Date: 23rd August 2008 at 12:27am
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After the brief midweek break, Arsenal returns to action on Saturday when they travel to Craven Cottage to face lowly Fulham. Arsene will be somewhat concerned that he only had 2 first team players, Almunia and Denilson, in his practices earlier in the week, but the news of no new injuries is a big plus. The West London side suffered a demoralizing 2-1 defeat to the Championship playoff winners, Hull City, on the opening day of the season. Fulham fans can be excused for thinking they were experiencing déjà vu, because last year they also blew an opening day lead to Arsenal.

Even with the monotonous international friendlies this week, Arsenal has had a wild few days. A shock signing, straight out of left field, made headlines throughout the football blogosphere. Mikael Silvestre made the journey south to join Arsenal from Manchester United, the first time a player has switched between those clubs since Brian Kidd in 1974. For me, after the initial shock of seeing a long-time Manc in an Arsenal shirt, I looked at the deal from a more neutral perspective and saw the brilliance that lies in it. We sold Justin Hoyte for 3 million and bought a better, more seasoned player for a third of that, and it also allows Armand Traore to go out on loan and gain invaluable Premier League experience at Pompey. Mikael will be an excellent addition to the squad that has bolstered the depth of our defense.

This weekend Arsenal will be looking to metaphorically kick Fulham while their down. Even though the Gunners got three points with considerable ease against West Brom, they were criticized by many for not inflicting further damage on the newly promoted side. A dominant win Saturday, on the road, might do a lot to silence those critics.

Vital Quotes:

Arsene Wenger gave his thoughts on the season so far. “We have just started the season and had a very difficult game last Saturday,” said Wenger. “Everybody has discounted us at the moment but one more player will not make a big difference for us.

“For me, what is very important is to start the season well, by qualifying for the Champions League and winning our first few games. Then if we need an addition we can still do it.

‘I do not especially [like being discounted],” Wenger went on. “It doesn’t take any special pressure off us because I feel we have to win trophies. The pressure is exactly the same. For me we are here to win the trophy.

‘However I think there is more to come from my team this season. We have a structure in the team and a way of playing that is very efficient. We have mastered that well so I do not see why we should not set ourselves high targets.’

He also gave his view on the game this weekend. “Fulham have a strong squad now,” admitted Wenger. “They look much more dangerous going forward than last year and it’s a derby, too.

“For me our success in this game will be based upon how quickly we can focus again after international matches.”

Roy Hodgson`s main worry is about Andy Johnson. ‘Andy Johnson’s injury has improved immensely and he’s quite close to full fitness. Clinically he’s very close.”

‘I’m very concerned that the season has just begun and there are 38 matches to be played. It’s important for me to have Andy up, running and fit for most of those matches.

I don’t want to throw him in early because it’s the tempting thing to do. As often happens with these type of injuries, the player gets back and there’s a slight recurrence and he misses another couple of weeks.’

Fulham Team News:

The main concern for Fulham is that new signing from Everton, Andy Johnson, is still not fit. Fulham`s hopes for getting anything out of this game might lie on the 27 years old fitness. Another new signing Bobby Zamora will have to step up in Johnson`s absence.

Fulham let USA international striker Eddie Johnson, leave on a season long loan for Cardiff City.

Player to watch: Zoltan Gera

The Hungarian winger, who signed on a free transfer from West Brom, will be important in Fulham`s slender chances on Saturday. He brings a creative edge to the Cottagers that is not usually there. He won`t score many goals, but his passing ability will certainly set many others for goal scoring opportunities.

Arsenal Team News:

New boy Silvestre is a doubt for the game with a muscular problem. This makes me question the quality of our pre-signing medical. On a better note, Alex Song is back from Beijing after once again shining on international duty for Cameroon. These performances and his play at the African Cup of Nations, have some Arsenal fans thinking he is our solution to the hole at defensive midfield. And despite a so called ‘injury` that kept Samir Nasri out of the French team, the midfielder will be ready to go for this game.

Fabregas is still not fit, but will most likely be involved on Wednesday against FC Twente. Diaby, Senderos, Bischoff, Eduardo, and Rosicky are still all out as well.

Carlos Vela returned late from the Americas after playing in Mexico`s World Cup qualifying win and will not be in the squad for Fulham.

Player to watch: Robin van Persie

The Dutch striker was marvelous in Holland`s one all draw in Moscow midweek. He was involved in the link up play as well as making penetrating runs himself. He scored a beautiful left footed curler to the upper corner in the first half of the game. His performance made it clear that the striker was back to his best. He should continue on this fine display against Fulham tomorrow.

Match Facts & Stats

Arsenal won both encounters last season with Adebayor scoring two first half goals in a 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture.

Premier League at Craven Cottage:

Fulham 1 win, Arsenal 6 wins, Draws 0

All fixtures at Craven Cottage:

Fulham 6 wins, Arsenal 11 wins, Draws 4

Fulham has dropped more points to Arsenal than any other Premier League team.

Ref Watch:

Martin Atkinson will be in charge of match tomorrow. The 37 year old was in charge of the other North London team`s first game against Middlesbrough on opening day and he gave out three yellow cards. But more importantly he made an absolute howler of Wheater`s disallowed goal. How he is in charge of any football game this weekend after that is beyond me.

Match Prediction:

4-0 to the Arsenal. Van Persie and Adebayor to grab braces for the Gunners.

Next Fixtures:

FC Twente Champions League 8/27

Newcastle Premier League 8/30

Blackburn Premier League 9/13

Article submitted by Gunnerkid107