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Gunners look for away-day return
Published : 02 Dec 2011 01:16:47
Arsenal will move closer to reclaiming a place in the top four of the Premier League if they win at Wigan on Saturday.
Gunners' supporters were aghast in September when a poor start to the campaign left their club one goal away from dropping into the bottom three.
But they are now seventh and with Newcastle and Chelsea playing each other on Saturday, and Liverpool not in action until Monday, Arsenal have the opportunity to move ahead of at least one of the three clubs who are currently directly above them.
Manager Arsene Wenger rested almost all of his first choice players on Tuesday for the 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-finals on a night when the Premier League leaders also fielded a second-string side.
Arsenal top scorer Robin van Persie, who did not feature against City, was convinced the schedule was too hectic for clubs who are also representing English football in the Champions League.
"I know it is hard to get the fixtures right for every single team, but I don't really understand the scheduling for either us or City," the Netherlands international said.
"These are big games, screened everywhere on TV, and people expect everyone to be fit and put in an amazing performance.
"At some point, that's not realistic -- if you are playing four games in nine days, you will suffer in the end. Sometimes I feel the fixtures could be decided a little more sensibly."
Wigan will kick off at the DW Stadium no longer the Premier League's bottom club thanks to last week's win at Sunderland, a result that ultimately cost Black Cats manager Steve Bruce his job.
Bruce's Latics counterpart Roberto Martinez was grateful to Wigan owner Dave Whelan for refusing to call time on his own managerial reign.
"Big changes take a long time and the chairman understood that and he supported me through thick and thin," the Spaniard said.
"Now we have the rewards, two years later we have an average group that has played a lot of games in the Premier League but with a very young age, and that gives you real good assets in the football club."
Ronnie Stam, Wigan's Dutch defender, was upbeat about his chances of keeping van Persie and his colleagues quiet.
"The defence was solid throughout the Sunderland game, which helped us to get the win. And to be honest it was the same against Blackburn, after we conceded that first goal," he said.
"The other goals we conceded were to a penalty and a corner, we didn't give much else away.
"We knew if we could continue in that vein we could do something at Sunderland, and that goes for Arsenal too. At home we don't fear anyone, and we can give Arsenal a real game if we keep up our performance levels."
Arsenal will be wary of making this particular trip to the north-west anyway as they have not won at Wigan for three seasons.
Last term they could only draw 2-2 despite being ahead when Charles N'Zogbia was sent off for the home side with 12 minutes remaining.
And in April last year Arsenal's slim hopes of winning the Premier League evaporated altogether when a 2-1 lead was overturned into a 3-2 defeat thanks to three goals in the final 10 minutes, with N'Zogbia netting the winner.
Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson are currently unavailable to Arsenal because of injury but Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky might be able to return this weekend following muscle injuries.