Shaun Maloney can steer Wigan to a safe haven against Arsenal

Scot looks to repeat winner against United when revived Latics face Arsenal tonight

For the first time in months, Wigan Athletic can see dry land. Their run of treacherous games ends at Arsenal tonight, before a final four which could yield enough points to complete another successful Premier League survival campaign.

Wigan looked adrift until recently, spending the first three months of the new year at the bottom of the table. Facing Liverpool, Stoke City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal should have finished them. But, against all expectations, the Latics have finally started to earn the results in keeping with their ambitious 3-4-3 football.

A surprising win at Anfield was followed by a 2-0 defeat of Stoke, before a fairly honourable defeat at Chelsea and then the famous 1-0 victory over United last week. Wigan are now out of the relegation zone for the first time since December. And, after tonight's game at the Emirates, they have the easier prospects of Fulham, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers to finish off their season.

 

This burst is largely thanks to the impact of Shaun Maloney. After Adel Taarabt he is the most gifted player in the bottom five, and it was his perfectly-curled finish which beat United last Wednesday. "He had a massive impact [in the 1-1 draw] against Norwich," Roberto Martinez said of Maloney, who joined from Celtic last August, "and since then he has shown he is a player who is capable of that little bit of magic that gives you results. He makes the fans enjoy their football, which is something they really appreciate, and has shown a real freshness in producing the quality we always knew he had."

Maloney took time to fit into the Wigan team, but Martinez denied that he ought to have started him sooner. "There is a really strong adaptation period for certain players when they leave the Scottish Premier League and come to England," said Martinez. "We worked really hard with him physically to reach the level we needed, then he had to find a partnership and position with our players. That takes time."

Arsenal have also started recently to feel the benefit of a summer arrival. Yossi Benayoun joined on loan from Chelsea last August but only in the last two months have the Gunners seen the best of his obvious gifts: acute football intelligence and a charming first touch.

Benayoun, drifting into midfield from the left side of the front three, was also instrumental in the recent stirring home victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. He certainly lacks Gervinho's spurt of pace, but Benayoun has provided a much more natural balance to Arsenal's play, comfortably exchanging roles with Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta.

The result is the most cohesive and fluent Arsenal side since, at the least, the start of last season. They have won nine of their last 10 league games, and their recent run of seven straight league wins was their first such stretch since October 2007. Suddenly the worries about the ignominy of slipping into the Europa League look merely like an upsetting dream that they have long awoken from. Benayoun scored his second league goal for Arsenal in last Wednesday's 3-0 win at Wolves.

Arsène Wenger is unsurprisingly impressed with Benayoun's growing contribution. "He has been very patient and very professional," Wenger said of the midfielder. "He came here with lack of competition and it took him a while to become really sharp. He kept working and waited for his place. We kept faith in him and put him in for big games because he is an intelligent and talented player. He has a good team attitude."

Probable teams

Arsenal: SZCZESNY, SAGNA, DJOUROU, VERMAELEN, SANTOS, WALCOTT, SONG, ROSICKY, ARTETA, BENAYOUN, VAN PERSIE

Wigan: DISANTO, FIGUEROA, CALDWELL, ALCARAZ, BEAUSEJOUR, McCARTHY, McARTHUR, BOYCE, MALONEY, MOSES, ALHABSI

Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm, (Sky Sports 1). Odds: Arsenal 1-5; draw 5-1; Wigan 11-1. Ref A Marriner (W Midlands).

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there