Fulham vs. Arsenal: a match preview too far

Damn it, did I leave the television on?
Fulham vs. Arsenal
Craven Cottage, next to the inexplicable Michael Jackson statue, the lame part of London
Monday 2 January 2012, 12:30p ET
TV: Fox Soccer
ARS (4th): WLWDW | FUL (14th): LWLDD
SB Nation's Fulham faction: Cottagers Confidential

A quick turnaround sees Arsenal travel the short distance to south London to face Fulham, who it seems we just played but evidently that was somehow over a month ago. Will Robin van Persie play two games in three days, and if so, how many goals will he score to start the new year? Which defender will get hurt? These are the questions that will haunt us until they're all quickly and easily answered.

Since Arsenal last played on New Year's Eve, there are likely to be some tired legs in the Arsenal team. Some rotation is likely. van Persie almost certainly will not start, because he's the meal ticket and Arsenal can't afford for him to get hurt. If I had my druthers, Park Ju-Young would get the start, but I'm not entirely certain that he even exists at this point. The patterns to this point lead me to assume that Marouane Chamakh will play. This may be his last chance before he leaves for the African Cup of Nations, and hopefully he'll take it. With Thomas Vermaelen now hurt, he will need to be replaced. Ignasi Miquel is a possibility, but Francis Coquelin played well as a fullback against QPR and I'd like to see him again. He gives more support to the strikers than the other fullback cameos have, and best approximates the play of the team's real fullbacks. There's a week until the next match, though, and that's against Leeds, so I doubt there will be too many first-team players missing.

Fulham's not in a vastly different station than they were the last time we faced them. Since drawing against us, they've beaten Liverpool, drawn with Chelsea, and were dismantled by Manchester United. Inconsistency, thy name is Fulham FC. They are more than capable of playing with us, and they'll be at home; on the other hand, they were at home when they lost to United 5-0 (and 3-1 to both Tottenham Hotspur and Everton). Which version of the Fulham side shows up will go a long way in determining the tenor of the match.

It also remains to be seen whether Thierry Henry will play his first game in an Arsenal shirt since 2007. There are differing takes on exactly when Henry will sign with the club and whether space needs to be cleared in the squad for him, but as far as I can tell, if he signs tomorrow (which the word on the street is that he will), he should be able to at least be on the bench. It would certainly be a great moment for Henry to make his second debut at home; it's probably more realistic for that to happen against Leeds next week, though.

LINEUP:

Szczesny; Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Djourou; Song, Arteta, Ramsey; Gervinho, Chamakh, Walcott

PREDICTION:

Chamakh realizes he's been on a football team for like a year without actually accomplishing anything, and immediately sets about scoring goals. He gets five of them and has a late goalline clearance, and is carried off the pitch on the shoulders of the team. But no! it's just a dream; he wakes up on the bench, and everyone else has left but Arshavin, giggling furiously. Fulham 1-2 Arsenal.

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