Daily Archives: August 24, 2013

Fulham vs. Arsenal: Time to Kickstart the Season

Koscielny will not be available for this tie

Arsenal visit Craven Cottage in the lunch time fixture brimming in confidence after a stellar performance against Fenerbahce in Turkey. Prior to the Fenerbahce game, the world of Arsenal seemed to have collapsed from within in the wake of that abject outing against Aston VIlla in the opening weekend of the season.

Fulham on the other hand, enjoyed a good start to their Premier League campaign, winning away against Sunderland with a goal from Patjim Kasami. Martin Jol did some good business this summer, acquiring Tottenham’s Scott Parker, AS Roma’s Maarten Stekelenberg, QPR’s Adel Taarabt, Aston Villa’s Darrent Bent, athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta among others while Arsenal, errrrm, got them some Yaya Sanogo. Great.

In terms of injuries, Fulham have a couple of players sidelined with key defender, Kieran Richardson, out with a hamstring injury. New recruit in goal, Stekelenberg, is also out with a shoulder injury while Amorebieta faces a late fitness test after suffering a knock. At Arsenal, the usual suspects Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Mikel Arteta (thigh), Ryo Miyaichi (rib), Thomas Vermaelen (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) will be joined by Laurent Koscielny that is injured and suspended.

Fulham has enjoyed a good record against Arsenal in recent times, losing just one of the teams’ last five fixtures, but Arsenal did win the most recent meeting as Per Mertesacker scored the only goal in a 1-0 away win in April that saw both sides end the match with 10 men. In that away clash last season, Fulham began the game on a bad note following a red card to Steve Sidwell but they were equal with Arsenal personnel wise when Olivier Giroud was sent off as well.

The head to head record between both sides is pretty interesting as three of the last five meetings between the two clubs have ended in a draw. Fulham have also won just three of 24 Premier League matches against the Gunners; all three of those wins have come at Craven Cottage while the Gunners have won on eight of their 12 trips to Craven Cottage since Fulham were promoted to the Premier League.

On a bad note, there have been four red cards in the last three Premier League fixtures between the teams at Fulham and I hope we won’t see any today again.

Fulham have lost their last four home matches dating back to last season, including April’s 1-0 defeat to the Gunners. They were beaten nine times at Craven Cottage during the 2012-13 campaign – the equal-most home defeats in last season’s Premier League. However, the Gunners have to be mindful about Fulham’s new recruit, Darren Bent, that has scored six goals in his last eight Premier League games against Arsene Wenger’s side.

Arsenal on the other hand, took 19 points in London derbies last season, which was more than any club from the capital. A win against Fulham would see the Gunners achieve a milestone as victory would see them become the first club to register 100 London derby wins in the Premier League.

And for those that don’t know, all 12 of Olivier Giroud’s 12 Premier League goals have been scored in London with 11 scored on his home ground. In the corresponding fixture last season, Giroud bagged a brace in the 3-3 draw.

The Gunners also have to be very mindful of the threat Fulham poses from the wings with Damien Duff on the left and the charismatic Adel Taarabt on the right. There’s also the threat of their Costa Rican maverick, Bryan Ruiz, as well as the canny nature of Fulham’s star striker, Dimitar Berbatov.

To team news. I would expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal after a brilliant performance against Fenerbahce. He was committed to his side and made many outstanding saves as well as that epic moment of bravery when he put his body in the line to block Moussa Sow’s attempt on goal. In defense, Koscielny’s suspension would pave the way for another Sagna-Mertesacker partnership and they would be flanked by Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.

I would expect an unchanged midfield triumvirate that includes Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosciky. The British hub in the midfield finally clicked with each other in Turkey and we can only hope that he would build on their newly-found partnership, till a certain Yohan Cabaye or Mathieu Flamini arrives. Mikel Arteta is still out nursing an injury.

Finally to attack, I don’t see Lukas Podolski getting into the team just yet, so it would be the Santi-Walcott combo in the wings with OG12 spearheading the attack.

I’d expect both line ups to look like this,

It’s time to kickstart the season.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.


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