Scouting Report: Arsenal vs Wigan
Wigan have just come off a big win against Manchester United in midweek. They have managed to really put up a fight against stern opposition in the past month or so and are one of the league’s in form teams at the moment. To have to face three big teams and to get two wins (and an unjust loss) against them shows how resilient Roberto Martinez’ squad is. They are perpetual relegation candidates season after season and yet they’re still here in the Premier League. The bottom of the table is still very tight and Wigan could easily be dragged back into the relegation zone once again so we shouldn’t just expect Wigan to get walked all over on Monday.
Wigan are one of the more interesting teams to dissect. They have used a three man backline with wing backs in a handful of their recent matches which really put teams like Chelsea and United to the test.
It’s tough to predict whether Wigan will use the same formation against Arsenal. They’ve tried playing fluid attacking football against us before and it never works. Should they use the 5-4-1, it will be easy to pinpoint their weaknesses and cruise to a win at home.
The success of their attack relies on their wing backs who bomb forward at every opportunity. They both hug the touchline, allowing midfielders, Victor Moses and Shaun Maloney, more space to carry out their roles. The two wide midfielders have two different styles however. While Moses drives through the defence and often coming infield to support Di Santo, Maloney drops deeper and slightly wider so that Jean Beausejour can overlap and receive balls in behind the full back. Emmerson Boyce on the opposite wing is less of a threat and is more selective in his runs beyond Moses. It’s important to note that both wing backs cross from extremely deep and regularly take the ball to the byline before cutting it back towards Di Santo and Moses.
Di Santo plays a very important role in Wigan’s attacking movements. He drops back when Moses attacks centrally. This way he can hold up play and try to get Moses in behind the defence. It’s something to be very wary of considering the pace of the Wigan dangerman.
A majority of the Latics’ attacks come from the left with the combination of Beausejour and Maloney and we’re fortunate in having a solid right back to shut down those attacks. Even so, any move through the middle or the right inevitably makes its way through Moses.
The defensive set up is very disciplined when they’re up for the game, and considering they’re fighting for their survival in the Premier League they’ll be locked in during this match. The three men at the back spread out when the wing backs are moving forward, leaving considerable gaps between them. It would be ideal on the counter but it’s safe to assume that we will be seeing most of the ball and so they’ll have a full five man back line. We’ve seen how often this Arsenal team gets shut down by a large number of players being thrown behind the ball. As long as we remain patient and keep probing, the gaps should present themselves as Figueroa and Alcaraz both press the ball further forward than Caldwell.
This is definitely a complex formation with very fluid movement but its strength is also its weakness. Not only does it leave the backline exposed on the counter but if the Arsenal wingers can put pressure on Beausejour and Boyce, it’ll completely counteract their purpose.
What this pressure would do is begin to draw the entire midfield back as well and isolate Di Santo, their only outlet on the counter. These are things that United failed to do against Wigan on Wednesday and they paid the price.
The 5-4-1 is the boldest but potentially most dangerous of the various tactics that Roberto Martinez has at his disposal. If he uses the 4-3-3 formation that Wigan have often played this season, they will simply be overpowered by Arsenal player for player.
The two dangermen going forward are Jean Beausejour and Victor Moses. As explained earlier, the majority of Wigan’s attacks come down the left flank, through Beausejour’s overlapping runs. What this might mean is that Alex Song will have to closely mark Maloney, stopping the service down the touchline.
The danger of Moses down the right goes without saying. He has the pace and dribbling ability to cause problems wherever he is on the pitch. He may start the game as a right midfielder but he moves into a supporting striker role as the match goes on, dropping in behind Di Santo on occasion and often overlapping the striker.
The Weak Link
It’s not often that a player is both the dangerman and the weak link in a game. Jean Beausejour is primarily a winger and that’s why you find him playing so much further up the pitch than Emmerson Boyce on the right flank. Maynor Figueroa does cover the wing and that is one of the major reasons for the three man backline, so that Beausejour’s position can be well covered while defending a counter.
If our wingers pressure the pair of wing backs then we could easily exploit the defensive weaknesses of Beausejour. A lot of the oppositions’ attacks have come from that flank in the last few weeks so attacking down the right should be part of the game plan.
Wigan could make it very difficult with this formation but Arsenal should be able to overwhelm them and come away with an easy victory.