Fulham Preview: Flat Track Bullies Win Titles

dn

Abracadabra! Three points and that’ll be magic; I sense those words should be read whilst wearing a toupee and in the voice of Paul Daniels. How you listen to this morning’s playlist (here or in the right sidebar) is entirely up to you.

Fulham arrive at The Emirates this afternoon, nothing more than sacrificial lambs to the slaughter at the Arsenal altar if the received wisdom is to be believed. The last time a team came to this part of north London in such circumstances, Cardiff City made a much-changed Arsenal side work hard for their money. With almost a week’s rest until the next match, this is one of those rare opportunities where the manager can play a full strength side without fear of weariness manifesting. Many voiced disappointment in the way the Cardiff match and at Villa Park ended. The margins of victory did not reflect Arsenal’s dominance, the logic being that Manchester City would have put both to the sword. In footballing terms, their goalscoring form has been unusual – I think they will reach 100 for the season in all competitions this weekend – yet they did not win their Champions League group nor are they runaway leaders of the Premier League; they aren’t even top. Beyond them, it seems the days of handing down a good thrashing are the preserve of the boardrooms of British banks and Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

Arsène is aware of Arsenal’s need to impose themselves on teams in the bottom half of the table but to build consistency and the ensuing results. That is more important than flattering to deceive with thrashings, no matter how impressive it is to put six past both north London teams at home. If there is no title sitting on the sideboard at the end of the season, those results mean nothing. Manchester United’s title wins over the years have been built on equally solid home form, dominating lesser clubs at Old Trafford but in clashes with the top six, they could be as hit and miss as Arsenal. City’s resolve will be put to the test at the end of this month when they travel to Tottenham and try to remove the wheel clamps from Jose’s bus as it gets parked across the pitch at Eastlands. By the time the final whistle is blown at that match, nine points ought to be added to Arsenal’s total having beaten Southampton and Crystal Palace, following Fulham today. It isn’t arrogance – although the line between that and belief is blurred on a grey background – it is about achieving the results needed to win the title. If this squad is to win silverware then they are the results required.

Certainly the manager believes that it is easier for the players to perform in their current position than clawing back points on rivals to meet the basic requirement for every season. Sitting atop the Premier League at the moment, you sense that beyond the club, most expect Arsenal to begin to drop away. That attitude is changing slowly but there is still an expectancy on Arsenal’s shoulders but not for title-winning reasons; they are expected to fail. How the players react when that turns to pressure to win the title, when Easter comes if Arsenal are still top or within a point of it, will tell Arsène an awful lot about whether his squad is as good as he believes, as he wants to believe. The only immediately apparent proviso is that they have not won the title before; last season the players proved eminently capable of achieving results when the pressure was on to overhaul Tottenham and once that was complete, maintaining fourth place. Winning ugly, as they have done this season, is not the sole preserve of champions or relegation battles and any team which has experience of that has experience to fall back on when the season reaches its climax.

Being in contention at that point is the first target.

Three points today will be a good step toward achieving that and despite the injury list seeming horrendous, Arsenal will still be fielding a very strong side. Kieran Gibbs timely return to fitness has alleviated the loss of Nacho Monreal  but that is probably the only change we will see from Monday night. There is a good case for including Lukas Podolski to offer a more direct threat from the kick-off but with Bendtner and Sanogo out, it leaves Akpom as the only cover up front. With due respect to the youngster, that is still light and underlines why, at the moment, Podolski is not playing regularly. That may just be circumstances suiting an ulterior motive but both are speculation, particularly since Wenger has commenting frequently that the German is not as fit as he could be. The mysterious-injury-meter has yet to reach Almunia but there is something strange about the player’s pattern of appearances. Not that you can discern anything untoward from his demeanour beyond being unhappy about not being used as a substitute on Monday night, which is a display of desire and frustration that you want to see from players; they want to play for Arsenal and are unhappy when they don’t.

The line-up I would expect Arsène to go with a kick-off is:

Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Flamini, Wilshere; Gnabry, Özil, Cazorla; Giroud

It is a fixture which has been generous to Arsenal in the past, Fulham never having beaten them on their own turf in a competitive match. That lends itself to the assumption that turning up will be good enough to win. The arrogance is punctured with the realisation that three of Fulham’s five draws in this fixture have come in their last five visits. This is the potential banana skin if Arsenal’s performance slips. That said, their opponents achieved the dubious honour of making Sunderland look good last weekend and have shipped an average of three goals in their previous meetings with the top seven this season. It is not hard to understand their slide down the table, inexorably into the relegation dogfight with ten defeats in their last thirteen Premier League fixtures, grateful for West Ham’s equally wretched form to deflect some of the attention away from themselves.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

133 thoughts on “Fulham Preview: Flat Track Bullies Win Titles

  1. I hope so Poodle. We’ll need a fresh injection of goals and attacking ideas for the big sides. We’ve had some trouble scori g in those games.

  2. Poor touch from Poldi–had a chance to shoot. He started brightly but faded a bit.

    Really poor defending. Merts let’s him through and WS doesn’t get enough on it.

  3. Professional. 3more points. Same narrative though–not at our best but winning against lower level opposition.

    This will keep us top another couple weeks.

  4. I think i must be stupid. I always keep thinking Wilshere looks a bit immature. gives away the ball to much. Decent yeh but when Arteta and Ramsey are back he will struggle to keep his spot. Others seem to think Wilshere is the best on the field…

    Wilshere is good yes, but when he matures his game he will be a lot better imo..

  5. No bookings, no injuries and a clean sheet. That’s good enough and still top of the league. So who will win the league, a strong attack with a weak defence or a strong defence with a weak attack????????

  6. Every time I see pictures of players walking into a club before the game with headphones on I want to snatch them off and box their ears.

    There’s a whole world out there with team mates and fans in it.

  7. A 10th clean sheet. Monreal was a monster today, how fucking lucky are we to have two such great left backs as Monreal and Gibbs? Kos was brilliant as were all the back 4, but he’ll rue that open goal miss right before Santi finally put us ahead. The passing for that first goal was delightful, the Giroud pass and the one back in to the path of Santi from Jack was great as well.

    2-0, not at our best but once again another 3 points. No complaints here.

    The shot from Podolski that struck the post shows what he can bring to the side as an attacking threat and it is one we miss at times.

  8. I never have quite understood why we seem to take our foot of the pedal when we are in a strong position to kill off a game. Monreal was my MoTM, will him and Santi both. Monreal for his whole game performance, whilst Santi for his 2 goals in the 2nd half. It was interesting to see how many times our own players were basically tripping over each other in the middle there at times during the game, far to condensed centrally.

  9. Give it a couple of more weeks and we will have held the 1st spot for the longest time this season. It would be a right shame if we did not win. though let the media and the pundits heap pressure on City and Chelsea.. suits us well..

  10. Might be to conserve energy Miami.
    WIth the tech involved in monitoring fitness levels maybe they are told or do it off their own back as not to get injured. After the 2nd went in we looked bored like the entire first half.
    We’re not as deep as city or Chavski so we need to be smarter.

    NOt knowing where a goal is coming from is frustrating and exciting. Opponents don’t like it that’s for sure.

  11. AW must soon start to recognise the potential Podolski offers the attack. If we had another CF available for cover then I could envisage Giroud and Pod playing in a 4-4-2 formation to deadly affect.

  12. bob,

    its the Ipod generation, amazing how kids can walk down roads completely oblivious to the world they inhabit listening to 1st direction checking the twatter whilst dodging lampposts and people using their 6th sense…amazing.

  13. Amazing isn’t it duke? Never hear a bird singing. Never see what is going on around them.

    Bloody awful. The world is doomed.

    What’s with Giles then,duke? I had hopes for him but surely he can see that we need to win a game? Where’s Broad and Anderson? Bloody Bresnan bowling the last over and a typical English giant plonking down 4 balls at medium pace when any Aussie with his build would be knocking our batsmens’s heads off.

    That and the serial failure in the middle order.

  14. AW interview and speaking about Podolski and why he isn’t choosing him to start, it’s about his injury and fitness, nothing sinister like not likeing the player

  15. yes the old Walkman…but you didn’t have a screen in which to check what your mate from 10 years ago is eating for dinner. anyway i’m with bob I also like to be able to walk down the road and just look at the birds!

  16. The first ‘Pool goal was a good one, but that cheating bastard Suarez dived to get the penalty,

    It is painful watching Villa trying to hang on to for a draw. Sod it!

  17. A nice gap emerging between the top 3 and the chasing pack now… I want United to sneak a draw with Chelsea tomorrow. That said, without either Rooney or RvP, I think United are fooked.

  18. Yogi, in the matter of the finances of The Arsenal, we, none of us, can be as wise as Mr Stuart Wisely, Chief Financial Officer of Arsenal Holdings plc.

    Mr Wisely is also Company Secretary, of all the subsidiary companies registered at the U.K. Companies House. Except one.

    The property development side of the revenue in the 2012/2013 Accounts, was £37.5 millions. A one-off.

    A WHITE FLAG, in order to point out an obvious error.

    We have a “false prophet” claiming that The Arsenal revenues will increase by “an additional £45-£47 millions per annum over and above now”??

    One has been at the “moonshine”, or as they say on Red Clydeside, “at the bev v y”. OR, per computer keyboard “bevvy”!!!

    The source is of course – January 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm.

    My sincere apologies, Yogi, if I have stolen your “thunder”.

    I should point out that I do have, at my grubby finger tips”, copies of the annual accounts for The Arsenal subsidiary companies! The accounts for 31st May 2013, will not be available, just yet

  19. Obviously a much more effective 2nd half. 2 goals for Cazorla. Hopefully he can go on a scoring run similar to the run Ramsey had at the start of the season. We need him. He is probably the best scorer we have now. When in form he can score and be an effective wide left forward. He is certainly part of the reason Podolski has stayed on the bench for most of 2013 and probably will be a sub for the rest of the season.

    Another clean sheet for the defense. We are really good on that end of the pitch.

  20. Great result and top of the League for another couple of weeks. Liverpool dropping points is nice and hopefully ManU will pay above themselves and sneak a point tomorrow.

    Our back 4 were immense today again. Sagna’s crossing is getting much better and Monreal is getting better and better and he may have made first choice his own. Either way, it is a credit to him in the manner that he has approached his position in the team. Rather than moaning about not getting enough minutes he had the quality of character when asked what he thought about spending so much bench time and he said he was becoming a better player simply because he was training with better players.

    Coming off the bench to help secure one and two goal leads and doing a fine job. Now, with the opportunity of starting games he has lifted his level again at both ends of the pitch.

  21. Looking like it is going to be a tight run in – we are doing fantastically well.

    However it seems like the billions spent at ManSour are finally paying some dividends, the way they are winning must be setting some sort of record.

    I would say that Suarez is the top stiker in the League, but Shitty have 3 o r 4 strikers nearly as good.

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