Friday, 19 April 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Fulham Previewed

Arsenal face a tough trip to Fulham tomorrow knowing that it's a game they have to win. They drew 0-0 at home to Everton on Tuesday night and cannot afford to drop any more points this week. The race for fourth place looks like going all the way to the wire and Arsenal need the three points to keep the pressure on both Spurs and Chelsea who don't play until Sunday.

The game against Everton was a very tough game and a draw was probably a fair result despite Arsenal having the best chances. At this stage in the season it doesn't really matter who deserves what though as winning is all important. I can take performances like that against Norwich last Saturday as long as Arsenal win one way or another.

Fulham were beaten 3-0 at home on Wednesday night by Chelsea, but they were well in the game until a wonder goal from David Luiz swung things in Chelsea's favour. With little left to play for this season it may have been hard for Fulham to muster what was required to get back into the game. That's something Arsenal have to bear in mind going to Craven Cottage.

In team news there is a slight doubt over Santi Cazorla after he picked up a knock on Tuesday. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky will all have to be checked before being passed fit to play too. Lukasz Fabianski is still out with his rib injury which means Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal.

I would imagine the defence will be unchanged after putting up a good performance against Everton. They kept the chances Everton got to a bare minimum and played well as a unit. I had wanted Nacho Monreal in the team but I think Kieran Gibbs showed enough going forward in particular to start again.

In midfield both Mikael Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are certainties to start in my opinion and the other player to play with them is the one that will give Arsene Wenger problems. Wilshere had clearly been brought back too soon after his injury and I think it would be a mistake to start for the third time in a week.

That leaves a straight choice between Cazorla and Rosicky who are both doubts for the game. If fit Cazorla will play in the attacking midfield role or wide on the left for sure. I think he should play in midfield and allow Lukas Podolski to play from the start.

If needed Rosicky can come on later in the game and Cazorla can go wide, as Podolski rarely gets to play 90 minutes. I would love to see Podolski play in the front three along with Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott as I think it is Arsenal's best attacking trio. There is always the possibility of Podolski playing as the central striker, but I can't see it happening.

Giroud will be given the chance to make up for the chances he missed against Everton and hopefully he can take that chance. The lack of real options for a central striker is something that has to be addressed this summer and hopefully it will be. When you see the striking options available to the top two it's easy to see why Arsenal are scraping to make it onto the top four.

Fulham are never an easy team to beat at home but they have little left to play for this season. They won't finish in a Europa League place and relegation is something they don't have to worry about. It's important for Arsenal not to give them something to get a hold of on the day.

If Arsenal can come out all guns blazing and take the lead I think Fulham might not fancy the task of pulling it back. This is no time for taking it easy in the first half and only picking up the pace as the game wears on. I know Arsenal would be top of the table going by the second half of games only, but there are 90 minutes on every game.

I'm sure Arsenal have the players to get about Fulham and cause them real problems for the whole game. It would be great to go five points ahead of Spurs and move ahead of Chelsea again. Spurs play at home to City on Sunday with Chelsea facing a trip to Liverpool and they are very tough games for both of them.

I hope Cazorla is passed for to play because I think he is due a goal and might just get it. Walcott should be a little sharper too as it will be his third game back after his injury. Unlike Wilshere he didn't start last Saturday and shouldn't need a rest.

There should be no complaints of fatigue for Arsenal as Fulham played their game 24 hours later than Arsenal did. That could even be used in Arsenal's favour if they can set about Fulham early on as I suggested. Even if that doesn't work out they are almost certain to be piling on the pressure as the game progresses as per usual.

I'd love to see some beautiful flowing football and Fulham taught a lesson and taken apart. I would settle for a scrappy last minute 1-0 win though, as it's all about getting the three points at this stage.

It's amazing how quickly the end of the season has crept up and Arsenal will only have four games left after this one. They have managed 97 goals so far this season and surely they will break the 100 goal mark in all competitions very soon. It's always nice to break through the 100 goal barrier but not half as nice as finishing on the top four or even better winning a trophy.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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