By Adam Clark
Back in December Arsenal went to Wigan and won.
It took them 88 minutes to break through a resilient home defence but they got there in the end, courtesy of some Cesc Fabregas magic and the cool head of Emmanuel Adebayor.
That late defeat sparked a run of nine straight losses for Paul Jewell's side - a sequence that only ended with last weekend's 1-0 home win against Portsmouth.
On Sunday Wigan travel to our side of North London for the first time since providing the opposition for the last-ever game at Highbury.
We spoke to Phil O'Brien of the Wigan Observer who told us what went wrong after the Arsenal defeat, why holding on to Lee McCulloch was such a boost and why Wigan can survive the battle against the drop.
THE STORY SO FAR
"It all went downhill a little after the Arsenal defeat. That game was the story of our season - we played well but didn't capitalise on the pressure we created and gave away a sloppy goal. After that we lost nine in succession because they didn't have the quality to put away the chances they did create. They had a few tough games - like visiting Manchester United - and lost, but they also lost games like Sheffield United at home. Looking back if they had got something out of the Arsenal game it might have been different. One of the more telling results could be the Sheffield United defeat because they're down at the bottom too. The Portsmouth win last weekend has changed the outlook though. Wigan's success has been built on the simple foundation of work ethic, team spirit, and getting stuck in from the off. The Portsmouth game was one of the few occasions in recent months they've shown all that for 90 minutes. They led the way the game went, enforced our own attitudes and it was a massive performance. I don't think the slump has been a case of Wigan being found out because we're a different team now to last season. After lots of changes everyone expected it to take the new players a couple of months to bed in and for the team to gel. After a couple of months had passed we picked up injuries to major players and so we had more new faces coming in to the line-up. Arjan De Zeeuw was a huge loss as he's arguably the best player they've ever had at club. He's a true leader on pitch who organises the defence and when he was out the backline went to pieces a little."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"I think the two most important January signings were the two strikers, Caleb Folan and Julius Aghahowa. Folan came in from Chesterfield and looks willing to take his chance in the Premiership. He's a classic Paul Jewell buy in that sense because he's keen, he wants to prove himself and it looks like he might have what it takes. Aghahowa has only played the one game, against Portsmouth, but he looked sharp and his performance suggested he could have an impact. Hopefully he will follow in the footsteps of fellow Nigerian's Obafemi Martins and Yakubu. If he does he could prove to be vital. David Unsworth also came in and with De Zeeuw still missing he's brought some leadership back to the defence."
"The fact Lee McCulloch stayed after handing in a transfer request last month is huge. He's is Wigan's longest serving player and has been an integral part of their success in progressing from Division Two up to the Premiership. When he first signed he was a striker but Jewell has converted him to a left midfielder. He offers a physical presence out there and also cuts in, wins balls and score goals too. Most of all he has a fearless attitude that epitomises that of the team. Him staying is a massive boost for the dressing room, the fans and the whole club."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"I know the Portsmouth win was only one game but it proved Wigan are up for the fight. They may only be one place above it but they've still not been in the relegation zone yet this season, and it looks like West Ham and Charlton have bigger problems. Looking at the run in, the only two games in which they'll have to surpass their ability are away on Sunday at Arsenal and away to Liverpool. They could realistically get something out of all the other games - especially the six at home. They've got West Ham and Watford at the JJB and Charlton away which are all massive games. If you look at it with a positive frame of mind then it's not that difficult but they need to start picking up wins as soon as they can. That way it might not go down to the last game of the season. If it does it's against Sheffield United. Obviously that could be vital."
"I think we'll see a straight forward 4-4-2. Wigan's success has come from the flanks with the full backs overlapping and the wingers getting balls in the box. Then they get someone winning the ball in midfield and someone else winning it up front. Visiting other 'big' teams this season they've played a more conservative game with one up front. I don't think Jewell will play like that at Emirates Stadium but play what's become their traditional 4-4-2 and get in face of Arsenal. They'll always be aware of Arsenal, and won't be too vigilante about it, but at the same time they don't fear going to anyone."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Wigan have some fond memories of Arsenal. They went there for the Carling Cup Semi-Final last season and although they lost, they went through on away goals. Then there was the last-ever game at Highbury which was a great occasion, and they took the game to Arsenal. Wigan like to play attacking, open football but, of course, no-one does that better than Arsenal. I'm expecting another good game."
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 9 Feb 2007