Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Saturday August 11 2007
The Premiership may be under way after our neighbours were out-played and beaten 1-0 by Relegation candidates Sunderland, but the Premiership season doesn't really start till noon (GMT) on Sunday.
That's right folks, that's when Arsenal kick off their assault on The Premiership against the white half of West London.
It'll be the first competitive game The Gunners have played since the departure of two more invincibles in the form of Thierry Henry and Freddie 'socks in me pants' Ljungberg.
It's been a long 80 days with no competitive football to watch, and watching Spurs play Sunderland was something of an anti-climax, so I'm sure you'll all be even more excited about Sunday's game, just as I am.
Fulham will be no pushover after new manager Lawrie Sanchez added considerably amount to his squad.
In his pre-match press conference Arsene Wenger stressed that the Arsenal are moving into a new era, and that no comparisons (especially Henry - Eduardo) should be made: 'You have to accept that the team will be different and you cannot compare any individual.
'We've had a few good strikers at Arsenal and in 130 years, nobody scored more goals than Thierry Henry so you cannot put that kind of pressure on anybody else.
'So yes we will be a different team. The only thing I can say is that we have a strong belief, a great desire for success, a great togetherness and we are very hungry. And the fact that everyone doubts us reinforces that.'
Lawrie Sanchez was somewhat dismissive of Arsenal's title credentials and I have to say that his reasons are, to be frank, complete boll***s: 'I'm not sure Arsenal can quite bridge the gap between themselves and the top two.
'When you look at the investment made at both Chelsea and Manchester United, and then see the investment Arsenal have made, then I don't think it's going to be enough.'
I don't think I need to make a list of Arsene's bargain buys, do I?
New boy Eduardo Da Silva will have a fitness test on Saturday on an ankle problem to determine if he can play a part against Fulham. Arsene Wenger says he is likely to be fit.
Bakary Sagna looks set to make his competitive debut against Fulham after an impressive pre-season.
Adebayor will miss out with a groin problem, although he is back in training and could feature in mid-week.
Gilberto is not yet fit. He was given an extended holiday after helping Brazil to the Copa America title.
If Eduardo doesn't make it, Theo Walcott is likely to start up front with Robin Van Persie. The other possibility would be to play Hleb as a second striker, as he did in several pre-season games.
Rockin' Rob has impressed during pre-season, and I think he'll want to show his class in this game more than most.
It's his first chance to show that he is the man to replace the departed Theirry Henry as Arsenal's talismanic striker.
I'm seeing a brace from the Dutchman.
If there's one area of the pitch you want to keep your players fit when coming to Arsenal, it's in defence. Unfortunately for Fulham, they could be missing three. Aaron Hughes is out with an ankle problem, while former Arsenal trialist Philippe Christanval and Ian Pearce are both doubts.
Lee Cook will also miss out with a knee injury. While fellow midfielder Jimmy Bullard is still 8 weeks away from fitness.
Any number of Fulham's 9 new signings could make their debut.
The Fulham stopper will have to be in top form to shut out Van Persie and Co.
It's not unusual for 'keepers to play a blinder against Arsenal, so it's a safe bet that he'll have a good game.
Phil Dowd will over see Arsenal's first game of the season. He only ruled over 17 games last season, but still managed to dish out 50 yellow cards and 3 red cards. Only one of those games involved Arsenal, but he still managed to book six Arsenal players. Toure, Henry, Lehmann, Rosicky, Clichy and Fabregas were all handed yellow cards that day.
It's always tempting to predict a massacre when you're playing a team such as Fulham on the opening day, but I'm going to have to go for a comfortable 3-1 win. A Van Persie brace and a goal from Theo Walcott to seal it.
Up The Arsenal!
Date:Saturday August 11 2007
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