It was only a few weeks ago that Wigan Athletic’s motor-mouth chairman Dave Whelan was talking about his club claiming a top-ten finish in the Premier League this year, but when Arsenal visit the stadium he so humbly named after himself this Saturday, his club are once again hovering below the trap door.
Since Whelan made his bold claim – does he ever make any other type of claim? – Wigan have gone backwards and are favourites to spend Christmas Day in the bottom three.
You would think that, just for once, Whelan would refrain from opening his mouth before engaging his brain. But he can’t help it, and his verbal diarrhoea has not aided boss Roberto Martinez one bit.
Whelan was quoted as saying that Wigan had “played very well in all of the matches, we’ve played better than our results show… we want to finish in the top half and I think we will”.
There is nothing wrong with ambition and at that point, the Latics were 14th in the table on 11 points and had just won a brilliant three points at Tottenham Hotspur courtesy of a fully merited 1-0 victory.
It was a solid start, but since then, things have gone wrong. Wigan have taken just four points from the following 21 available and that run of one win and five defeats from seven games has seen Martinez’s side fall into the relegation zone.
What’s more, all that optimism about performances has suddenly evaporated. Wigan have been pretty poor over that period, losing comprehensively to Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester City and putting up below-par displays in defeat to Norwich and West Brom.
Even the sole victory against Reading was slightly fortunate and the way the division is shaping up, it appears, as we look at it now, that Wigan are in for a long season of struggle with, at most, four other teams.
To avoid yet another Christmas spent in the bottom three, Wigan need to get a result against Arsenal at the DW Stadium on Saturday lunchtime and with the Gunners hardly in great form themselves, it makes the odds on this one fairly interesting.
Arsene Wenger’s side are odds-on favourites for the win at 67/100, with the draw at 14/5 and Wigan at 15/4 for a home win.
Normally, Arsenal at odds-on away from home and Wigan at pretty big prices would be a winning combination for me, but much like when Wenger’s team went to Reading on Monday, I am not convinced.
I don’t think Wigan are playing well enough to back with any confidence and although we should know by now that they can spring a surprise against the best of sides at huge prices, I don’t think those odds are actually big enough to tempt me in.
But likewise, I want to see more from Arsenal than hammering a Reading side who are woefully out of their depth before I take odds-on about them away from home, even if they did ruthlessly dismantle the Royals in a 5-2 win.
So with Arsenal still flaky and inconsistent, I would much rather be on goals in this one and my play is the 29/20 that the match sees over 3.5 of them. That bet has landed in five of the last eight meetings between the two sides and all the indications are that it can come in again on Saturday.
Both sides have already had five games each this season that have seen at least four goals and neither can keep a clean sheet for love nor money: Arsenal have kept just four in the last 23 games, while Wigan have shut out the opposition just three times in 20 matches all season.
And with an open game very likely given how both managers play, I really do envisage goals here and the 29/20 on over 3.5 is my bet for this one.