Arsenal vs. Fulham: match preview

"I Might Play" - Clive Mason

With Martin Jol gone, maybe this game won't drive us all insane.

Arsenal vs. Fulham
Saturday January 18, 2014 10am Eastern/3pm London
The Emirates Stadium, London, England
Form: ARS WWWWW | FUL WLLWL
TV: NBCSN
SB Nation partners-in-crime: Cottagers Confidential

It seems like it's been a long time since Arsenal last played, even though it's only been since Monday. I'm not really sure why - it may just be me. Anyhow, we're back in action tomorrow morning against London "rivals" Fulham, in what should be a fairly straightforward game against an opponent only one point above the relegation zone. In years recently past, though, it hasn't really been that way. Weird losses and upsetting draws have peppered the fixture since Martin Jol took over as manager, but two things have changed. Fulham are worse than they've been in a while, and Martin Jol is no more. So maybe the jinx is broken, and this actually will be a comfortable result.

If it is, though, it will be on the backs of some non-traditional players. The injury report isn't great. Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen, and Nicklas Bendtner all are out. Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal may be available but both are coming off of injuries suffered against Aston Villa at the beginning of the week. Now there are whispers that (because he evidently didn't train today) Jack Wilshere may also be unavailable. This leaves Arsenal in a place unthinkable about a month and a half ago - short in the midfield.

Luckily, though, "short in midfield" for Arsenal these days still means a possible trio of Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Flamini, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Santi Cazorla on the wing. The OC is, of course, only recently returned from an injury of his own, but he's had success as a central midfielder for Arsenal in the past, so if it ends up necessary here's hoping he shows the skill he did at the Emirates against AC Milan several years ago, and not the late-game exhaustion that led to a substitution.

For the opposition, the only news appears to be that Brede Hangeland is back from injury, and that Darren Bent still exists. The latter fact may prove annoying, as I feel like Darren Bent has scored at least once in every game I've ever seen him play against Arsenal. I still have horrible visions of sitting in a bar in May 2011 and watching him score two against us for Aston Villa, while we limped into fourth place. That was a long time ago, though, for both Bent and Arsenal. But he did score Fulham's one goal against us in the reverse fixture this fall, so I guess I'll remain concerned. I also wouldn't be shocked to see Clint "I'm still adapting to MLS" Dempsey show up.

LINEUP

Szczesny
Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs
Oxlade-Chamberlain - Flamini
Ozil
Gnabry - Giroud - Cazorla

PREDICTION

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain channels Aaron Ramsey and scores twice from midfield. He does the "A" celebration (A is for Alex!) and Gareth Bale files a lawsuit on Wilshere's behalf.

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