Fulham arrive at The Emirates with a frankly appalling record in this fixture. In twenty four previous visits to Arsenal, they have the sum total of three draws to show for their efforts. Indeed, they have failed to score in half of the fixtures and when they do manage to score three goals, find Arsenal scoring four or five in response. This season though, is not one where records such as this can be taken for granted.
Recent home form has been distressing. The win over West Ham seems so very long ago. The midweek victory in the Carling Cup was a step in the right direction but needs to be built upon if a title challenge is to be forged. The point was not lost on Arsene yesterday,
Our away form got us in a good position in the table but of course we want our home form from now to take off. If we can combine the two we have a good chance and that is our target.
Focus has been on the past two results for the manager, ensuring that the wins are not ‘wasted’ in being followed by a defeat at home. Not so long ago, such an outcome would have been unthinkable; recent performances have been inhibited, a state of affairs which needs to be shaken from the system.
Arsene believes Robin van Persie is three weeks away from his ‘best level’, believing that the Dutchman and Chamakh are suited to playing together in whatever formation he chooses, be it 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-3-2-1, 4-1-3-2 or the old favourite, 4 by 2.
Pre-season, he noted that the favoured style would be 4-4-2 if the pairing were to work together. With Fabregas’ injury record in the past twelve months, van Persie’s return could be crucial as the goal threat diminishes without the Spaniard, the reliance upon him to create or put the ball in the net is at times an uncomfortable echo of the Henry era.
Chamakh has settled quickly noting in the week that supporters appreciate his efforts, knowing he is putting his heart into everything. We appreciate his goals as well as the creative element of his game, providing for others to score is a key priniciple on which the squad is built.
That is emphasised by his recent admission that he is not a prolific goalscorer, hoping to weigh in with 15 to 20 goals this season. He should take note of his two immediate predecessors now departed from the club. Neither was prolific before joining Arsenal; neither has been prolific since leaving either.
Chamakh has settled faster than many expected. He puts it down to the absence of a large transfer fee, the weight of expectation lifted from his shoulders. It is an interesting observation because those demands were there, irrespective that it was a free transfer. He is expected to deliver the goals which contribute to silverware adorning the trophy cabinet although it is ironic that the first trophy may come from a tournament in which he doesn’t participate.
To this afternoon. Mark Schwarzer faces Arsenal for the first time since the summer shenanigans, motivated to prove why Wenger wanted to sign him but also for the calamitous May afternoon suffered on the final day of last season. Expect ninety minutes where the ball appears to be magnetically attracted to his gloves.
Fulham though are struggling. Without an away win thus far, they have dropped into the relegation battle, principally because they have only won twice in the League, Wolves in September and Wigan in October – and you thought our November was bad. Away from home though, they have only lost twice, adept at drawing having done so on five occasions. Given their manager, obduracy should be expected from them.
Arsenal are more than good enough to beat them but must concentrate from start to finish and be as clinical in front of goal as they were in the final hour at Villa Park. Wenger had good news on the injury front and I would not expect too many changes from that team. The line-up likely to be:
Fabianski; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Song, Rosicky, Denilson; Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin
I suspect the only change might be Denilson dropping out with Walcott coming into the right side. It would be an extremely attacking starting line-up from Wenger with the possibility of going top realistic. Winning by four more goals than Chelsea will do the trick…
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.