It’s been sixteen months and 44 games since an Arsenal side last tasted the bitter disappointment of a League defeat – so long ago that even their own players must struggle to remember what the experience feels like.
However there’s one member of the Fulham team who can tell them first hand what it was like – because he was there. Claus Jensen was in the winning team twice against the Gunners in his four-year stint at Charlton.
The Danish international has a good record against the Champions, and he made the point this week that Fulham have had some good performances if not always the right results against Arsenal since the White’s return to the top flight, and that’s something the players must keep firmly in their minds as they prepare for Saturday’s big game.
“With Charlton we always did really well against Arsenal,” Jensen said, speaking at Motspur Park this week after his return from international duty. “We beat them twice and drew with them two or three times in the years I was there.
“I remember beating them 4-2 at Highbury – I scored the third with a chip over Richard Wright and that was a wonderful result.
“We’re under no illusions how big a game this is for us. We know they’re a good side, but everyone here has either been part of the team who has done well against them, or been part of other teams who have got good results against them. That’s what we’ve got to focus on and be positive, so that we can go out against them and give them a good game and get a result.
“No matter how good a team is, there will always be things that you can try and exploit.”
Jensen took a pragmatic view when reminded of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” label.
“They deserve that tag because they haven’t lost for 44 games,” he said. “And they deserve all the credit and respect they get for that, but at the same time, as a player you know that anything can happen once you get out there.
“As long as we are as positive and as optimistic as I know we will be, then we can do something. We feel we can score goals against Arsenal and we know we can give them a good game, and we feel as well that we can keep them quiet.
“There’s a lot of experience in this team and I don’t think that there’s any question that we will be confident and positive about what we are trying to do.”
After two defeats on the spin, manager Chris Coleman would probably have wanted an early opportunity to get the losses out of his system, or at least had the chance to work with his players on what had gone wrong in those games. But the international break has meant that he has had barely a handful of players available over the last fortnight – not an ideal situation, but Jensen believes there are positives as well as negatives that can be taken.
“Obviously as a manager you probably don’t think it’s the best situation to be in,” he said. “But at the same time you do want to have a lot of national team players and you do want to have the quality that they bring to your side.
“But the fact is, these games have to be played and you have to take the positives from that which is what they try to do here. Hopefully everybody will come back with something good from being away.
“Not being together for a couple of weeks is difficult, but that’s football and you have to get on with it.”
Jensen acknowledged that it was a disappointing at result at Portsmouth, but there’s a lot of positive thinking at the club that he believes will see them right.
“On the basis of what we’ve seen so far we are creating chances,” he said, “And there have been a lot of good things that you can take from the four games we have played so far.
“It’s still early days but we know how important it is that we start getting results again. If you lose two games you can’t let yourself get too down because that’s going to happen at some stage in the season; but we have a very positive feeling here, and I don’t think there’s any reason why we shouldn’t be optimistic.
“If we’d won at Portsmouth, which we could have done, we’d have seven points now, and everybody would be saying what a great start. So you lose a game that was on the edge and everybody says the opposite – but it’s not always that black and white.
“You just have to focus on the good things from those games, and from what I’ve seen so far it’s left me very optimistic for the season ahead.”
And Jensen’s final thought on Arsenal?
“Whenever you see an Arsenal game,” he said, “they’re always coming at you, starting off at a high pace and really going for it. Everyone knows what a good side they are, but they’ve got to lose at some stage, so why not make it at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon?”