The Emirates, North London
November 26, 2011; 23:00 Hours IST
After a determined night of Champions League football in which Arsenal showed their ai???grittyai??i?? side, it is time for them to channelize all their energy onto the league. They have won five league games on the trot and another win can take them to the much coveted Top Four. Since the defeat at White Hart Lane, the Gunners have picked up a series of victories with confidence at a very high within the team.
The chemistry of the side has also improved and new recruits have seamlessly blended into the kind of game played at the club. The tremendous form of Dutch striker van Persie has given the rest of the team a boost, a target to follow, a benchmark to attain! The defensive effort put together by the entire team has helped van Persie in playing a free role and score with charitable ease. The back-four consists of three centre-backs but Koscielny has played at right full-back earlier in his career and is a very clever and adjusting football player. Playing against a struggling Fulham side, Arsenal are expected to pick up full points at home.
TheAi??CottagersAi??are weary this season with all the European adventures. The thin squad doesn’t really help the cause, as they looked quite tired in the stalemate at the Stadium of Light last weekend. They have performed quite poorly on the road, having picked up just one win in their six road-trips. Martin Jol, who has been a London Derby rival of Arsene during his Tottenham days, is finding it hard to play with a compact squad who are ‘giving away’ games due to exhaustion. They started admirably at the Stadium of Light, but looked jaded during the later stages of the game. It will be an enormous task to upset the high-flying Gunners at their home, but in the game of football, anything can happen.Ai??.
Team News and Tactical Brief
On the injury front, Abou Diaby returned back to the squad in the Champions League game, he even got some valuable minutes in his bag. He can be a very influential player on his day, classy in execution andAi??temperamentalAi??in approach. If Alex Song needs a breather in certain games, Diaby can be incorporated in the team, though he is far less adept with his defensive abilities compared to the Cameroonian. Thomas Rosicky picked up a minute thigh injury in training before the Dortmund game and is still out for the London Derby. No further news of a new injury has been reported after the game in midweek.
Arsene Wenger might be tempted to rest a few players who have played a lot of games in recent times, but it is too irresistable a temptation to play the same side yet again, the chemistry of the team being simply fantastic right now. Yossi Benayoun came off the bench in the last game and showed some moments of brilliance, so he might be one candidate for the starting line-up. The back-four should be ideally unchanged, with Koscielny looking very solid at right full-back sans the attacking abilities. Meanwhile, Santos has been overtly attacking yet quite astute as a defender too; he has shown some very good control with the football, much expected from a Brazilian anyway.
If one of van Persie, Theo Walcott and Gervinho has to sit out, it has to be the man from Ivory Coast. The African, quite excited with his African Footballer of the Year nomination, has been very wasteful in front of goal. Though, Andrei Arshavin can be given a chance, it is still a dilemma for the manager as the Russian doesn’t possess the same defensive abilities that Gervinho has. Apart from these, the rest of the team picks itself on current form.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Szcznesy; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Song, Arteta; Theo, Ramsey, Gervinho; van Persie
Fulham haven’t won a London derby in the last eight years which counts 34 games. They are team firing at home, and not showing upAi??on their travels. Midfielder Steve Sidwell and defender Stephen Kelly are both suffering from injuries and are a doubt for this fixture. Simon Davies has been declared fit but he lacks match fitness due to a long time injury layoff. Mark Schwarzer, 39, meanwhile, has been talking up about his game and that he has no retirement plans in the near future; infact, he has even given the 2014 World Cup a possible target. The Australian had been in news earlier with Arsenal planing for a capture of the keeper a season back before Szczesny became a ‘monster in front of the goal’.
Fulham captain and former Liverpool man, Danny Murphy is the fulcrum of the team; his contribution is crucial for the side. Otherwise inspirational Clint Dempsey has been a little off-color recently, unable to finish off the game at Sunderland with a glorious chance. The American is expected to lead the line with Bobby Zamora. Another former Arsenal target, Hangeland will be in the center of defense with Hughes. Damien Duff is another attacking threat for the visitors, but with age, Duff doesn’t possess the pace and trickery he used to show in his Chelsea days. Another fantastic player of his time, John Arne Riise will fulfill left full-back duties.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Murphy, Sidwell, Dembele; Dempsey, Zamora
- The Cottagers have never won at Arsenal, losing 22 of their 25 visits to the North of London.
- van Persie has 5 goals in the 7 starts against Fulham.
- Arsenal hosted Fulham for the first time in an FA Cup game in 1903, stays undefeated to this day, at home.
- Robin van Persie has 31 goals in 29 games in this Calendar Year.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alex Song (Arsenal)
It is almost impossible not to have Robin van Persie as the Key Man, but we have given the Dutchman some rest on this column. The Cameroonian, who was elected MoM in the game at Dortmund, is now a vital cog in the team. “Song is everywhere” – the commentator on that night stated. He indeed is! Alex Song, not only provides defensive solidity, he even can create some magical goals out of the blue.
Arsenal 3 – 0 Fulham
It is too much of a task for Fulham to upset an incredibly ‘on the up’ Arsenal side. The home team can have one of those days, but it looks very unlikely that such a day can happen any time soon. With van Persie, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are expected to keep the score-board ticking. A comfortable home-win for the Gunners!
Note: The game is dedicated to the charity ‘Save the Children‘.Ai??For more info and to donate, visit their website.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
TheHardTackle’s Poll Of The Week