Dec 292010

Often when I don’t have time to write about a match, the review comes a day late. The trouble with this time of year is that a day late is another matchday, and the focus has already switched. And rightly so – fantastic as Monday’s emphatic victory over Chelsea was, we cannot dwell on it. Tonight sees a return to Wigan, a match that last season epitomised our  every flaw, going 2-0 up, thinking the match was over and losing 3-2. You would assume the lesson has been learned, but the exact same set of events against Spurs earlier in the season suggests the susceptibility remains.

So we have to go into tonight with the same intensity shown against Chelsea. It will not be easy, Wigan have had an extra day to recover and will be trying to bring us back down to earth, but another victory tonight would be a massive boost. It would bring us level with United after they conceded yet another late equaliser last night, and open up a considerable gap to the chasing pack.

The Chelsea victory was built on intense pressing, harrying the opposition from front to back and allowing them no time on the ball. Even their fabled defence couldn’t cope, as we forced error after error, two of which led to the quickfire goals that took a decent 1-0 lead into a comfortable 3-0 battering (which in turn meant the inevitable loss of a clean sheet mattered little). If we show the same grit against Wigan, we should dispatch them with ease, but if we go in thinking we only need to turn up, we could be in trouble. The noises from the camp are good – they know the importance of this game.

There are likely to be wholesale changes to freshen things up – Cesc is suspended but many of the impressively strong bench from Monday will start, which probably means a return for Arshavin and Chamakh in particular. The Russian will be stung from being left out of such a big game, but it was a good call from Wenger – the chances of him closing down as furiously were slim to none. Having said that, the example has now been set, the evidence of effort is there for all to see, and as such he should be driven to at least make a token effort at tracking back. We’ll see.

We’ve banished the hoodoo of Chelsea, and shown that our passing game can rip anyone apart when we’re on song. Tonight, we could remove the memory of that awful display against Wigan earlier in the year, and go joint top in the process. Surely even Evra would have to take us seriously then.

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