Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday January 18 2008
Roy Hodgson locks horns with Arsene Wenger this Saturday as Fulham prepare to take on a highly rated Arsenal side. With Fulham entrenched in the relegation places, five points from safety, the home side will be acutely aware that they need to get some sort of result. With Hodgson having finally entered the transfer market, perhaps the injection of new talent will give the side a new edge, an edge that will have previously been slightly sharpened after the return from injury of Jimmy Bullard. Nevertheless, getting anything from the game remains a tall order.
With Marlon King safely in the bag, Roy Hodgson also secured the services of Brede Hangeland today.
King may be a higher profile player but Hodgson has nothing but praise for Brede remarking this morning,
I am delighted to welcome Brede to Fulham and I think he will prove to be a tremendous signing."
"I am off course very familiar with his ability and am confident that he will help our defensive options.
Stick him in tomorrow then Roy, nothing better than being thrown in at the deep end.
Fulham enter the fixture without the injured Brian McBride, Hameur Bouazza and Kasey Keller. Out suspended is Paul Konchesky whilst Roy Hodgson will need to make a decision regarding the availability of Jimmy Bullard. Does he go from the off with Jimmy or does he show a more conservative manner and bring him on in the second half? It`s a conundrum that could help shape the outcome of the game.
Also hoping to be fit enough to be considered for selection is Elliot Omozusi. After picking up an ankle injury, causing him to miss a couple of games, the Youth Academy product will be hoping for a recall. Carlos Bocanegra, who limped off at Upton Park next week also remains a doubt and may well not be considered fit enough for selection.
Hopefully, any outstanding issues with the transfer of Marlon King will have been resolved and the Jamaican striker may well play some part in proceedings. However, at the time of writing, we`re unsure of the status of the rumoured arrival of the American Eddie Johnson.
If selected, Moritz Volz will be facing the side with whom he once enjoyed two appearances with!
Whether Brede Hangeland features will depend on whether Roy Hodgson trusts his fitness levels and ability to slot into our back four.
The effervescent Jimmy will be cheered to the rafters by the Craven Cottage faithful the minute he steps on to the pitch. You`ve been missed Jimmy, welcome back my son.
Arsenal arrive at Craven Cottage having lost their coveted top spot in the Premier League to Manchester United courtesy of a lacklustre display against Birmingham City last weekend. Arsene Wenger will be looking for his side to get back on track in their quest to regain a title they`ve not own for several years.
Like most of the top sides, Manchester United apart, Arsenal have lost players to the African Nations Cup, in their case the influential Toure, Eboue and Song. However, they have the class in depth to still push on hard and would consider anything less than a win at Craven Cottage as a poor result.
As well as the absent Toure, Robin Van Persie is unlikely to play any part after picking up a virus. Also expected to be missing will be the defender Johan Djourou who has picked up a groin injury. Tomas Rosicky is likely to return after overcoming a virus.
On the positive side, Cesc Fabregas (if he starts) will be making his 150th start and their club captain William Gallas (if he plays) will be making his 50th appearance for the club.
As well as the influential Fabregas, Fulham will have to be aware of the danger of Emmanuel Adebayor will present. Indeed, if the striker scores and we still emerge victorious, we`ll become the first side to beat Arsenal when Adebayor has scored.
He may only still be relatively young but this free-scoring midfielder has the ability to dictate games. Our midfield will need to get to grips with him early on and track those runs that have resulted in Fabregas scoring so freely this season.
The two sides played each other in the opening fixture of this season with Arsenal scoring twice in the last six minutes to beat Fulham 2-1 with Fulham having lead through a David Healy strike in the very first minute.
If Arsenal triumph at Craven Cottage it will be their fifth double over Fulham in the seven seasons we`ve been together in the Premier League.
In the corresponding fixture last season, played on the 29th November, Arsenal were routed 2-1. Fulham rushed into an early two goal lead thanks to goals from McBride and Radzinski before Van Persie replied for the Gunners after thirty-six minutes. The second half saw Cenderos receive a red card.
Overall in the Premiership, it`s not such a rosy picture with Arsenal holding the upper hand, the record for fixtures at Craven Cottage is as follows
Fulham 6 wins, Arsenal 10 wins with 4 draws.
Taking into account all home league games played between the two sides, the record gets considerably worse and is as follows,
Fulham 6 wins, Arsenal 29 wins with 6 draws.
Isn`t it about time we improved upon that?
Peter Walton, of Northamptonshire, will take charge of the encounter.
All the odds point to an away win, Arsenal are flying and playing the sort of football the hacks drool over, whilst we`re limping along and slipping deeper into the mire every game. On the surface, it`s hardly worth thinking about jumping in on any long odds the bookmakers might be offering. However, perhaps we should take heart from the performance of Birmingham City last weekend. They sneaked a point at the Emirates Stadium so could we do the same, could we throw the proverbial spanner into the works at the top end of the table but on our own ground? Why not? Let`s be brave, although some would say foolhardy and go for a 2-1 win, after all it`s got to come good sometime hasn`t it?
Fulham return to FA Cup action with a trip to play Bristol Rovers, at the Memorial Ground, in a 3rd round replay after the washout earlier this week with the winners facing either Swindon Town or Barnet in round four.
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Date:Friday January 18 2008
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