Our third game in seven days is another cup-final. Win this one and we have our momentum back; lose it and the proverbial will properly hit the fan in Gooner-world.
We have not won at Craven Cottage since December 2010 and without much doubt it will be a difficult game again tomorrow. In one way the game is pretty similar to our recent away games against Swansea and WBA; Fulham are safe and nothing really to fight for other than a best possible position in mid-table. But they were properly beaten by their bitterest local rivals in midweek and will not want to face another humiliation in front of their home crowd. I expect them to come out fully pumped up and we will need to be ready for this tomorrow.
The Cottagers welcome back former Gunner Sidwell and I reckon he will fight some tough battles with Wilshere, Ramsey and Arteta. But other than that, there are some good, sophisticated footballers in this Fulham side, who will want to play football, which should suit us. Emanuelson and Berbatov are quality and Ruiz is finally starting to find his feet in the PL.
I also hope we see Senderos play for Fulham tomorrow. It is really nice that our former man has found his home at Craven Cottage, but let’s hope he does not have a super-day against us.
So, how are we going to line-up on Saturday?
Same as Tuesday but I reckon Nacho will start so he can form a trusted partnership with Santi on the left. Three games in seven days would probably be too much for Gibbs and unless Wenger is keen to play Podolski on the left, which would then probably mean he would be linked with his English football twin, I cannot see Gibbs start again tomorrow.
Little doubt we will be once again anchored in our double-DM pivot by Arteta and Ramsey. These two are forming a solid, but not necessarily very exciting, partnership which is getting better steadily from game to game.
It will be key to keep a clean sheet, or not concede more than one goal tomorrow, if we want to win the game. So, we should expect Ramsey and Arteta to play conservatively and relatively close together with the main aim of forming a solid, movable mini-wall in front of the back-four and providing the four attackers with straightforward supplies of passes.
This leaves us with the attacking four players, one of which will be our most advanced midfielder. It sounds like Rosicky will not play as a result of a ‘touch and go’ hamstring problem. It also looks to me that Arsene does not want to play Cazorla ‘in the hole’, which makes sense to me as he is both too slow for the drive and thrust this position requires in a 4-2-1-3 formation, and he seems to prefer playing very close to the box, where he is also most effective for us. With Arteta and Ramsey needing to hold back a lot, somebody needs to drive the ball forwards to the three attackers and both Rosicky and Wilshere are ideal for this; Ox is also a possibility, but probably one for the future.
So to cut a long story short: I reckon Jack will play in the hole again and prove one or two doubters wrong tomorrow.
I would like to see Gervinho and Podolski start in this game, but I don’t think they will. I reckon, Arsene will go with Cazorla on the left – well, on paper, as he will move centrally constantly, leaving the wing-play to his fellow countryman; and start Theo again on the right – who will also move towards the middle a lot and leave the wing duties to Sagna for large parts of the game. The risk of this will be a lack of effective wing-play/width and trying too much through the middle; although, as this is not a home game, we should get enough space in the middle to play our intricate passing game.
Giroud only scored one of his eleven PL goals away from home and Podolski is chomping – or is it champing 😛 – at the bits to start a game. But Giroud does so much in terms of giving our attacking game shape, drive and physicality that I cannot see Arsene changing it at this crucial stage of the season. We all might want to try out playing the Pod up-front, but not at the risk of losing valuable points.
The dilemma for Arsenal is that Podolski is better at converting chances, but Giroud is better at co-creating them and being there in the first place. So, it is Giroud up-front again, I reckon.
Predicted – not necessarily preferred! – Line-up:
Come on Arsenal, let’s make it 25 points out of our last 10 PL games and put some real pressure on the Spuds and Chavs who both have some very tough fixtures on Sunday!
CoYG – Give your all for the pride of the shirt!!!
Written by: TotalArsenal.
If you have a few spare minutes, you should also have a look at a very good pre-match report by Wigan Gooner; a good friend of mine, who writes fantastic posts on his own site ‘WiganGooner’: