LIVE from The Emirates, North London,
10th November, 15:00 GMT
Martin Jol is most certainly not an unknown man in these parts of North London. During better days of Arsenal, he managed a fantastic Spurs team and the showcased a very attractive brand of football. Though Spurs gave Arsenal a very hard time, they could hardly take away all points from the Gunners. Now, he manages a very tidy Fulham outfit, one that was capable of beating the Gunners at Craven Cottage last season. In fact Arsenal’s last victory over Fulham came way back in 2010.
Arsenal, at home, have been very inconsistent off late, they have even lost a game to Chelsea at The Emirates. After a confidence oozing start to the season, the Gunners have gone into a perennial funk wherein they have forgotten the creative side of the game. Still with the best defense in the league, Arsenal need to start scoring, but most importantly, they need to start creating chances, something that has gone completely missing.
The teams are tied at same points – 15 after 10 games in the season, Arsenal’s worst start to a season in the Wenger era. With nothing to play for at such an early stage of the season, the home side needs to bring back their A-game if they want to pick full points against a Fulham side quite capable of giving a lot of headache to Arsenal’s defenders. Fulham are going through a fantastic run, unbeaten in their last four games, and with no European football this season, they have a much fresher outfit ready to pounce on any mistakes from the home side. Can the South London club leapfrog their neighbors in the league table and make it five wins in a row?
Team News And Tactical Brief
With Jack Wilshere suspended for this game, Arsenal are starting this game already on the back foot. Mikel Arteta, who has played almost every minute of every game Arsenal have played this season, needs to start again with added responsibilities of creativity. Coquellin will start alongside the Spaniard, more focused on defensive duties. Santi Cazorla, who looks as jaded as ever, will be the most advanced midfielder in the three-man midfield.
Gervinho’s injury means Podolski starts on the left-wing. Arsene might be even tempted to rest the German and start Arshavin, for the former’s loss of form and the latter’s unpredictable attacking prowess. Theo Walcott is sure to start on the right-wing unless he rejects a deal overnight and goes all van Persie on Arsenal. Olivier Giroud, who is probably the only recognized striker in the entire squad, will start as the lone striker up front, and will hope to get more service than the last two games.
With Santos still in awe at Robin van Persie’s shirt, Vermaelen will start at Left Back. The captain has had a horrible season so far and will look to provide more solidarity and composure on the wings. Mertesacker and Koscielny will be the Center Back pairing that leaked in two goals against Schalke in midweek, one being an own goal from the Belgium international. Bacary Sagna will start at right back. Vito ‘Don’ Mannone, who would have fond memories of Fulham, will start at goal while Szczesny will come back into the bench after being declared fit.
Gibbs, Diaby and Rosicky are still out with injuries with only the Englishman close to complete match-fitness. Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to pass a late fitness test, but will mostly occupy the bench next to the Russian.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mannone(GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Coquellin, Arteta; Podolski, Cazorla, Theo; Giroud
Australian man Schwarzer, who was once heavily linked to the Gunners, will guard the posts for the Cottagers. Reither, Hughes, another Arsenal-linked defender Hangelaand and former Liverpool man Riise will play ahead of the Australian. Riise provides the width on the left hand side, and it will be interesting how he handles the in-form Theo Walcott. Their Center Back pairing looks quite solid, but is still capable of their ‘Arsenal’ moments.
Damien Duff, once a force in the league with Chelsea, may not be a threat at this age, but will still make his mazy runs down the right flank as well as the middle. Midfielder Simon Davies is still recovering from an operation, is not available. Former Real Madrid man Diarra has a knee injury, and will miss out this game. In the absence of these top men, Jol will deploy Baird and Sidwell in the center of the park with Duff and Kacaniklic on the flanks. Ruiz and Berbatov will start upfront.
At the top end of the pitch, Fulham carry a very familar face at North London, former Spurs man Dimitar Berbatov. The elegant striker has started scoring goals finally, after a frustrating season with United, where he spent most of the time on the bench. He will start alongside Petric, who will play more advanced than the Bulgarian.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic; Berbatov, Ruiz
- Fulham are unbeaten in their past four matches, having defeated Aston Villa and played out draws with Everton, Reading and Southampton.
- The Cottagers have never beaten Arsenal away from home in the Premier League.
- Fulham have lost 12 points from winning positions this season, more than any other side. [Opta Facts]
Player To Watch Out For
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
When the German was injured last season, his place was grabbed by Koscielny. The Frenchman was easily Arsenal’s best defender last season. The tables have turned in this season, the German has been rock-solid which meant Koscielny losing his place alongside the captain. Now, with Santos out all three top men can play at the Back along with Sagna. Per is a very calming influence on the team, and is a defensive pivot during aerial bombardments.
Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)
Dimitar had lost one complete season at Old Trafford after finishing their highest scorer in the league in the season before that. His differences with Sir Alex kept him out of the side, but the Bulgarian chose to leave Manchester at the beginning of this season. His transfer was a huge investment from Martin Jol, making sure star man Dempsey’s departure was covered for. Nobody is oblivious of the capability of Berbatov, and can cause a lot of damage if not taken care of.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham
With Arsenal needing a bit of inspiration from somebody to lift them up from this funk, Theo Walcott will be the man in the front to provide it. Since the players are quite jaded, Arsenal will struggle in the final stages of the game, but the big German and his men will make sure Arsenal don’t concede more than what they have scored. A 2-1 to the Arsenal!
Blast from the Past