Fulham v Arsenal
Apr 20, 2013 at 3pm (UK)
After missing the opportunity to extend their lead over Tottenham, suddenly Arsenal find themselves in a spot of bother as they play Fulham away at Craven Cottage before hosting league leaders Manchester United next weekend. A tricky game followed by a tough one isn’t exactly what Arsene Wenger and his men would want at this stage of the season. But on a brighter side, if they manage to pull up their socks and pick up three points today the pressure will be right back at Spurs and Chelsea who face Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. It is still not completely out of their hands, but the Gunners have to make sure they get all three points today.
With a win tonight Arsenal can get up to 63 points and assuming both their London rivals drop significant points, Arsenal are well in with a chance of clinching the 4th place trophy and a shot at Champions league next season for the 16th consecutive year. Arsenal who are unbeaten in the league since their defeat at White Hart lane would be vary of Craven Cottage as their last visit there ended in a 1-2 defeat and in fact it has been as long as 7 years since the Gunners have had a significant result over their London rivals at the Cottage.
Meanwhile Fulham, currently at 10th place are enjoying an average season and must put a halt to their alarming dip in form off late. With only a point from the last three games and after a 3-0 thumping by Chelsea in the mid-week Martin Jol’s men will be looking to restore some parity in front of their home supporters and the 3-3 during Fulham’s visit to Emirates should be a confidence booster.
Team News and Injury updates:
Talking to the press ahead of the game, Wenger talked updated on the latest team news. He said,
“There are a number of uncertainties about our squad. At the back everyone should available. In midfield we have a few people to check like Cazorla, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain. They will all have tests but I hope they should be alright.”
“We have to test Rosicky who was not ready to start on Tuesday.”
At the back Szczesny is set to start his second game as Lukasz Fabianski is yet to recover from his trouble with a cracked rib. As far as the defensive line-up is considered Per, Koscielny and Sagna will retain their places while Gibbs who was subbed late against Everton should have to wait until the final team news.
The midfield has seen some significant changes in the recent past and as Ramsey is continuing to impress, he should start alongside Arteta in the anchor role while Wilshere plays in an advance role. The real trouble for Wenger comes with the forwards.
Although Cazorla has been good, he is not at his best when deployed at the left which will have to be accessed by Wenger because for Cazorla to start at the center he will have to either sacrifice Wilshere or Ramsey which is a tough ask. The Gunners have found it difficult to crack their opponents in the last two fixtures and Wenger should finally break his stubbornness over Podolski and start him at the left moving Cazorla in a more central role or even down the right replacing the out of form England International Theo Walcott.
With a host of players pushing for a starting place, it will be interesting to see what the French man does as he is not known for his rotation policy. (Or may be this is the first time he has almost a full squad to pick from)
For Fulham, the return of Steve Sidwell to the midfield after serving a three match ban courtesy of a red card he received against QPR should be an added boost. Midfield duo Ashkan Dejagah and Mahamadou Diarra are out for the season with ankle and knee concerns, the absence of Damien Duff has been a real blow. It is all up to Sidwell and Berbatov to guide Fulham to a positive result.
Possible starting lineups
Fulham: Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Enoh, Emanuelson, Karagounis, Ruiz; Petric, Berbatov
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere; Cazorla, Giroud, Walcott
Fulham are unbeaten in their last four Barclay Premier League meetings with Arsenal, drawing three and winning one.
The Gunners have won just one of their last four trips to Craven Cottage in the Premier League (D1 L2), losing their last trip there in January 2012 (1-2).
There has been a red card given in both of the last two PL meetings between these two sides at Craven Cottage – Johan Djourou (Arsenal) and Zoltan Gera (Fulham).
The Gunners have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games, winning eight (W8 D2 L1).
Since the beginning of February, Arsenal have conceded only six goals in nine Premier League games, keeping four clean sheets during this run.
The Whites have accrued a joint league-high five own goals this season, but are yet to concede one themselves.
Mikel Arteta has taken (six) and scored (five) more penalties than any other player this season.
Prediction: 1-2 win for the away side.