My last column for Gunnerstown was way back in November, for Dortmund away. The result of that match as I’m sure you will remember was an emphatic one for us, so I’m hoping that I can carry on winning ways with this preview too. These previews have and possibly will be sporadic as I’m currently writing my dissertation, so don’t always have the time, but will be writing as frequently as possible.
So what’s happened since I last wrote for GT? If you read the back pages, it would appear that Mesut Özil has caused more of a divide amongst Arsenal fans than the Berlin Wall. Some fans are praising the lift it has given the club, the marker our finances are at and how attractive we are to players who want to ply their trade in England. To others, he is lazy, hasn’t produced enough for £42m and isn’t as big a deal as they have been lead to believe. I remember September 2nd fondly – I was out for the evening with a few friends as the news broke. What turned into an ordinary night out, quickly descended into chants of ‘we’ve got Mesut Özil, We’ve got Mesut Özil la la la la’ in a nightclub swiftly followed by shots for said savior. Since his arrival we are sitting top of the league, we have qualified from the ‘group of death’ in the Champions League and are enjoying a rich vein of form that has seen us keep a clean sheet in seven of our last eight matches in all competitions. Although he hasn’t YET hit the heights we all know he is capable of hitting, he has had a solid nine assists and five goals to his name, not bad for only sixteen games and his first season in English football. I guess what I’m trying to say is that with every game that goes by, our team will make the runs he is used to seeing, call for the ball in areas he is used to playing them and weave the magic he is capable of weaving.
Another thing that has happened since my last preview has astounded me. Pundits, fans of other teams and anyone who watches the Premier League all suddenly realize what we do – Per and Kosc are the best center back pairing in the league. We are now unbeaten in 25 games that the two have completed the ninety minuets together, an impressive stat for any team. We finally have a stable back four, which I think goes some way to showing how instrumental Steve Bould’s influence has been for our defence.
Saturday see’s us welcome Fulham to The Emirates in a game that several, including the bookmakers see as a very one-sided affair. Fulham haven’t enjoyed life in the Premier League at all this season and sit peering over the relegation zone by one point, only winning six games and drawing one of the twenty-one played so far including a crushing 6-0 defeat at Hull just before the new year. Last year’s game at The Emirates saw a 3-3 draw but I very much doubt the same will happen again this year, as Fulham are yet to pick up a point from any top-half side this season. One thing I have noticed about Fulham when I’ve watched them this year has been their dominance of possession for large spells of the game. Despite this, The Cottagers rarely convert possession into goals; highlighted in last weeks game against Sunderland where they had 59% possession, yet lost 4-1. However, with Brede Hangeland in contention for a starting place after his injury, defensive midfielders Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell could be given a little more license to attack. With Adel Taarabt just behind Berbatov up front anything is possible – IF the two of them decide to show up. Both are lazy forwards and expect the team to work for them, not the other way round although both possess un-doubtable quality.
Arsenal however will be looking to take advantage of Fulham’s defence, which is the worst in the league. Jack Wilshere looked sublime in the first half of the win at Villa on Monday night and should he be able to produce that sort of game again for the full ninety minuets, anything other than an Arsenal win is unthinkable. With every team behind us winning on Saturday or Sunday, we needed to get the points at Villa. Granted, it wasn’t a vintage performance however last year we would have drawn or lost that match instead of grinding out a victory. With Özil, Gnabry, Podolski, Wilshere and Cazorla’s mobility, either one of the five mentioned could be in the starting eleven tomorrow and I’d be confident of them turning the less than mobile Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell inside out. On that note, I would like to see Podolski start instead of Gnabry on the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, Gnabry was sensational against Spurs and is a special player, but I don’t think Podolski is getting enough playing time for one reason or another and I seriously think Poldi will leave us in the summer if he is continually overlooked. In a more positive note, I do believe we will have more than enough firepower to see Fulham away whoever is in the side.
- Match Facts –
•Darren Bent loves scoring against Arsenal – eight in his last ten including four in his last five in all competitions.
•This match will be Arsenal’s 200th Premier League London Derby. (W103 D55 L41. F338 A190)
•Fulham have had 133 shots on target AGAINST them this season – a high in the Premier League.
•Arsenal have won their last eight home matches against bottom-six teams.
- Team News –
- Arsenal :
•Thomas Vermaelen, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Yaya Sanogo are all long-term injuries.
•Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal are to have late fitness tests.
•Aaron Ramsey could be in contention, although expect Wenger to leave him out all together.
•No injury concerns over any first team players.
•Brede Hangeland should return.
- Betting Tips(All on SkyBet)–
•Arsenal 3-0 6/1
•Podolski FGS and 3-0 13/1
•Ozil FGS 4/1
The more the press start to write us off, the more we prevail it seems. We weren’t going to come out of our group – we did. We weren’t in a position to spend money on acquiring new players – we signed Özil. We wouldn’t overturn the Scum’s 10 point lead on us – 1-1 at Newcastle. So please, keep writing us off. We seem to thrive under it.
As always discussion @RyArsenal.