PLAY FANTASY WENGER: Pick your Arsenal starting 11 to face Wigan

By Graham McNorthbank

It’s back to Premier League business tomorrow when Arsenal host Wigan – and hopefully back to winning ways following consecutive away defeats to both of the Manchester clubs.

The good news is that it looks likely that Robin van Persie will return after the knee knock he suffered at Man Citeh, not to mention the crude facial surgery that former team mate Emmanuel Adebayor decided to inflict because, apparently, he was a bit peeved that us Gooners didn’t give him a great reception. Idiot.

Elsewhere Andrey Arshavin is given a 10% chance of making tomorrow’s squad, but that’s it in terms of our crocked players meaning that Manuel Almunia (illness), Lukasz Fabianski (knee), Johan Djouro (knee), Denilson (back), Theo Walcott (back), Samir Nasri (leg) and Carlos Vela (ankle) all remain sidelined.

With both senior keepers out, it’ll be down to Vito Mannone to be our last line of defence again and Le Gaffer says that overall he thought the youngster did well on his travels to Belgium in mid-week.

I can’t fault Mannone, but after the early Liege goals he wasn’t exactly tested. However, Wigan will know that the rookie won’t exactly be brimming with confidence, so I think he can expect to deal with a few long-range speculative efforts.

In front of Mannone I’d expect to see Emmanuel Eboue retain his place over Bacary Sagna, but Gael Clichy lose his place to Kieran Gibbs. Clichy is one of my favourite players, but his form so far this season has been terrible and maybe a rest to re-focus would do him some good. I can’t believe for a second that Gibbs has been so bad in training that Wenger won’t give him a chance and at least the youngster can provide an effective cross, which is the one part of Gael’s game that has never improved.

In the middle of defence, we can’t do any better than William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen who have built a great understanding and who with five goals between them have accounted for a quarter of Arsenal’s goals to date this season.

As always, the centre of the park provides the intrigue as to who Le Boss will choose. Despite his assist for Nicklas Bendtner’s vital goal on Wednesday, I was singularly unimpressed with Abou Diaby against Liege. His attempts on goal were pathetic, while his crossing was pitiful – although to be fair to Diaby he wasn’t alone in hitting the first man or overhitting the ball out for goal kicks and throw ins.

But my point is that I’d like to see Aaron Ramsey getting a start. Yes he’s young and yes he sometimes loses the ball needlessly, but his work rate is fantastic and he shows a lot more eagerness to do the defensive duties when he has to track back.

Cesc Fabregas hasn’t exactly come out of the starting blocks yet, but even when he’s off form he can provide the assists that lead to goals, so unless our captain really needs a rest it’s important that he plays tomorrow and to provide him with some defensive cover, Alex Song will no doubt be in the starting line up as well.

And when it comes to up front, the only tweak I’d make from mid-week is giving Nicklas Bendtner a bit of a break by replacing him with RvP alongside Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky, allowing our Dane to come on as an impact sub when legs tire later on in the game.

Rosicky really impressed me against Liege and his ability, alongside the likes of Dudu, RvP and Arshavin in creating chances, could be vital if the Gunners are indeed to challenge for honours this season.

That’s my lot, but be sure to share your thoughts on our starting 11 against Wigan by using our comments section below.

The Addict XI choice is:


Eboue Gallas Vermaelen Gibbs

Ramsey Fabregas Song

RvP Eduardo Rosicky