Our man Hamish is back again with his take on Saturday’s game at The Cottage….
Fulham play host to Arsenal this weekend, with an early kick-off spot and the associated TV coverage. Added media exposure is probably enough to make any Gooner cringe at the moment, but for us Cottagers this is an eagerly anticipated opportunity to see how our new squad will be received.
Off the back of a shock victory at Sunderland, Fulham have opened the season with a rare away three points: somewhat unexpected, considering our position at the end of last season. With three points from the final seven games, eight players leaving, and confirmation from Director Alistair Mackintosh that the summer budget would be nil, things looked rather bleak.
Yet somehow, Martin Jol may have kept our dreams alive, by intelligently sourcing from the loans, frees and plus-thirty market. Additions include England duo Scott Parker and Darren Bent. Parker is what we have lacked in the hold since Danny Murphy’s departure, and Bent is sure to be amongst the goals, competing for the shirt with Bryan Ruiz. New keeper Maarten Stekelenburg is well proven between the sticks, and there were early signs from Adel Taarabt, that Fulham may have at last acquired a player on Berbatov’s artistic wavelength, with some tasty flashes of link-up against Sunderland.
So what damage might we inflict this weekend?
Unfortunately our defensive line up looks rather weakened. Stockdale may replace the already injured Stekelenburg (shoulder), and the inexperienced Briggs might have to cover at Left back, with Richardson injured (hamstring) and Riise seeking a late move. Walcott will no doubt have an absolute field day if he is running at Briggs all afternoon. A start for Parker is also unlikely, due to his lack of match fitness. Therefore Sidwell and new signing Derek Boateng will start as holding midfielders. If you Gooners can recall the calibre of tackle that saw Sidwell sent off the last time our sides met at the Cottage, this is unfortunately exactly how Boateng likes to play. Both look good with the ball, but without – as you might expect against Arsenal – they are a bit of a liability. No doubt their lunging tackles will yield many a yellow this season.
Our attack will obviously centre on Berbatov, supported by wingers Kasami, Duff or Dejagah, and either Taarabt or Ruiz playing behind. Every cottager is also quietly waiting for the saving grace of Bent to come on late, and score with his first and only touch in the game: wishful thinking perhaps.
I can only imagine that Arsenal will inch ahead of us by successfully controlling the midfield for most of the game. Wilshere, Cazorla, and Rosicky can pick apart most defences, but the finishing touch is occasionally missing. May I take this opportunity to remind the Emirates faithful that despite your transfer window woes thus far, your midfield is world class (second only to City, and perhaps Chelsea, in this league) and the results will come. Clearly a team needs more to contend for titles and progress in the Champions League, but your current set-up stops teams outside the top four from playing. The Villa game was a blip, and you deserve to be confident going into such league games. We will hope to catch you on the counter, but opportunities will be limited – Hopefully the writing of the script for Darren Bent’s first Fulham goal! Prediction: 2-1 to Arsenal.
It feels as though each of the last 10 games has been ‘Arsenal’s biggest game of the season’, but now we can say it like we mean it. Sunday is indeed judgement day, 90 of the most painstaking, excruciating minutes of our lives. The result will define not only this season but probably next season too. Win and we will have snatched victory from a position in which it should never have been possible. Fail to win and it’s the lowest point of many of our Arsenal supporting lives. It’s do or die, sink or swim, in or out, take it or leave it, us or them, yes or no, or whatever particular dualism cliche takes your fancy..
The axe will undoubtedly fall most heavily on Arsene’s head should we fail to win, so here are two journalistic glimpses into Monday morning’s papers to highlight just how fine the margins are!
”As a disconsolate Arsenal left the pitch at White Hart Lane back in March, many thought the 5 point gap that had opened up was too significant a margin to overcome. Yesterday’s victory saw the Gunners once again prove they are indeed the ‘fourth place specialists’ as dubbed by Arsene Wenger only last week. An incredible run of form, winning 8 of their last 10 league games since the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Spurs, sets up a big summer in which we are led to believe Wenger has in the region of £70 million to bolster the squad.
With the best away record in the league, conceding just 14 goals away from home all season (whilst they conceded 8 in one game during the last campaign), it looks as though this newly assembled squad might finally have found their feet. The new contracts signed by the British core of Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Chamberlain as well as the probable departure of Gareth Bale surely signify a continuation of the balance of power in North London. The three new signings of Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski have also each reached 20 goals in a debut season riddled with unjust criticism.
Time then to look towards a bright future in the red half of North London? I think so. Mancini and Ferguson has departed, meaning that all 91 English League Clubs have changed their manager since the last time Arsene Wenger last won a trophy! An incredible stat but one which should be seen as an appreciation of the level of consistency Wenger has adhered to rather than a slight on his misfortunes. In a season in which Spurs gained more points than any other 5th placed team, Wenger once again pipped the old enemy at the post, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing so”.
”It looked as though Arsenal had once again scraped a fourth place finish but Arsene Wenger’s luck seems to have finally run out, and so may his time as a Premier League manager. Ever since Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty in Cardiff against Utd with his last kick for the Club, Arsenal have been in demise. Europa League football presents an all time low as far as the Wenger era is concerned and this may prove a step too far for an Arsenal board who have been his most ardent supporters in years gone by.
Only last week Arsenal fans were criticising Chelsea for taking such pride in winning the Europa League but in a years time Arsenal themselves will be vying to match Chelsea’s feat. Although they went into the final day as favourites to claim fourth place, failure from the jaws of success should come as no great surprise. Wenger’s stubbornness and refusal to listen to the demands of seemingly everyone around him lead to similar ‘oh so close’ scenarios including the Champions League final in 2006, the defeat to Birmingham in the League Cup final in 2011, this season’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and now the failure to beat Newcastle Utd on the final day of the 2012/13 season.
The sad truth is that Tottenham have been the better team all season and are deserving of their fourth place finish. The writing has been on the wall for Wenger for a number of years and you can only think, at least in the short term, his legacy will be a regretful one rather than a memorable one. This particular failure will have huge financial implications and many of the apparent transfer targets are likely to head elsewhere seeking European football of the highest order. Wenger may be on his way to PSG, but it may not be a decision of his choosing as we always thought it would be”.
Wow writing that second one was painful.. Hope you all enjoy Sunday as much as it’s emotionally possible. I suggest you have a heavy supply of alcohol at the ready and avoid sharp objects. See you on the other side.
Even though I am an Arsenal fan and quite frankly I despise Manchester United, I still felt sad when I heard Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring. Now, many gooners will read this and feel I’m not thinking straight. Man United have been one of our biggest rivals in recent times, however the thing is, not only United but also the Premier League won’t be the same without “The Boss”. It’s Ferguson’s presence that has been the cause of so many memorable moments, not just at Man United but within English football and we should all be grateful. The drama he brings will be missed and David Moyes has very big shoes to fill. Shoes which I hope he will be able to grow into.
In 1986 a man travelled down from Scotland to have an interview for a possible job. The job was to take a Club which had fallen into obscurity to greener pastures. This man was Alex Ferguson. The 27 years that followed will go down in history as the greatest era for any football team. During these 27 years of service he picked up a modest 38 trophies, being crowned champions on 13 occasions.
Never again in football or any sport for that matter will we see one individual so integral to one team. 27 years is a long time, well beyond my years, and for a Football Club to maintain success consistently over such a period is an incredible feat. Yes he has had some of the best players in the world playing for him and yes the Club he was manager of was one of, if not the biggest Club in the world. There is one reason why Utd remain at the very top, and that’s Sir Alex. He was the best and no one can deny him that. He took Manchester United out of mediocrity and positioned them back into the flashing lights of stardom. You can argue until the cows come home but it was his presence that attracted the big players, investors and sponsors.
It’s common to see a manager nowadays go into a Club and have four to five successful years and then leave. The hardest thing in football is to reinvent yourself and keep a consistent level of success, especially at the top. If you lose your best player it’s hard to replace him. If you don’t replace him, others will follow him out the door, then before you know it you’re out of a job and your dynasty comes to an end. Increasingly a new manager comes in, bringing with him a new style of play and the teams is back winning. This hasn’t happened at United for 27 years.
It’s undeniable that there’s now a certain level of trepidation at Old Trafford, something that those involved are not use to, but something that every other Club in the world has dealt with more often than not in the modern era. In Sir Alex there was security. When Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and others decided to leave Old Trafford there was concern, but not once was anyone worried. Sir Alex had the solution and not once was the solution wrong. It may have had to been tweaked or varied but the trophies always came back. Something us Arsenal fans more than anyone have to stand and applaud enviously.
It’s sad is that probably never again will we see a manager so devoted and successful with one Club. The demand for success is so high nowadays no manger is comfortable in their position. Even our beloved Mr. Wenger has come under scrutiny in recent years but he has always responded, just about. Eventually though, if Arsenal go another season or two without silverware he may have to go.
Nowadays there is always someone putting you under pressure. We have seen with the Mancini debacle that one bad season can cost you. No matter how well you did the year before. There’s no better example of how poorly managers are treated in the modern era then at Chelsea. Abramovich is ruthless and acts like a child when it comes to respecting managers. It’s not only the owners who are complacent however; some of the managers themselves are to blame. There is no longer loyalty in football. Managers and players alike want to move up the ladder and be the next big thing, even for only 15 minutes. Sadly every Club is now run like a business, but we should be proud of Arsenal’s self-sustaining model even if we haven’t been able to emulate the consistency of Utd.
Ferguson is a man of integrity, loyalty and respect. It was never about money or image for Ferguson. He looked at his next fixture, prepared for it and more often than not got the job done. He only ever commented when asked. He was focused on one thing and that was success. Success and drama go hand in hand and without a doubt the Fergie era was responsible for some of the greatest moments, not just in football history but sporting history.
In a dramatic and unpredictable turn, Arsenal fans have once again found a hero going by the initials RVP. He boasts an impressive CV, largely centred around his extensive experience in telecommunications, IT and electronics, and looks to have little history of sexual deviance (although this remains unconfirmed).
Excitable Utd fans, after his title-securing hat-rick against Aston Villa, bombarded Ravi Vivesvaraya Prasad (RVP), who lives and works in New Delhi, with congratulatory messages on twitter, mistaking him for the despicable Dutch forward. Over the last few days Ravi’s followers have gone through the roof and his humorous take on proceedings has seen him take on the status of a cult hero. Re-live the whole sage below:
Throughout the season poor old Ravi had been on the receiving end of Spam from mistaken football fans:
But Ravi fought back:
Then Ravi thought he’d have some fun:
Separated at birth:
Obviously Piers got involved:
Then it all got too much for Ravi who seemed to lose the plot:
If you’re on twitter and you don’t already follow Ravi (@RVP) I suggest you join his increasingly dedicated fan-club. Whilst you’re watching the dreaded guard of honour on Sunday just pretend you’re saluting the real RVP, hands down New Delhi’s leading defence and security analyst. Keep doing your thing Ravi.
And just as an added bonus, the main man himself read and enjoyed this article! He got in touch on twitter (below) and is now following us.
A post from Hamish who reckons their laid back Bulgarian is the man to upset us this afternoon….
As I’m sure you Gooners will agree, Fulham’s last outing at the Emirates was an absolute belter. The game was poised at 3-3 when a questionable extra-time penalty was awarded to Arsenal. The reliable Arteta stepped up, only for Mark Schwarzer to make a great save and give Fulham a share of the spoils. We ended that November afternoon equal on points, at 5th and 6th in the table. Things were good, and the squad seemed optimistic: Rodellaga was even telling the press he wanted a top four finish.
As per usual though, the Premier League has balanced out. Arsenal’s dismissal from the Champions league has resulted in a flourish of form, and most would fancy them to claim top four ahead of Spurs. Fulham on the other hand, have been fighting off the bottom. Various injuries and Hangeland’s suspension saw us drop vital points in some key winter games, as Jol was continually forced to change his XI. However, the transfer window bought some loan reinforcements (notably Arsenal’s DENCH Frimpong), and as other key players returned from injury we began to poke our heads out off the bottom-half dogfight. Sitting at 10th with a comfortable 40 points, it seems Fulham have all but secured another season in the top flight. So, what can you expect on Saturday?
Well, Fulham need a quick turn around from the midweek drumming by Chelsea. The 3-0 loss was a bit harsh, since we created some good chances, but the David Luiz wonder goal lead to a change of momentum, and we were fairly beaten. Apart from the return of suspended ex-gooner Steve Sidwell and on-loan winger Alex Kacaniklic, the team is unlikely to change that much, as we obviously aren’t the sort of club who can afford to ‘rotate’.
Our chances of a result on Saturday will inevitably lie in Dimitar Berbatov. The mercurial forward has struck up a tally of 13 goals this season. In fact, Fulham are yet to loose a game in which he scores. The man is treated like a prince by fans and coach a like: our shape is flexible, but will always be set up to play through him. Of course, the on-pitch signs of frustration are common. Expect to see his arms in the air with dismay at the inadequacies of his ‘mediocre’ teammates. Regardless of his demeanour, he claims to be enjoying his time at the cottage. The notion of cigars and vodka after training with old pal Jol, probably seemed like just the kind of retirement package he was after. It is fair to say that the attitudes and attractiveness of the Dimitar way of football have taken the cottage by storm. We keep calm and wait for him to be passed the ball.
Ultimately though, I think Arsenal’s form should be enough for you to edge past Fulham on Saturday. You have a much stronger midfield and all strikers seem to be scoring. Fulham are unlikely to hold tight if you pepper the box like you did Everton’s. I can only hope that when Giroud does all the hard work and beats our defence, he fails to hit the target, only for Ruiz to construct a counter-attack from which Berba poaches one at the other end. I just hope that two big games for the 20-a-day 32 year old isn’t too much. Prediction 1-2.