Championship side Wigan Athletic will be hopeful of pulling off another shock result when they face Arsenal in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday (17:07 BST, live on ITV1).
Wigan come into the match on the back of a 1-0 defeat at home to Millwall last weekend, but are still strongly positioned to secure a place in the promotion playoffs. They are fifth in the table with 67 points from 19 wins, 10 draws and 12 defeats.
The FA Cup holders needed a replay to make their way past MK Dons in this year’s third round, but have thereafter proved to be able giant-killers, defeating Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Manchester City to reach Wembley. The latter victory, against the current favourites for the Premier League title, was particularly noteworthy.
Uwe Rosler (pictured) rightfully received numerous plaudits for the way he set up his team in that match and has generally been very impressive since taking over from Owen Coyle in December. The club were 14th in the table, nine points shy of the playoff places when he took charge; 13 wins, six draws and four defeats later they are firmly in the playoff places, with a margin of six points over the first non-qualifying position.
Wigan lost the likes of Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone, Franco Di Santo, James McCarthy and Maynor Figueroa following their relegation from the Premier League last season, but were able to hold onto other members of the squad and bolster their ranks with a mix of top flight castoffs and young loan talents. Rosler’s side are both well organised at the back and solid in attack.
Rosler will be without long-term injury absentee Ben Watson (fractured leg) for the trip to Wembley, but otherwise looks to have a full-strength squad to pick from.
Arsenal come into this match on the back of a comprehensive 3-0 defeat away to Everton last weekend. They are fourth in the Premier League table, with 64 points from 19 wins, seven draws and seven defeats, but will drop out of the top four if Everton win their game in hand.
The Gunners made it through to the final four of the FA Cup with wins over Coventry City of League One and fellow Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton. They performed well in each of their three victories over top flight opposition, particularly in defeating Everton 4-1 in the sixth round.
Arsenal were unable to replicate that performance last weekend in a match in which Arsene Wenger was easily outmanoeuvred by his opposite number Roberto Martinez. Arsenal failed to break down a well-drilled Everton defence and looked vulnerable every time the home side attacked. Everton’s varied final third movement caused Arsenal numerous problems.
Injuries have certainly played a part in Arsenal’s recent downturn in form, but the decision not to add to the squad in January, particularly to provide competition for striker Olivier Giroud, now looks painfully shortsighted. They have regressed in both attack and defence since the turn of the year and have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions.
Wenger will be without the injured Abou Diaby (knee), Jack Wilshere (foot), Mesut Ozil (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (knee) for this game, while Mathieu Flamini begins a two-match ban. Laurent Koscielny (calf) is expected to return, as are Kieren Gibbs, Lukasz Fabianski and Serge Gnabry, all of whom missed the defeat to Everton.
Wigan v Arsenal Betting Tips
Arsenal won both of the league meetings between the sides last season, triumphing 1-0 away and 4-1 at home. Wigan recorded a surprise 2-1 victory at the Emirates at the back end of the 2011-12 season, but that was one of just two wins for the Latics in the last 10 matches between the sides in all competitions. Arsenal have won seven in the same period.
Wigan showed in their win over Manchester City that they have the necessary discipline, work rate and talent to get a result against top-end Premier League opposition and a repeat performance is certainly not out of the question.
Arsenal have not won a trophy since their 2005 success in this competition and have an excellent chance to end their drought this year with all of the other big Premier League clubs eliminated. They are in the midst of a very poor run of form, but should be considered marginal favourites for this match.
We do not expect there to be much in it, however, and Wigan are more than capable of springing another surprise.
- Back Wigan Athletic +1 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 11/10 with Bet365 or BetVictor. The bet pays out if Wigan win or draw, while your stake is returned if they lose by a single goal.
- Wigan scored four first-half goals in their three previous FA Cup ties against top flight opposition and are again likely to seek an early advantage. Arsenal have conceded before half-time in four of their last five matches. Back Wigan Athletic to score a first-half goal @ 2/1 with Bet365 or William Hill.