If the deepest injury crisis of Wigan’s Premier League existence has led to a slide down the table, Saturday’s home fixture against Arsenal — on paper — promises to extend the misery. Not only are the Latics potentially without two more players, bringing the injured or doubtful list to nine senior players — the London club are enjoying a resurgence and love nothing more than a leaky defence.
The last time these two clubs met was a glorious occasion for Martinez’s men, but it would be a minor miracle if Wigan could repeat the feat on home soil with the casualty list so strong and morale so fragile.
The biggest question is who will play alongside Maynor Figueroa and Emmerson Boyce at the heart of the defence. Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis, Antolin Alcaraz and most recently, Adrian Lopez, are injured. While it is feasible one of the four will recover in time to play, there are no guarantees. David Jones deputised at left centre-half against QPR, but a similar move would force Maynor Figueroa into an unfamiliar central role. Roman Golobart is untested at this level and it would be a baptism of fire to face Walcott, Cazorla and company in this sort of form. A change of shape would be an option if there was another left back in the available squad, but not so.
And yet, in situations like these when it all seems impossible, Wigan is capable of surprising everyone. Shaun Maloney has been eased back from injury and should start after being Latics’ brightest spark in a poor team performance against Norwich. Franco Di Santo has also been used a little more sparingly recently but could return to partner Arouna Kone up front. The big question is whether Jordi Gomez will be dropped for one of them. And whether James McCarthy’s ankle injury heals in time. His importance to the team grows by the match.
It’s always an unfair contest when Wigan faces Arsenal. But when you have nine senior players injured, including your four senior centre backs, against a team that just scored five goals away from home, all you can do is your best. Reason says straightforward win for Arsenal today — Wigan will be out to defy it.