Arsenal v Wigan Athletic

Scouting Report - Wigan Athletic

Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.

Arsene Wenger takes his side to Wembley on Saturday for the FA Cup semi-final clash against holders Wigan Athletic. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Paul Kendrick.

Wigan Athletic reached this stage of the competition by repeating their famous giant-killing victory over Manchester City in last year’s final - and manager Uwe Rosler also replicated the tactics Roberto Martinez used at Wembley last May.

Whereas Rosler had generally deployed a 4-5-1 system in the league, against City in the previous round he reverted to Martinez’s favoured 3-4-1-2, which proved effective at ensuring cover at the back, and providing numbers in the centre of midfield.

The two forwards drifted wide without the ball, ensuring Wigan weren’t overrun down the flanks either.

"The men to stop are the two central midfielders Jordi Gomez and James McArthur"

Michael Cox

It remains to be seen whether Rosler uses this shape against Arsenal, however. Although the 3-4-1-2 seemed specifically designed for the threat of City, Rosler has deployed a three-man defence in four of their last five matches in the Championship.

Chris McCann, a midfielder by trade who surprisingly dropped to centre back for the City game, enables Wigan to shift between the formations easily.

A more pertinent feature of Wigan’s display against City was their midfield pressing. Rather than sitting back and soaking up pressure against superior opponents, Wigan closed down extremely quickly in the centre of midfield, denying Yaya Toure, in particular, time on the ball.

Arsenal must be prepared for this threat, especially considering energetic opposition pressure has caused problems against Chelsea and Everton in recent weeks.

In truth, Rosler’s starting XI is highly unpredictable, considering he’s made an average of five changes per game over the last month, when Wigan have played seven matches.

The men to stop, however, are the two central midfielders Jordi Gomez and James McArthur, who both impressed at Premier League level. Both are intelligent distributors of the ball, and are happy dropping into deep and wide positions to receive possession.

Wigan still depend upon the short passing game they became famed for under Martinez, and stopping Gomez and McArthur is the best way to hamper their build-up play.

Everyone at Wigan can't wait for Saturday's game, they are really excited. Wembley was put on the backburner for a few weeks because of important games in the league but since Tuesday's game against Millwall, everyone has been buzzing for Saturday.

Wigan's form has been brilliant ever since Uwe Rosler took over last December. They had a bit of a stutter in midweek but they have generally been in very good form - losing only four of 28 domestic games since Rosler became manager - and if they play well on Saturday, they can certainly give Arsenal a game.

"Wembley has become a kind of second home for Wigan so I don't think there will be too many nerves"

Paul Kendrick

A lot of the Wigan team that won the competition last season have moved on but there are still plenty around, including the backroom staff, who have got the experience of having been to Wembley.

Wigan won't be overawed by playing at the stadium because they have been there twice in the FA Cup last season and again for the Community Shield a few months later. Wembley has become a kind of second home for Wigan so I don't think there will be too many nerves. It will just come down to if Wigan play well enough.

In the last round against Manchester City, Wigan's plan was to try and soak up pressure but get forward quickly when they won possession. It was a case of trying to get forward with speed and in numbers to try and do some damage.

That worked well and, while there will be minor tweaks for Saturday's game, I imagine there will be the same positive outlook.

Wigan are aware that Arsenal will have the majority of the play but they will definitely try to get forward quickly when they get on the ball and look to take advantage of any frailties at the back that Arsenal may have.

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