WiganThey were all laughing. I can still see it so clearly. The day was April 18, 2010 and Arsenal was playing Monday’s opponents, Wigan Athletic, in an end of season affair not dissimilar from this one. But that was really no excuse for what happened, is it?

Just to remind readers, it was a nice sunny day in northern England and we had taken a lead in the 41’ through Theo Walcott only to double our advantage early in the second half when Mikael Silvestre (gulp) scored with a looping header. The ensuing celebration was a mix of self-congratulatory high-fiving and laughter as if it was a Sunday at the county fair instead of a football match against at team of professionals struggling for survival.

Well, those smiles were quickly smacked off our faces as Wigan dominated proceedings going forward finally scoring in the 80th, equalizing in the 88th, and then winning it with a Charles N’Zogbia wonder strike in the 90th.

On paper this seems like a cakewalk. Arsenal are the Premier League’s form team, while Wolves are the exact opposite. They languish at the bottom of the table six points from safety while Arsenal are currently leading the race for Champions League qualification. It may not be that simple however.

Frustration at Christmas

In the last meeting between these sides on December 27th, Arsenal seemed to be cruising to victory when a Steven Fletcher goal and a brilliant goalkeeping display from Wayne Hennessey held the Gunners to a 1-1 draw.

At this point however, Wolves were still under the stewardship of Mick McCarthy and weren’t doing all that poorly.

A 1-0 result midweek against Everton gave Arsenal their sixth straight Premier League victory. They will look to make it seven when they face an Aston Villa side that are coming off an impressive victory of their own. The string of results, along with Tottenham and Chelsea being in poor form, has seen Arsenal climb up to third in the league table. It has been a different story for Villa, as they have only one win in their last six.

Team News

Arsenal: There are no new injuries to report. It was reported last week that Per Mertesacker’s season was over. Some good news for the Gunners is that Jack Wilshere seems to be edging closer to returning but Arsene Wenger has said he will not rush the midfielder.

Aston Villa: They will be without their captain as Richard Dunne is set to head to the United States in an attempt to quicken his recovery from a shoulder injury he suffered.  Ciaran Clark will also miss the match, as Alex McLeish will hope to have the defender back next week. If you recall, the young defender was responsible for both of Villa’s goals in last year’s 4-2 home defeat to Arsenal.

EvertonJust as Arsenal are hitting top gear, Everton have come to a dead stop. They ended their 9-game unbeaten run in all competitions in the worst possible fashion, being comprehensively spanked by deadly rivals Liverpool before scraping a draw in their FA Cup quarter-final tie with Sunderland.

Arsenal can only hope that the performance they turn out is more in line with their most recent displays.

Last Time Around

The fixture earlier in the season was memorable for a few reasons:

It was Arsenal’s 125th anniversary celebration game and was preceded by the unveiling of statues of club legends, as well as being won by a very special goal from Robin Van Persie, who received a round of applause from Thierry Henry, statueified himself that day.

Everton did well to keep Arsenal at bay for long periods, however, and looked dangerous on the break. Everton’s stubborn refusal to allow Arsenal to win on their anniversary showed they are no pushovers.

Everton have not beaten Arsenal for five years, when a last minute Andy Johnson goal gave them a 1-0 victory at Goodison. In 2009 Arsenal thrashed Everton 6-1 to go top on the opening day of the season.

AC Milan

Arsenal face a tough test on Tuesday night as they attempt to overturn a 4-goal deficit from the away leg against an AC Milan team in fine form in Italy and Europe.

The Dark Night and Other Nights

Arsenal capitulated three weeks ago at the San Siro, losing 4-0 to goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Zatlan Ibrahimovic and a brace from Brazilian star Robinho. Arsenal were outclassed in all positions and never quite seemed like they knew what was going on.

Despite this emphatic result, Arsenal have enjoyed success against Milan. They knocked them out at this stage in 2008, when Milan had won the trophy the year before, though it should be noted they only managed a 0-0 draw at the Emirates and were unable to pull off the traditional San Siro magic this time around.

Arsenal will be keen to try and keep the near-perfect record that English teams hold against Italian teams in European ties, though both the Gunners and London rivals Chelsea come into their home legs with not-inconsiderable margins to beat.