Arsenal can condemn FA Cup heroes Wigan to life in the npower Championship on Tuesday according to Ben Coley.
Arsenal v Wigan (1945 BST)
There are two battles left to be won in the Premier League this season and here we have a game which should take care of one of them. Should Arsenal win, they'll head into Sunday's trip to Newcastle knowing victory there will see them finish in the top four. Should they fail to, they'll head north knowing they need a big favour from Spurs. Wigan's need is both greater and more straightforward. Only two wins from two remaining games will see them survive but with Sunday's home clash against Aston Villa one they'll fancy, all hope is not yet lost particularly if they can take inspiration from last weekend's magnificent FA Cup final win. It is in many respects unfair that Wigan see themselves put in a situation where they play an FA Cup final so soon before this game, one which is actually more important, but the fact that they narrowly avoided extra time with such a superb victory is chunky compensation. So, two sides with needs to fulfill and something has to give in a game which should be high on entertainment. Arsenal deserve great credit for the way in which they've responded to what appeared a fatal blow to their top-four hopes at White Hart Lane. Since that day in March they've won six of eight Premier League games, sharing the spoils only with Everton and Manchester United, and they've played their way into a situation where they have total control over their final position. Having had the weekend off, they should be raring to go against a side over whom they've held a clear advantage since their first meeting, winning nine of the last 10 at home and conceding just four times throughout those victories. Of course, Wigan did beat Arsenal away from home for the first time last year and that will give them hope, but their league form hasn't been very encouraging lately with one win in six. With that in mind Arsenal should win and for all their obvious failings they do have experience of coming through this type of situation which negates concerns over pressure. It's just a case of how to back them - do we expect Wigan to fall off after half-time due to an FA Cup hangover? Or will Arsenal have to battle for a one-goal win as they have often recently? I have to believe the former is more likely and the bet for me is Arsenal -1 on the handicap, which I narrowly prefer to backing them to win to nil or to lead at half-time before winning. Arsenal haven't conceded more than once in any of those eight games mentioned earlier, and they've kept two clean sheets in three. It's true that they've struggled for goals but against a side who worked so tirelessly at the weekend and conceded three at home prior to it, the hosts should carve out plenty of chances particularly after the break, hence evens -1 is of more interest than the same price HT-FT. With Wigan needing to win, the only scenario in which they don't pile forwards after half-time is if they've taken an early lead and as Arsenal have gone behind just once in their last nine, that appears unlikely. Of the side markets, Mikel Arteta has scored Arsenal's first goal in two the last three meetings of the sides and is a fair 17/2 shot to do so again, and even better value at 5s to score at any time. The most likely, however, is Theo Walcott, who has scored inside the first couple of minutes in each of Arsenal's last two games. Whether his side can start so quickly here remains to be seen, but they should pull away after the break to condemn Wigan to a season as FA Cup holders playing in the second-tier of English football.
Verdict: Arsenal 3 Wigan 0
Reading v Manchester City (2000)
In total contrast to the above game, here we have one which offers little in the way of incentive. I suppose Reading may be keen to avoid finishing bottom but QPR need to win at Anfield to make that possible and, frankly, that isn't going to happen. City have wounds to heal after a woeful FA Cup final display but again, I'm not sure victory at Reading is going to make them feel much better. At the time of writing on Monday morning, Roberto Mancini remains in charge but there's speculation that his time may come to an end even before kick-off, which is next in a list of factors which put me off any sort of betting interest in this game. To their credit, Reading put together an impressive display to win at Fulham last week and they could add to that if City don't turn up again, as happens far too often away from Manchester, but if City do decide they want to win they should be able to tear through a poor side. All things considered this just isn't a game to spend much time on.
Verdict: Reading 1 Manchester City 3
- The Arsenal game is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.