Arsenal-Wigan Athletic Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Arsenal can record their first three-match win streak in the Premier League when they visit the DW Stadium to face relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic in Saturday's lunch-time kick-off.
The Gunners have been buoyed by their five-star performance Monday night in a 5-2 victory at bottom side Reading. Arsenal rose to fifth in the league on 27 points - two out of the Champions League places.
Santi Cazorla had a hat trick and Theo Walcott added his third goal in his last four league matches as he was deployed as a central striker.
"I put Walcott in that position in training and he convinced me before this game he could do it," Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said.
Walcott has always craved the chance to play up front and brought pace and movement to Arsenal's forward line that has been absent.
"I showed what I can do," Walcott said. "I was quite happy with the performance, running into space and creating space behind me."
Although Walcott has yet to extend a deal that runs out next summer, the Gunners made news Wednesday when they secured the futures of five key players, with Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, and Carl Jenkinson signing new deals.
"We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts," Wenger said. "The plan is to build a team around a strong basis of young players, in order to get them to develop their talent at the club."
Cazorla, Walcott and Lukas Podolski have combined for 17 goals and 13 assists.
The Gunners' programme over the holiday period has eased since their Boxing Day fixture against West Ham United has been postponed in light of proposed strike action on the London Underground that day.
Wigan Athletic have no such luxury and find themselves in 18th place in the drop zone, tied on 15 points with 17-placed Southampton. Their fixtures over the holidays after facing the Gunners are against Everton, Aston Villa and leaders Manchester United.
"I think the next three or four games we need to show a real character, a real determination and face the period with a real desire to get the points that I do feel we can get over this Christmas period," manager Roberto Martinez said.
The Latics have shipped 16 goals over their last seven matches, falling 2-1 last Saturday at Norwich City.
"At the moment, we're not showing enough defensive intensity in the box and it's costing us too much," Martinez said.
The Norwich match created additions to the Latics' lengthy injury list, with James McCarthy suffering an ankle injury that appears to be a short-term issue while defender Adrian Lopez will miss 10 weeks with a hamstring tear.
Gary Caldwell (hamstring), Shaun Maloney (groin), Ivan Ramis (hamstring), Ryo Miyaichi (ankle), Albert Crusat (knee), Antolin Alacaraz (groin) and Ben Watson (broken leg) are all out.
"I will never use having players out as an excuse to drop the level of the performance," Martinez said. "That's something that you need to accept."
The visiting team won both fixtures last campaign, with Arsenal posting a 4-0 victory at the DW.
Updated December 20, 2012