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Match Preview: Arsenal v Fulham

Arenal are set to try and continue their winning ways tomorrow at the site of one last year’s most frustrating losses – Craven Cottage. The Gunners square off against Roy Hodgson’s Fulham side who at the start of this season, are a shadow of their selves from last season.

Ravin' at the Craven!

Ravin' at the Craven!

Arenal are set to try and continue their winning ways tomorrow at the site of one last year’s most frustrating losses – Craven Cottage. The Gunners square off against Roy Hodgson’s Fulham side who at the start of this season, are a shadow of their selves from last season.

Fulham, notorious for a strong back four have started the season wrought with frustration as they have only managed 6 points from a possible 15 (thanks in part to wins over Pompey and Everton). In all competitions Fulham have one win from their last seven ties.  One of those loses was a 120 minute well fought battle against a first team Manchester City squad. A revamped Fulham side played smart football and frustrated the likes of Carlos Tevez and crew until Kolo Toure knocked home the winner in the 111th minute.

Supporters of the West London side should be bouyed from their teams current form against the Gunners. Last season alone Fulham held Arsenal to just one point from six in their meetings. Only Aston Villa were able to match that feat. Additionally, the loss at Craven Cottage last season was Arsenal’s only derby defeat on the road last season. Overall, the Cottagers have beaten Arsenal at home in two out of the last three seasons.

In order to beat the Gunners this season, Hodgson will need all hands on deck. Simon Davies is out so the squad will need, Clint Dempsey, Bobbie Zamora, Andrew Johnson and Damien Duff to be in form against an improving Arsenal side. Brede Hangeland, rumored througout the summer to be an Arsenal target needs to replicate last season’s heroics if Fulham are to gain points from Arsenal.

The Gunners hope that they can keep the winning form they have shown lately going. In their last three matches they have come from behind against Standard Liege, displayed a solid thumping of Wigan and the young guns outpaced Championship leading West Brom. The league leading scorers have a total of 27 goals in all 9 matches played and have 17 of those in the EPL.  That scoring prowess however has to be tempered with the fact that Arsenal have given up 8 goals.

Even with their two losses this season the effectiveness of the new 4-3-3 cannot be understated. The attack even in those losses has been effective scoring in every match and nearly drawing even in both trips at Manchester. The weak point has been on the defence where the position of goal keeper has been  a particular pain. Prospective England Goalkeeper (I kid of course) Manual Almunia has only managed to save 53% of the shots he’s faced or better put he has let in half the shots he’s seen. Vito Mannone has featured in the UCL and EPL matches while the Polish wiz kid with the hard to pronounce name, Wojicech Szcznesy backstopped the defence in the recent Carling Cup tie. There is some speculation that the the pole will feature between the sticks since Vito has shown himself to be shaky.

One of the key components to the squads scoring sucess is Arsenal’s effectiveness on set-pieces. Last season their attempts were paltry and the were middle of the pack in scoring from them. This season, with the addition of Thomas Vermaelen and all of William Gallas’ body parts, Arsenal are leading the league in scoring from set pieces. This is important as squads back the bus up to block any Arsenal attack and take penalties or force corners.

However ashas been the case this season, the focus will be Arsenal’s attack options and they are only be bolstered by the return of Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott to the first team. Add them in with Fabregas, Rosicky and Eduardo  and the options for Arsene Wenger seem endless.  Finally, it is quite possible Arsenal fans will get to see the link up they have been craving for since last January – Rosicky to Arshavin. Rosicky and Arshavin are two creative players with the ball. Already in his return to the squad Rosicky is showing why he was signed. He has scored and his ability to feed the ball to players on the run is uncanny. Throw that in the Arshavin’s ability to make something out of nothing around the penalty box and this could be a very productive duo through the season.  

How it will play out?

All in all, the match is likely to be typical of a London Derby and hard fought on all sides. Look for Fulham to tighten up in the back and force Arsenal to unlock them. Also look for Fulham to try and toughen the match up especially testing the midfield and force Arsenal off their game. Arsenal’s attack will be fit for the task as the trainer’s room is finally clearing out and the bench will feature players who should be starters in any club. In the end Arsenal should prove to have too many weapons and too much creativity to finish with a result similar to last year. While Fulham will likely be happy to escape with a point, Arsenal shall not as they look to stay with the leading pack. And they should.

Players to watch:

Arsenal:  I am going to agree with everyone else and say Thomas Vermaelen. When fans clamored for a defender and a striker Arsene gave them the former Ajax captain. The Belgian has not disappointed leading the club with 4 goals in all competitions. Once chastised by the pundits for his lack of size, he has shown skill in positioning and an uncanny knack to get himself free on set pieces and win some very tasty headers.

Fulham: Brede Hangeland was an Arsenal killer scoring the lone goal last year during the tie.  Linked this summer with a move to Ashbourton Grove, and thoroughly denied by the player he could be tempted to prove a point during the match.

Probable Starting XI:

Arsenal:  Mannone/Szcznesy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Clichy, Fabregas, Rosicky, Song, Eduardo, Arshavin, Van Persie

Fulham: Schwarzer, Hanglenad, Huges, Paintsil, Kelly, Murhpy, Etuhu, Duff, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora

Final Score:

Arsenal: 3

Fulham: 0


Final Note: As always Game Day Chat will be open.

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