's last victory at the DW Stadium back in April 2009 proves they can finish the stronger side.
On that day, Mido had given the home side the lead after 18 minutes, and while it took the Gunners an hour to score, once Walcott had netted, the floodgates opened as Mikael Silvestre added a second before Alex Song and Arshavin completed a ruthless 4-1 comeback.
How Arsenal fans must be hoping for a repeat performance this weekend.
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