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Fulham v Arsenal: a somewhat more serious analysis

By Phil Gregory

Fulham, Arsenal’s opponents in the late kick off today are managed by the likeable Roy Hodgson and the well-travelled Fulham manager is highly regarded by Wenger, who hailed him as being “the best English manager” in a recent press conference (Mark Hughes take note).

Indeed, the ex-Malmo boss has overseen an enormous change in fortunes at Craven Cottage, leading a team that were previously seen as being bottom six material into Europe.

Much of this success can be attributed to an ability to get the most out of his players – nine times-capped Danny Murphy springs to mind – as well as good use of his knowledge of the Scandinavian market with the transfer of the imperious Hangeland. With Arsenal the proud owners of what is more or less a fully fit first eleven, the match at Craven Cottage promises to be a scorcher with both teams liking to play football.

Recent form:

Arsenal come into this game with a rested first team, after the U12s (careful Phil, I do the jokes – Editor) beat West Brom in the Carling Cup. Wins over Standard Liege and Wigan will have done much to heal the pain of coming away from Manchester with zero points, but Arsenal have got much to do to convince neutrals they have what it takes to win what is surely the most open Premier League for years.

Fulham reserves emerged from the Carling Cup tie away to City with a very credible 2-1 loss so like Arsenal, will have a fully rested first eleven. They go into the game off the back of some indifferent recent form.

At home, where they were so strong last season, Hodgson has seen his team beat Everton but lose to Chelsea.  Over their last few Premier League games, they’ve lost to Wolves and Villa away, and beaten Everton at home, placing them fourteenth in the Premier League, between Everton and Wigan.

Many attribute this to a small squad and the pressures of Europe but really, Fulham’s first eleven have barely played in Europe so this can’t be a factor in their mixed start. More likely, it’s just the ebbs and flows of form – Fulham won’t have expected to be where they were last season, and will be more than content with a solid midtable finish this season.

Injuries:

The usual suspects are amongst the long-term absentees: Fabianksi, Nasri and Djourou are all out for the immediate future, with Walcott lacking match fitness but likely capable of a cameo from the bench.

Arshavin is “expected to be involved”, while Van Persie will have undergone a late fitness test by the time you read this blog. Denilson will still be out with a back complaint, while Almunia’s continued chest infection has got Arsenal conspiracy theorist’s tongues wagging.

Fulham entertain the Gunners without long-term absentees Konchesky and Kallio who are out with knee and Achilles issues respectively.

Key men:

Arsenal will need to be defensively solid at a tough away ground with an inexperienced keeper between the sticks, so let’s hope Gallas and Vermaelen continue their recent solid displays.

Tomas Rosicky will be looking to take up some of the creative burden in midfield, with Danny Murphy likely to attempt to limit Cesc Fabregas’ ability to influence the game.

With question marks over the fitness of Robin Van Persie at the time of writing, Eduardo Da Silva could well be given an opportunity to play as the central striker and will be hoping to overturn Vermaelen’s position of top Arsenal scorer.

Fulham will, as ever rely on a solid performance from central players. As mentioned, Danny Murphy will no doubt be the bane of our midfielders’ lives, working hard to disrupt our rhythm.

That is not to discredit his ability to play the game though, Murphy is not purely about hard work; certainly a good player to watch. Hangeland will no doubt want to show Arsenal what they could’ve signed amidst all the Vermaelen hype, and given the general trend this season towards set-piece goals, Brede will no doubt hope to nod one in from a corner.

With question marks over Vermaelen’s ability to cope with a pacey striker, Andy Johnson will pose a good test: lets hope the Verminator can help the back five to another clean sheet.

Arsenal expected lineup:

Mannone

Sagna Vermaelen Gallas Clichy

Song

Rosicky Fabregas

Bendtner Eduardo Arshavin

Subs: Szcznesy, Gibbs, Ramsey, Walcott, Van Persie, Eboue, Wilshere

A small element of guesswork required here – the goalkeeper’s jersey appears up for grabs after Wenger failed to confirm Mannone would be in goal when asked in a press conference. Even if Mannone is tipped to start, it says a lot that Szcznesy’s performance in the Carling Cup created this debate in Wenger’s mind.

Eduardo is up front in the event of Robin not being risked, though it could just as likely be Eduardo on the left, Arshavin on the right and Bendtner central if Wenger decides to stick with the policy of “the lone forward still functions as a link man” idea.

It’d be great to see Rosicky complete 90 minutes, but there are bench options if needed. I’m unsure Vela will be considered for the bench after a single brief (though impressive) cameo appearance on Tuesday night, though I’d be more than happy to see him included, but at who’s expense?

Prediction:

Fulham are organised, hard to break down and possess some quality players, not all who are household names. That said, Arsenal are simply a better side, who look capable of scoring given the incredible array of creative talent at our disposal. I’d expect us to concede, so perhaps 1-2 or 1-3 to us.

I’d love another clean sheet, but Fulham have been strong at home in recent years and we’ve got a 3rd or 4th choice goalkeeper between the sticks. Three points please, let’s keep up the momentum.

Comments, as ever, below.  Until next time!

Phil Gregory

21 comments to Fulham v Arsenal: a somewhat more serious analysis

  • Marc

    Nice analysis Phil. It will be a tough match but I will be bitterly disappointed if we do not come away with all 3 points. The next 7 games are all winable and those wins would see us go into the Chelsea game with good momentum and a a good foundation as we approach the busy Christmas period.

    Just in case anyone missed the draw we are at home to Liverpool. So the under 12’s we get to play against Gerrard and Torres, we can then watch Benitez moan the following week after dropping points and rotating his squad that the players are tired.

  • Team

    #

    Vito Mannone

    Bacary Sagna

    William Gallas

    Thomas Vermaelen

    Gael Clichy

    Abou Diaby

    Cesc Fabregas (c)

    Alex Song

    Robin Van Persie

    Andrey Arshavin

    Nicklas Bendtner

  • Subs

    Wojciech Szczesny

    Mikael Silvestre

    Kieran Gibbs

    Emmanuel Eboue

    Tomas Rosicky

    Aaron Ramsey

    Carlos Vela

  • Marc

    Is Eduardo injured?

  • No word about Eduardo, but with a Euro game on tuesday I suspect he is being held over – after all we had 3 forwards playing plus Vela on the bench, and Rosicky, plus the new forward Eboue, plus Diaby who seems to be everything.

    So no need, give him a day off, and play him from the start on tuesday, I think.

    Tony

  • walter

    The Fulham game is always a very physical game so best to take no risk with Eduardo. We needed 11 warriors today to get a result.

    So we won “ugly” as we rather could expect.

    Manone played a great game but I must say that he blocks the shots but he has to learn to push the ball further away from his goal and more to the side. But this is what you could call details criticism (this one is lost in translation…. sigh).

    It was nailbiting stuff today but Gallas-Vermaelen showed again, good partnership and good strenght when they got a knock, several that is.

    I wonder how long it will take the doomersbrigade to tell us this team is nog good enough to win anything ?

  • Gerald

    We won! Has anyone read the post match commentary by Jonathan Stevenson of BBC? Which game is he refering to

  • walter

    Just read it Gerald.
    On my screen appeared a statistic after 40 minutes in the first half wich said that Arsenal had +60 % possesion in that half. So I guess he looked at another game then us.

  • lordgunner

    decent performance agaist a good fulham team great win .i eat my humble pie for vito , he was amazing and win us 3 points . well done don vito 🙂 .cesc start to worry me but then we see what he can do with his superb pass alike diaby who slow down all our attack

    striker score:check
    clean sheet : check
    happy me : check

  • walter

    Let me join you lordgunner if you have some humble pie left. Manone proved me wrong today and I must say I am rather happy he did.
    Just shows you how little we know about those players. He hardly has been called into action in his first games (apart from our horror start in Liège) so maybe was mistaking by this.
    Just looking for poor excuses from me part in fact…

  • diceman1984

    Diaby was by far our worst player on the field….

    Arshavin was also very poor….

    But this win was a great kick in the face to those who say we can’t win ugly…..last night was a combination of winning ugly by scoring a beautiful goal…

  • Arshavin looked like he was having a run out to get him fit again – often happens that way. Will be back at his best by next weekend especially if he can have a further run out on tuesday – just my opinion of course, but I think we’ve seen that sort of thing before.

    Tony

  • Adam Smith

    Agreed Tony about Arshavin, he wasn’t completely match fit.Fulham are a decent team,certainly no pushover,and although Cesc didn’t have his best game,one moment of magic by him and Robin brought the points home.

    Vito, only his third senior game,what a display, one we often see at home by the opposing keeper.As someone mentioned a fault of his, earlier in the week, he even managed to keep his legs closed when gathering the ball 😉

    Pleased for RVP, though was a little surprised he was subbed for Eboue.

  • Phil Gregory

    I suppose its to be expected with Arshavin given that he was out for a couple of weeks. We all know what he can do, let’s hope to see him at that level soon.

    See you all on Monday for the Olympiakos preview.

  • diceman1984

    Yeah, I said Arshavin was poor but I know why…so no blame for his form last night…

    I think RVP was subbed because him, too, just passed the fitness test for the game…

    I do want Bendtner to start scoring though, he deserves it from his work rate that has been shown since the start of the season…

  • LRV

    Isn’t it great to win, ugly or otherwise? Isn’t great for Vitto to get such a huge confidence boost? Isn’t it great for Arsenal to dig out a win over a determined Fulham? Our boys showed that they are more determined; that’s the attitude some were saying we do not have. Isn’t it also great for RVP to score such a great goal? “1 – 0 to the Arsenal…..”

  • steww

    Why buy into this popular myth of the ugly win? We played a very good side with great support in their own backyard. They closed us down well and attacked with speed and flair and we matched, contained and beat them. They closed down so well that our passing game looked less fluid than it can but on occasions we sliced them open with breathtaking ingenuity and slick passing, only poor finishing kept our score down and great keeping kept theirs down.
    Far from ugly it was really thrilling to watch.

  • don't believe the hype

    I agree Steww. We seem to be held to a different standard than other teams, if we are not totally controlling a game for 90 mins, creating chance after chance and winning by a minimum of 3 clear goals it does not seem to be good enough. Man u won the league last season with loads of 1 – 0’s. They were well beaten by Fulham amongst others, but they faced none of the criticism we’ve had to endure. It was a good game. Fulham are a decent team who played to their strengths. They also have a very experienced manager, who has probably forgotten more about tactics than your average armchair manager has had hot dinners. We did what we had to do to win and our quality came through in the end.

  • walter

    Well I confess I fell in the trap. In fact it was a good game with 2 teams going for it and creating chances. Could have gone either way but I really had the impression after the game we had the better chances over all and deserved to win. That is how I put it on the Benelux site minutes after the end of the game and a first impression is mostly my best one.
    The notion that Arsenal wins ugly is indeed when we don’t dominate a team like we mostly do.

  • Gerald

    And is it a crime for a keeper to pull a string of saves? He IS part of the team. I do not hear any negative talk when Torres single handedly does it for liverpool. If I remember correctly, Lehman was man of the match last time we won the Fa Cup.

  • IndianGooner

    Mannone was really great and after the 5min start at the CL game at Liege, He hasn’t let in a goal for 265mins!!! That needs some credit…