Fulham Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups
With the games coming thick and fast, the Gunners are hoping to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League but they have the threat of Manchester City to contend with, as Cardiff visits the dreaded Etihad Stadium and are expected to be swept aside by a wave of attacking football.
Since the shocking opening day defeat to Aston Villa, the Gunners have sorted out their issues at home, notching up seven victories and two draws thus far. If they truly want to get a shot at the title, they need to make their home ground a fortress, like the Etihad that has been a model of consistency all season long.
Since that disappointing stalemate against Chelsea in late December, Arsenal has won five games on the trot and would be in bullish mode ahead of this encounter. Fulham’s record against the Gunners is downright shambolic as the Cottagers have also never won at Arsenal in 27 attempts, losing 22 and drawing the other five. This record spans up to 110 years, as Arsenal has never lost at home to Fulham in any competition.
However, Fulham has escaped the Emirates with a point in their last two games on the ground. Last season, Olivier Giroud and Dimitar Berbatov netted twice but it’s a game Mikel Arteta would want to forget quickly as he missed a 94th minute penalty that wold have handed his team all three points.
Arsenal have also kept clean sheets in seven of their last eight games at the Emirates Stadium and have won their last eight games against teams in the bottom six of the Premier League table. Arsene Wenger also believes that beating the bottom teams is vital in the run-in for the Premier League title.
Solidity at the back has been a hallmark of Arsenal’s success at the Emirates Stadium this term, with just six goals conceded in 10 Premier League matches. Arsenal also have the joint best defensive record in the league with Everton, conceding 19 league goals this season and keeping nine clean sheets.
Fulham on the other hand, have the worst defense in the Premier League, as they have shipped in 46 goals in the 21 games they’ve played so far. They have also conceded four goals to each of Everton, Manchester City and Sunderland and six to Hull in the space of the last month or so and have the fewest clean sheets (3) in the League.
Under the reins of Rene Meulensteen, Fulham has endured a somewhat inconsistent campaign and are just one point above the drop zone. Last weekend’s shock reverse Adam Johnson-inspired 4-1 loss a bitter pill to swallow, as the Cottagers lost to a fellow relegation dog fighter.
The club would hinge their hopes on the aging Berbatov that has decided not to renew his deal with the club and my buddy at Canon Crested says that this game could be an ‘audition’ for him. He was linked with a 2m move to the Emirates, via ESPN, but I don’t see Wenger taking a punt for him. The club is more concerned about some bloke called Paul-Georges Ntep. Bleeeeh.
Ashkan Dejagah and Adel Taarabt (or Tarabat, as Victor Ikpeba would call it) would provide trickery on the flanks for the opposition while the likes of vice skipper, Scotty Parker, and former Gunner trainee, Steve Sidwell, would want to sit deep and protect the back four. I must say that Parker and Sidwell have been doing a marvelous job protecting their back four, as they have conceded 46 goals, and I hope they continue in the same vein today.
However, Fulham poses a threat from set pieces as Steve Sidwell’s goal against Sunderland last weekend was Fulham’s seventh from a corner this season; a record matched only by Manchester City. There’s also the scourge, Darren Bent, has scored seven goals in 11 Premier League appearances against Arsenal.
To injury news, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are back to full fitness and will be available for selection. Elsewhere, Walcott’s knee surgery was a success and as we all know, he’s out for the season. The boss has confirmed that Mikel Arteta (calf), Nicklas Bendtner (ankle), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Thomas Vermaelen will remain on the sidelines.
Tomas Rosicky had an operation on his broken nose and may play with the aid of a mask, while Nacho Monreal remains a doubt following his nasty foot injury against Aston Villa.
The away team will be boosted by the return of their captain, Brede Hangeland, that had been out since October with a sciatic nerve problem, but helped the side to a first clean sheet in eight matches in the FA Cup replay against struggling Norwich. Fernando Amorebieta would face a late fitness test, but I see a fully-fit Aaron Hughes playing in his stead.
At Arsenal, I’d expect an unchanged lineup from the side that dug out a win in Villa Park but I would love to see Lukas Podolski start on the left while Santi Cazorla drifts to the right flank ahead of Serge Gnabry. Podolski is badly in need of game time and I believe that this match offers him the perfect opportunity to stake a claim for a first-team berth, as he was synonymous with the first team last season.
My predicted lineups would look like this,
In case you’re not chanced to see the game, you can listen to the live audio on Arsenal Player.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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