Writer: Ollie Sheehan
Date:Friday March 3 2006
Saturday, 4th March
Fulham will take on Arsenal this weekend in a massive game at Craven Cottage.
Tony Gale believes that although the statistics against Arsenal do not bode well for Fulham, they have a great chance to snatch a victory against the Gunners:
'To be honest, Fulham were the better side at the Reebok. But when you have three or four guilt-edged chances like Fulham did in the first half, and you don't take them, it's always going to cost you. That said, it was a definite penalty when Helguson was brought down.
'Arsenal tend to attack through the middle with intricate passing rather than around the back. So you have to have two sitting in front of the back four to deal with that. .I would definitely go for Elliott and Diop in the middle, and then I'd have Boa and Malbranque wide, with Heidar and McBride up front. It's hard on Radzinski but for me that's the best way to counter Arsenal.
'Fulham haven't beaten Arsenal since they came up to the Premiership, but we've given them some good games, and often better than the score lines have implied on certain occasions. Given Arsenal's current form, this will be the best opportunity we've had to beat them.
'Last weekend up at Ewood Park, Arsenal started well, but fizzled out, and their weakness is definitely at the back - not so much on the right because Eboue and Toure are good, strong players. But on the left, Flamini isn't a left back and Senderos isn't having the best of times.
'So that's an area where we can really get at them. Arsenal also have the second of the Real Madrid Champions League games coming up next week too. I covered Arsenal for seven years with Capital Gold, and I know what they're like with European games on the horizon.
'They're wary of getting injured and want to do just enough. But unlike Chelsea, they won't win games unless they're at full tilt at the moment. In the second half at Blackburn, Arsenal were going all out and probably deserved a draw. But in the first half they were trying to work t
Fulham have a few injuries to contend with ahead of the match at Craven Cottage.
Antti Niemi suffered a small tear in his hamstring before the Bolton match and will not be available, so Tony Warner is expected to step in. Michael Brown is still a few days short of match fitness whilst Wayne Bridge's injury while on England duty has ruled him out as well, meaning a return to the side for Niclas Jensen. Claus Jensen is still returning from injury.
Positive news for the home team however is the long-awaited return of Papa Bouba Diop from African Nations Cup duty and he will be thrown straight back into the fray to sure up the midfield.
Vital predicted line-up: Warner, Volz, Knight, Bocanegra, Jensen, Boa Morte, Elliot, Diop, Malbranque, McBride, Helguson
Helguson has been in fantastic form of late, scoring five goals in his last five games and two in the last home game against West Brom. Against a rickety Arsenal defence he is sure to get some chances and I would put money on him putting at least one away.
Arsenal have injury problems of their own to contend with prior to Saturday's encounter. Ashley Cole is sidelined for another three weeks, whilst Gael Clichy, Sol Campbell, Pascal Cygan, Robert Pires and Robin Van Persie are also out.
Arsenal may start to see light at the end of the tunnel though with the return from injury of Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg to restore some experience going forward.
Vital predicted Line-up: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini, Ljungberg, Gilberto, Fabregas, Reyes, Bergkamp, Henry
Scored a magnificent solo goal against Real Madrid last week and is always a threat. Can create something from nothing. Knight and Boca need to be on their guard.
Fulham have played Arsenal eight times in the league since their promotion to the top flight but have so far only managed a single draw against the Gunners.
Coleman's side lost 4-1 at Highbury earlier this season and have lost all four of their home games against the Gunners in the Premiership.
However, this season only Chelsea and Liverpool have gained more points at home and Fulham are the fifth top scorers in the league this season with 37 goals, although they have conceded 39.
Arsenal have lost eight of their 14 away games this season and defence has been a problem for them with the team conceding 22.
With Flamini expected to play again at left-back and Cole and Campbell still injured Fulham could take advantage. They have conceded 14 goals ont he road this season whilst scoring only nine.
All the signs point to goals at Craven Cottage this weekend. Fulham should go into this game confident of their home form and Arsenal should be worried as their poor away form continues. Vital prediction: Fulham 2-1 Arsenal
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Date:Friday March 3 2006
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