Arsenal vs. Fulham
Kickoff: 12:30 PM EST, Saturday, November 26, 2011
Emirates Stadium, Nahfph Lahnd'n, Greatah Lahnd'n, Englun', Oi
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Form: Arsenal WDWWW | Fulham LWWLD
SBN Fulham perspective: Cottagers Confidential
Arsenal look to continue their top Premier League form against a Fulham side that has been struggling to stay out of the relegation zone so far this season. The Cottagers currently sit 16th in the league on 11 points, two points above the pit of doom, while Arsenal are seventh on 22 points, behind Liverpool and Chelsea on goal difference. Fulham, managed by old foe Martin "He obviously hadn't seen the size of my fists" Jol, are fighting on multiple fronts again this year, playing in the Europa League by virtue of the fair play table, and they will be short a couple of key players tomorrow when the sides come out of the tunnel.
Midfield stalwarts Steve Sidwell, Damien Duff, and Simon Davies will be out for the West London side, along with forward Orlando Sa and defender Zdenek Grygera. Still, Fulham have some talented players that Arsenal will have to contend with up front: Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele will most likely lead the line, with Andy Johnson possibly standing up front and Dembele moving to midfield. There, he would be most likely joined by Clint Dempsey and Dickson Etuhu as well as ageless wonder Danny Murphy, who has been a league fixture since 1956. John Arne Riise and Brede Hangeland will both be in defense, which the Norwegian eighth of me gets a major tickle from. [Confession: I LOVE John Arne Riise. Don't ask me.]
Arsenal have very little reason to change what's working at the moment, other than the sheer number of matches that some of their key players have worked through lately. The injury front of Gibbs, Sagna, Wilshere, Miyaichi, and Jenkinson is unchanged. Johan Djourou may feature in the back four at either center or right back, as Wenger will probably look to rotate some of his options besides Andre Santos. A Djourou-Koscielny-Vermaelen-Santos backline seems likely, but really putting Mertesacker in place of Koscielny or Djourou, and sliding the other out to right back, seems just as likely.
The midfield trio of Song, Arteta, and Ramsey has forged a really solid understanding as of late. It's also hard to see who could come in at the moment; Rosicky has been battling a slight thigh strain. Oh, but there is Abou Diaby; it would be interesting to see what he could produce over a full match at the moment, but he also needs time to develop a relationship with a somewhat unfamiliar team. He seems likely to appear in the Carling Cup midweek rather than tomorrow.
Arsenal have been on a serious run as of late, and there does seem to be some real team solidity coming together this year. Perhaps it's anecdotal, but the team has responded much better to giving up goals over the past couple of months than they have in the past three or four seasons, and when they switch off, they do seem able to find their bearings again, as they did against Chelsea and Norwich. Whether the mentality has changed is impossible to say, but if Arsenal can avoid the kind of dips in form that they've suffered in the past, things could be looking very good. With each win that comes in the league, it becomes more tempting to worry that disaster is around the corner, but all anyone can do is take things one match at a time.
Prediction: Arsenal to win 4-0 with a hattrick from 67th-minute sub Diaby, who scores with his neck, knee, and left scapula in unprecedented fashion after finding a shrine to Gozer in the boot room refrigerator and sacrificing van Persie's old horse placenta to him. The Emirates Stadium glows green and floats above the ground momentarily as Szczesny marches in pentagonal patterns around his penalty spot.