Arsenal today return to the site where they had the worst performance last season. The defeat at Craven Cottage more or less condemn Arsenal out of the title race as early as the third game of season. It was to set a precedence of games against the lesser teams of which the Gunners dropped most of their points. The ghost of that performance must be exorcised, as player for player, we are head and shoulders better than the Fulham squad.
On the injury front, Andrey Arshavin look set to return to the starting line-up for the first time since the defeat at Old Trafford. The diminutive Russian’s pace and ability to find passes in tight spaces will be much appreciated in the small ground at Fulham. It’s not to say that Arsenal have look lost without him but the player brings with him the uncanny knack of conjuring up something out of nothing. Almost Bergkamp-like if you ask me. Theo Walcott also return to the squad for the first time this season but I would be more than surprised to see him start considering he had not had much of a pre season training and still lacks match fitness. His virtues are much better served for the Tuesday’s visit of Olympiakos.
Otherwise the rest of the squad kinda picks itself out. Although Wenger might have suggested otherwise, I think he will start with the Italian, Vito Mannone in goal. I suspect the line-up will be something like this;
That is pretty much the line-up which started the season at Everton barring for Rosicky replacing the injured Denilson. It is perhaps the strongest line-up available to Wenger should the squad be fit (goalkeeper position not included). Some would argue that Walcott is ahead of Bendtner should the strongest formation be fielded. But the Dane brings something else to Arsenal’s game and is a better crosser of the ball than the Englishman although it must be said that I rather prefer him to be at the end of those crosses.
Since Roy Hodgson took over at the Fulham, he has built up a competitive squad though not good enough to challenge the top 4 but certainly not punching above its weight in the quest for European spots. Danny Murphy still pulls the string in the center of the park and if Song can mark him out of the game, Mannone can expect a quiet night. Hodgson’s game plan will be based on a solid defense and try to look for counter attacks or set-pieces. This will be another examination of the capabilities of the one-time Arsenal target, Brade Hangeland. It would be interesting to see Vermaelen going up against Hangeland as the latter was firm favourites to make the transfer to Arsenal before the Belgian signed on the dotted line.
This is the second out of 8 matches of a good period where Arsenal do not face any of the big teams until the visit of Chelsea on Nov 29th. We need to come out of this period with maximum point of 24 out of 24 points to really assert ourselves as a title contender. Let’s follow up by getting another win at Craven Cottage. The winning margin is not really that important at the moment we have a rather healthy plus on the goal scored column. Clean sheets will build a lot of confidence and it is vital it continues tonight.
Enjoy the game wherever your watching. Till tomorrow.
Come on you Gunners!!!!!