Arsenal’s pursuit of league leaders Manchester United continues on Saturday when the Gunners play host to lowly Wigan Athletic.
Arsene Wenger’s men have gone on a five-game undefeated run since falling 1-0 at Old Trafford last month, and might have ended Avram Grant’s tenure at West Ham United last Saturday were it not for Martin O’Neill’s sudden cold feet.
The Gunners are third on the table on 43 points, two shy of United and Manchester City, though Arsenal have one game in hand over City and United two over their cross-town rivals.
With United and City facing softer opponents in Birmingham City and Aston Villa this round, it will be imperative for Wenger that Arsenal extract a full three points from visiting Wigan.
The Latics travel to the Emirates in the midst of a four-match winless run that has seen them struggle to 18th on the Premier League table, two points clear of bottom-placed West Ham and a mere point from Fulham in 15th.
January has not been kind to Roberto Martinez’s men, who lost 1-0 to Newcastle United to begin the New Year before recording 1-1 draws against Bolton and Fulham.
Ten-man Wigan recorded a shock 2-2 draw against Arsenal when the two sides met at DW Stadium in late December, though it admittedly took a late own goal from Gunners defender Sebastien Squillaci to seal Arsenal’s fate.
The Latics can take further comfort from Arsenal’s less-than-impressive form at home this season.
Wenger’s men have dropped points to the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United in the top-flight, and were held to a 1-1 draw by Championship side Leeds United in the FA Cup.
On the injury front, Wenger is still waiting for first-team regulars Squillaci (hamstring), Abou Diaby (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles) to recover from injury, while goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is still unavailable after suffering a setback in his recovery from a shoulder injury.
Martinez will likely hand returning striker Franco Di Santo more playing time after the 21-year-old featured as a late substitute against Fulham, but hopes that James McCarthy (ankle) would be fit for the trip to London appear to have been dashed.
Tom Cleverley (hamstring) and Viktor Moses (shoulder) are also unavailable.