Arsenal v. Fulham
The Fulham game accurately represents all the troubles Arsenal has had this season rolled up into one single match. A lack of urgency, desire, finishing, and effort was a clearly evident in that preformance. I thought the Fulham game of two years ago was bad, but the one last August was utterly miserable. Now we can possibly turn our fortunes around with a solid display at home to a team who's away record is shockingly horrible at best.
The question on all Gooner minds is which Arsenal will show up. The one who outclasses teams in Cup competitions, or the one who looks half asleep. Wenger has tried many different team tactics throughout the season, but most of those efforts have been fruitless. However against Roma, Arsene surprised everyone by deploying Nasri behind the striker, a role where he was used at Marseille, and Bendtner out on the left. This change brought a much needed fluidity to the Arsenal attack. I hope the Boss continues to set up Arsenal in this manner for the Cottagers visit on Saturday.
Tim touched on the confidence oozing from Wenger right now. He takes a lot of slack from pundits and rival fans for this almost delusional stance on his team, but he does it for all the right reasons. 'In football, nothing is unthinkable, but I am confident we will make the Champions League,' said the manager.
'There are 12 games to go, if we keep our consistency, spirit and attitude, and our focus, we will make it.
"If you look at the fixtures, there are a few teams who have difficult fixtures. It is down to us to be consistent. We have 36 points to take, so let's not speculate too much on the weakness of any other team. If we win our games, we will be there."
Wenger is also the first to back up any player who is under fire by the media. 'We do not put any special pressure on a guy who misses a goal chance. The bigger you make a problem, the bigger it becomes. We remind them they have the quality' said the Frenchman.
'I remember teams who concede goals in the final five minutes and the more you say to them 'we don't want to concede goals in the last five minutes', the more it becomes a problem and the more you concede goals. So you just have to be natural, spontaneous and believe in what you do and your ability.'
Wenger added: 'Sometimes you have to take a distance from a problem and just think 'lets play well'.
Almunia, who has been in great form as of late, had this to say on the attacking problem. 'Before, we probably used to create a few more chances and also we would finish those chances quicker. Now we are spending a bit more time to get a final shot.
'The players realize the fans deserve more from us and maybe some of the players are feeling more pressure at the moment at home because we are not winning games.
'The only good thing that we can see from these kind of games when we are dropping points is we are still getting clean sheets.'
Arsenal Team News:
Arsene first reported in his Thursday press conference that Diaby had suffered a calf injury against Roma and would not be fit for the Fulham clash, but good news came out today that Diaby 'surprisingly' passed a fitness test and has been included in the squad. His inclusion in the team will hopefully be another reason to continue with the same formation from Tuesday.
Cup-tied Arshavin will be back in the Arsenal starting eleven, with Eboue most likely dropping to the bench. After another week of training, his physical and technical play should be better than it was against Sunderland.
Arsenal released some news on the return of an injured trio. Walcott, Adebayor, and Eduardo should be ready by the Roma second leg, and Walcott might even be ready for the FA Cup 5th round game against Burnley. Cesc and Rosicky are still about a month away, while Silvestre is out for... well who actually knows or even cares?
Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Arshavin, Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner, Nasri, van Persie
Player to watch: Samir Nasri
The kid from the streets of Marseille has settled in quite well in North London. He started off the season with a bang, scoring just 4 minutes into his debut, but after a cold, snowy winter, his performances have understandably become somewhat erratic. Tuesday, though, saw Samir back to his best. If he is played behind van Persie again, I would suggest putting a pound or two on this man getting on the score sheet.
Fulham Team News:
The main injury worry for Roy Hodgson's side was that Andy Johnson might not be fit as he missed the midweek game against Swansea. But the former Everton man will be available for this match, and Hodgson has said he will start with him and Bobby Zamora up front, two players who have hurt Arsenal in the past.
Ghanaian right back John 'Pantsil', whose real name is actually 'Paintsil' but West Ham misspelled the last name on the official EPL documents, is suspended from the game. Frederik Stoor will replace him in the defense.
Player to watch: Andrew Johnson
If Roy stays true to his word, which I doubt he will, then Johnson up front with Zamora is a dangerous pairing. Johnson's mobility and excellent work ethic will have the Arsenal defenders on their toes. If Clichy, Sagna, or possibly both of them are caught up field when Fulham makes a counterattack, then I have a feeling that Andy just might get the better of Gallas or Toure.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal is undefeated in 14 matches in all competitions.
Arsenal tops the London Derby table with nine points from two wins, three draws, and one defeat this season against London teams
Almunia has started every EPL game for the Gunners.
Against Fulham Home and Away
League (inc PL): Arsenal 30 wins, Fulham 7, Draws 6
Prem: Arsenal 12 wins, Fulham 2, Draws 1
at Arsenal only
League (inc PL): Arsenal 19 wins, Fulham 0, Draws 2
Prem: Arsenal 6 wins, Fulham 0, Draws 1
Fresh off a brutal public lashing by Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell for a wrongly allowed goal midweek, Peter Walton will be the head official for this game. This is his third Arsenal match of the season(Everton home and Middlesbrough). He has managed 16 games in total this season, handing out 2 reds and 46 yellows. This gives him an even 3 card per game average.
Now Arsenal might thoroughly embarrass me here, but the time is going to come where some team is just going to get demolished by this Arsenal team. It should of been Roma on Tuesday, but it could possibly be this Fulham team, who have not won on their travels in the league since May. Even the Fulham manager sees the potential. He had this to say:
'Are they going to give someone a heavy beating? That's a no-brainer. It's just a question of when.'
'I know it's going to happen but I'm just praying it's not tomorrow. But I know it will happen, because this is a very good quality team with good quality players.'
I might regret this but I am going to predict Arsenal winning by at least 3 goals and possibly more.
3/3 (Tue)- West Brom (A)- Premier League
8/3 (Sun)- Burnley (H)- FA Cup
11/3 (Wed)- AS Roma (A)- Champions League