Fulham Preview: Back to Winning Ways Please?
The recent weeks have been pretty tumultuous for everyone concerned with Arsenal football club. Despite the encouraging start to the season, things have gone downhill as the Gunners have struggled for form, goals and most importantly, Premier League points. Arsenal’s isn’t doing too well in the League form table, as Arsene Wenger’s men have managed two wins, a draw and three defeats in their last six games.
Fulham arrive at the Emirates with an appalling away record (22 losses and four draws in last 26 games) but their manager, Martin Jol, has questioned Arsenal’s ability to win trophies,
“If you look at the likes of Manchester City, with almost half a billion spent, Manchester United, it’s not easy nowadays. Can you expect a team like Arsenal to win things, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, all these clubs?
“Seven years? That’s a long time!” I don’t think you have to be angry. Frustrated is probably the better word.
“Angry with Wenger? Wenger created the new Arsenal, almost. Maybe, in three years’ time, they will hope and pray to get someone like Wenger.”
Well, this is coming from a manager that couldn’t hold on to a fourth place finish when he had it on a platter, before placing the blame on food poisoning on the final day of the season.
Arsene Wenger on the other hand, didn’t waste his time talking about how Martin Jol can’t grow some hair in his skull if his life depended on it, but he took out time to speak about the attacking threat his team poses.
Wenger also spoke about his new signings, acknowledging their contributions to the squad thus far,
“The three buys we made have been, for me, very positive. Giroud is now starting to show that he can score goals too. Cazorla has played 17 games since the start of the season, and 17 games of complete intensity. Therefore he’s a little less fresh at the moment.
“Podolski works very hard, in a way that he was not completely used to, as he says himself. Maybe they are a bit less fresh but overall I believe they will do very well here with us.”
With Arsenal drifting further behind the leading pack, anything less than a home win against Fulham will be regarded as utter disappointment. Last season, Thomas Vermaelen suffered the ignominy of a calamitous own goal but he atoned for his gaff with a powerful header late on, sparing Arsenal’s blushes.
This season, Vermaelen hasn’t been making his gung-ho runs upfield but his defending hasn’t been good either. Many Gooners believe that his saving grace this season has been the armband given to him by Arsene Wenger because his poor form knows no bounds at the moment. After gifting van Persie a chance to inflict some damage on Arsenal, he capped it up with an embarrassing own goal against Schalke on Wednesday.
Despite being Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile last season, Laurent Koscielny has struggled to make it into the first team this season, courtesy of Vermaelen’s leadership status and Per Mertesacker’s fine form. Andre Santos’ torrid displays paved the way for Koscielny to get back into the team and the Frenchman has expressed his delight in playing first-team football again.
To team news, the usual suspects (Gibbs (thigh), Diaby (thigh), Rosicky (tendon), Gervinho (ankle), Fabianski (ankle)) are still out but it’s pleasing to know that Wojciech Szczesny is on the road to full fitness after playing 90 minutes for the Under-21’s in the 2 – 1 loss to West Ham’s Under-21s .
With Szczesny’s imminent return to the team, Wenger has admitted that Vito Mannone’s form could force him into an interesting decision,
“Vito will play on Saturday. When he is fully fit and Wojciech is fully fit we will see. Wojciech is No 1 but I think Vito has handled the situation very well.”
Moving over to the defense, I have a hunch that Andre Santos might be drafted back into the team, which will ultimately bring an end to Koscielny’s hopes of starting today. Bacary Sagna will continue on the right ahead of Carl Jenkinson, and the right back hopes that Arsenal can impose themselves on Fulham. The Verm and BFG will start through the middle and the captain has spoken about the good fortunes of Arsenal’s strike duo, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.
In midfield, Jack Wilshere will get some deserved rest thanks to his suspension but he has stated that competition for first-term berths will bring out the best in him. He also spoke about his surprise inclusion to the England squad, for a friendly against Sweden.
His absence, coupled with Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky still out injured will pave the way for either Aaron Ramsey or Francis Coquelin but in my honest opinion, I’d like to see the Frenchman get a shot against Fulham, which will give Mikel Arteta the license to drift forward a bit.
In attack, I’d expect Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski to play through the middle flanks, while Giroud would play behind the goal as the center forward.
It’s high time we return back to winning ways.
The North London Derby comes up after this game.
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