Arsenal v. Fulham: match preview

Christof Koepsel

After a turbulent few weeks, Arsenal host crosstown Fulham in a match that needs to see the North London club capture three points to begin the slow, arduous process of climbing up the EPL table

Arsenal vs. Fulham
Kickoff: Saturday, November 10, 2012, 10 AM EST
Emirates Stadium, London, Londonland
Form: ARS LWWLD | FUL LDWDD
TV: ESPN2 / ESPN3
SBNation Fulham Blog: Cottagers Confidential

Swagger. Confidence. Arrogance.

Sometimes when the ball seems to always bounce the wrong way and luck isn't on your side, it's best to take a step back and remove as much thought as possible and replace it with confidence and the trust of your subconscious. Although he's been proven to be a plagiaristic fool, Jonah Lehrer states in his 2009 book "How We Decide":

What causes choking? Although it might seem like an amorphous category of failure, or even a case of excess emotion, chocking is actually triggered by a specific mental mistake: thinking too much. The sequence of events typically goes like this: When a person gets nervous about performing, he naturally becomes extra self-conscious. He starts to focus on himself, trying to make sure that he doesn't make any mistakes. He beings scrutinizing actions that are best performed on autopilot. Fleming started to think about aspects of singing that she hadn't thought about since she was a beginner, such as where to position her tongue and how to shape her mouth for different pitches. This kind of deliberation can be lethal for a performer. The opera singer forgets how to sing. The pitcher concentrates too much on his motion and loses control of his fastball. The actor gets anxious about his lines and seizes up onstage. In each of these instances, the natural fluidity of performance is lost. The grace of talent disappears.

In these past weeks, this passage would have been good for every Arsenal player and coach to read, memorize and practice. They all have otherworldly talent, but it's been difficult to squeeze out results based upon their skills. Vermaelen's failed clearance. Theo's missed chip over the keeper. The matches where passes near the goal replaced shots. One could argue that these sub-standard results were expected, since the players and coaches themselves aren't as good as the expectations many hold, however I reject that notion and I think many of you would as well. Could it be that we've been...choking?

Could it be that the players have replaced their natural instincts, instincts that have been embedded in them since they were innocent youths playing the sport for fun, with external noise that cluttered and ultimately hindered their ability to perform at their highest of levels? I don't think that Vermaelen's a terrible clearer of the ball, and Theo's shown this season that he can clearly finish on a level reserved for some of the best in the world. Was it pressure and over-thinking that drove these mistakes (and, obviously, many others that I'm not going to bother mentioning)? One could easily argue this, especially since the overall performance of the squad has diminished since their rampaging start just a mere month-and-a-half ago.

Therefore, my prescription to those who suit up tomorrow as the official Arsenal Armchair Psychologist and Holder of All Knowledge That is Good and Just, is to go out on the pitch and have fun. Go out there and play the sport like you are 15 years old again. Remember the fact that each and every one of you weren't gifted the famous and revered red-and-white shirt simply because you look like Adonis, or that you are a writer of childrens' books, or that you are a new-age philosopher. You were carefully chosen by one of the greatest scouts of talent the world has ever seen because you are some of the best footballers in the world. Some of you possess the ability to kick a ball with both feet harder than anyone else at the moment, some of you were labeled the Prince of the Emirates just months ago thanks to your shutdown defense, and some of you were called the "next best thing to Nemanja Vidic."

Remember this. Remember you were chosen because you were, and still are, great. You were destined to become Arsenal greats the moment each and every one of you slipped on the shirt for the first time. This isn't a club that recruits sub-par talents, and this isn't a club that accepts sub-par performances, because every player on the books was carefully mined by Arsene Wenger and held up as a shining example of what constitutes a talented player. Each and every one of you bring your individual talents and collective make each other better. We know this, and we've seen this. It's your job, now, to put all other distractions aside, to not listen to those who write for a living based on observations that leave the reader to believe they suffer from eyesight deficiencies, and to go out on the pitch and do what comes natural.

Get pumped up. Get excited again. Get that feeling in your stomach of excitement and anticipation. Challenges are what separates winners from legends. This is the beginning of the rest of the season and only you control how it plays out. This is your moment; go forward and, above all, have fun again and let your brain take you back to where it all began.

Now get out on that pitch, and go get us three goddamn points.

Squad News: Jack Wilshere is out, serving his one-match suspension thanks to his two yellow cards and subsequent sending-off last Saturday at Old Trafford, and there appears to be no sight of Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey look to be possibly late-addition to the squad, depending on how he comes through the infamous "fitness tests."

Possible Starting XI:

Mannone

Sagna - Mertesacker - Vermaelen - Koscielny

Arteta - Coquelin

Walcott - Cazorla - Podolski

Giroud

Prediction: Arsenal 3-2 Fulham. Arsenal's attack stalls yet again, but they are saved by a Vito Mannone hat-trick for the ages, as he successfully foils his counterpart Mark Schwarzer on three of the best goal kicks you'll ever see. Fulham go into halftime desperate for a way to claw back in the match. Martin Jol emerges from the tunnel at the start of the second half and subs out Kieran Richardson for...the Craven Cottage Michael Jackson statue, which suddenly comes to life in the form of the baddest and fleetest-of-foot attacking midfielder. He dances and moonwalks his way through the suddenly-inept and bewildered Arsenal defense, and he nets two quick goals for the West London side. However, the Michael Jackson statue suddenly starts to get really sleepy and lethargic, and the visiting side eventually settle for a hard-fought victory.

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