Arsenal face the first of three consecutive home games after some very mixed results on the road. The draw with Schalke, whilst respectable in isolation, did the Gunners few favours with their group position.
Now they come back to domestic concersn where they look to bounce back from a limp defeat at Old Trafford against Martin Jol’s Fulham side.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger acknowledged that Jol’s Fulham side will give the Arsenal rearguard plenty to worry about.
“Fulham are very efficient going forward. They have [Hugo] Rodallega, they have, of course, [Dimitar] Berbatov and offensively they are a side who creates many chances and who scores goals ? 21 goals is quite impressive in 10 games.”
Meanwhile, Fulham boss Martin Jol senses the frustration coming from Arsenal fans with regards to their trophy drought.
‘Seven years? That’s a long time,’ Jol said. ‘Of course, it’s probably not what an Arsenal fan wants.
‘Wenger created the new Arsenal. Maybe in three years’ time, they will hope and pray to get someone like Wenger.’
‘If you look at the likes of Man City with almost half a billion spent, Man United, it’s not easy nowadays,’ said Jol.
‘Can you expect a team like Arsenal to win things with Chelsea, Man City, Man United, all these clubs?’
Arsenal Team News:
Wojciech Szczesny is playing for the U-21s as I type and may be included in the squad following an ankle injury, but Arsene Wenger has confirmed Mannone will start in goal, for one more game at least.
Jack Wilshere serves a one match suspension, whilst Aaron Ramsey (groin) and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain ankle) will have late tests.
Kieran Gibbs (thigh) and Abou Diaby (thigh) are not quite ready, Tomas Rosicky (achilles) are back in training. Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) and Gervinho (ankle) are also out.
Arsenal (from): Mannone, Szczesny, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Djourou, Vermaelen, A.Santos, Coquelin, Frimpong, Arteta, Ramsey, S.Cazorla, Walcott, Chamberlain, Arshavin, Podolski, Arshavin, Giroud, Chamakh.
Player to watch: Theo Walcott
Theo has been frozen out of the first XI to this point, but with Gervinho, Chamberlain and Ramsey all injured, he’s back in the side. He certainly gave us a bit more cutting edge upfront against Schalke.
To me it looks like he’s already being asked to play more of a striker role. He certainly spends a lot more time in central positions than he used to and I can only imagine it’s under instruction.
Fulham Team News:
Martin Jol has revealed that midfield enforcer Mahamadou Diarra is only 50-50 for the visit to North London with a knee injury. Simon Davies is still recovering from a hip operation.
Fulham (from): Schwarzer, Stockdale, Kelly, Senderos, Hangeland, Hughes, Grygera, Riise, Richardson, Baird, Sidwell, Kasami, Karagounis, Diarra, Kacaniklic, Duff, Ruiz, Berbatov, Petric, Rodallega.
Player to watch: Dimitar Berbatov
If Fulham hurt Arsenal, expect the silky Bulgarian to be the main architect. Though Fulham like to use their wide players, both Bryan Ruiz and Hugo Rodallega enjoy plaing with the deep lying, Dracula-a-like striker.
Certainly Koscielny and Mertesacker will identify Berbatov as the main threat to be dealt with.
Match Facts & Stats
Fulham have never won at Arsenal, having lost 22 and drawn 4 of their 26 trips.
Fulham haven’t scored more than one goal in an away game at Arsenal in the Premier League.
However, the Cottagers are unbeaten in their last three against Arsenal.
Philippe Senderos will make a return to his old club.
Only Manchester United and Chelsea have bettered Fulham’s 22 goals in the Premier League so far this season.
Arsenal currently hold the best defensive record in the division with 8 conceded.
Andre Marriner is this weekend’s man to blame.
I think another nervy Arsenal win might be the result here. I’m backing 2-1 to the Gunners, Walcott and Cazorla with the goals, Ruiz for Fulham.
Arsenal’s next game will be at home to Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday at 12.45pm.
Fulham play at home to Sunderland next Sunday at 4pm.