Wigan head to Arsenal more in hope than expectation

Arsenal v Wigan Athletic, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, Saturday January 22, 3pm

THE last thing a club locked in a relegation battle needs is the prospect of losing one its key players, but that is the very real possibility facing Wigan Athletic this week.

Latics boss Roberto Martinez has a fight on his hands to prevent the club’s six-year stay in England’s top-flight coming to an end, with Wigan currently 18th in the Premier League.

He could then, do without two things; a visit to the Emirates, where Wigan have lost all four of their previous Premier League visits, and the persistent rumours linking winger Charles N’Zogbia with Liverpool.

Despite chairman Dave Whelan’s insistence that he expects no departures from the DW Stadium, N’Zogbia signalled his desire to leave during the summer, and may now decide the time is right to jump ship.

That would be a huge blow for Martinez, whose side have struggled for goals and have picked up only three points from their last four games.

One of those points did come against the Gunners – and that at least gives Wigan cause for optimism that they can once again raise their game against Arsenal on Saturday.

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Another positive is the form of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, on loan from Bolton and looking solid in front of a leaky defence. Injuries permitting, Wigan are likely to stick with the defence they fielded against Fulham, with experienced centre-back Gary Caldwell partnered by summer signing Antonio Alcaraz, Ivory Coast international Steve Gohouri at right-back and Honduran Maynor Figueroa on the left.

Another Honduran, Hendry Thomas, should occupy central midfield alongside Ben Watson, who was on target in the 2-2 draw between the two sides back in December. The relatively unknown Ronnie Stam has been a mainstay on the left wing, with Mohamed Diame on the right.

The unsettled N’Zogbia is effective at raiding forward to support loan striker Hugo Rodallega, who has six goals this season and should prove a handful to Arsenal’s defence.

Wigan will be confident after holding Arsenal on home turf, but the Latics do not travel well and a point will be the height of their ambition. They won’t even get that.

Prediction: Arsenal 3 Wigan 0