With the prospect of sitting in temperatures below freezing and with the memory of the last day of last season still reasonably fresh, you’d forgive most Fulham fans for not really looking forward to today’s match. In fact, we’ve never beaten Arsenal away from home. To be fair, we’ve hardly beaten them at home either with only 7 wins in Fulham’s favour, 7 draws and 32 Arsenal league wins since 1913. When we beat them 6-1 at Craven Cottage. Those were the days eh?
The BBC preview has provided some interesting stats, although those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now;
- Brede Hangeland’s winner at Craven Cottage in August 2008 is the only goal Fulham have scored against Arsenal in the last five meetings
- Arsenal have had more shots on target this season than any other Premier League team – 147.
- Fulham have not won away from home for 25 matches – their last success on the road came at Portsmouth on the opening day of last season.
- This is Fulham’s second long run without an away victory. They hold the Premier League record of 33 away matches without a win.
It’s not looking promising, is it? The injury list doesn’t help much either with Dembele, Salcido and Halliche joining long-term absentees Zamora and Senderos. So who will play at left back? We may see Matthew Briggs come in against another top team, or we could see one of our many right backs playing on the “wrong” side. Pantsil could well make a start at right back after his phenomenal reception back onto the pitch at Craven Cottage last week, leaving Stephen Kelly free to cover the left side should Hughes feel Briggs isn’t up to the challenge of containing Walcott or Chamakh. Not a prospect I’d relish, I have to say. On the plus side, Andrew Johnson has shaken off his hamstring strain and should hopefully feature today, perhaps with Clint Dempsey who’s certainly doing a good job of scoring us some much-needed goals.
Arsenal have their own injury problems to contend with though; Almunia is still out with an elbow injury leaving Fabianski to cover in goal. Insert your own jokes here. Vermaelen is still out and has been joined by Fabregas and Diaby, whilst new signing Squillaci is a doubt as is Nasri as they recover from knee injuries. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal’s home form has been a little shaky so far this season, as they have won 4 but lost 3 League games at the Emirates so far in this campaign, including throwing away a two goal lead against their deadly rivals. This could either work in our favour, with low confidence levels from the boys in red, or against us with the need to prove themselves as title contenders.
There has been some good news during the week though – the news that Fulham Number One, Mark Schwarzer, has signed an extension to his contract, providing us with his outstanding service for at least another year, possibly two. This must surely perk the team up as Hangeland suggested in his interview with the Evening Standard yesterday.
I’ll be honest, I’m not overly confident. The Beeb’s Football Expert Mark Lawrenson and Prime Minister David Cameron have both predicted a 2-1 home win today which struck me as not bad. We are the League’s draw specialists this season though and I wonder if we may just scrape a point.
My starting XI: Schwarzer, Briggs, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird, Gera, Murphy, Greening, Davies, Dempsey, A Johnson
Who would you have starting, and what would your tactics be?