Additional Intro by 17 Highbury Terrace
Our Maestro of Match Previews, Oz Gunner, has brought the goods once again but things in our little world of Bergkampesque are different this week and 17 Highbury Terrace also had started a match preview. I’d like to include it here as it mirrors some of my own thoughts.
Arsenal – Fulham Preview –Dedicated to James Bond
Bergkampesque is a blog about Arsenal Football Club, emphasizing the more positive aspects of the club and the team as exemplified in the beautiful and professional play of Dennis Bergkamp. We have a match tomorrow, against Fulham Football Club, but one of our own, in fact our top comment contributor, James Bond, is going through an extremely difficult moment in his personal life (see comments, previous post), and I want to dedicate this preview to him. James is an extremely optimistic AND passionate supporter of Arsenal and a great contributor to this site. Despite much cajoling, he’s yet to write a blog post of his own, but he’s put out many interesting and bold ideas. Sometimes we’ve gotten small glimpses into his personal life, but nothing on the scale of what he wrote yesterday. Though blog comments tend to be about Arsenal, over time a community of intriguing individuals builds and many of us feel as if we know one another. I’ve had fun, interesting, and heated debates with James (I often call him 007 or our Superspy…), always with an underlying tone of intelligence and respect. We don’t “know” each other, but we do… All I can say, Bond, at this time, is that we’re all pulling for you and hoping for the very best outcome for you and wishing that, sooner than later, you can be back here on the site, discussing goalkeepers and center forwards, matches, transfers, finances, etc., in your inimitable way.
Maybe Arsenal can brighten your day tomorrow with a convincing win over Fulham. I know you’ve been eager for a strong performance and a lopsided score-line, and I’ll wish that for you—along with my much bigger and more important wishes for you. Being me, of course, I’ll take the three points, however they come. Every match presents challenges, and this one feels no different. Your challenges are on another scale entirely. Best of luck, stay strong, keep the faith, etc., etc., my friend…
A battle of teams on the opposite ends of the table, but Fulham will be looking to break a 110 year drought of losses against Arsenal at home. A win is a must for both teams but for different reasons. Arsenal needs 3 points to fend off the oilers, Fulham to fend off relegation.
A quick fire double saw Arsenal keep a resurgent Villa at bay taking it to 4 league wins on the trot.
Fulham were torn to threads (Shreds, Shreds of threads…) 4-1 last week by Sunderland making it 20 goals conceded in their last 6 games.
Let’s get in to it shall we: Draxler!
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Rosicky (Nose) – Broke it thanks to a gabby. A mask is an option but I don’t think he’ll be risked so soon unless absolutely necessary. Monreal (foot – this one worries me because info is water tight and Arsene appeared worried), Diaby (Knee/missing), and Sanogo (back – STILL!). Walcott (ACL – knee), Ramsey (Hip/thigh), Arteta (calf/shin), Vermaelen (knee), Bendy (Ankle/foot)…god we could almost field a whole team of crocked players.
Fulham: Etheridge (Hip/thigh), Briggs (Groin/pelvis), Amorebieta (Knee) – fitness test.
The back four picks itself thanks to injuries. I expect Jack the lad to continue next to the junkyard dog Flamini. Ozil behind Giroud, Santi on the left, and Gnabry down the right. The only question mark is whether or not Arsene plays Podolski down the left. Gnabry down the right is a must because Fulham have really struggled on their left this season. Give the boy some legroom and he’ll make you pay! Draxler!
Fulham v Arsenal 1 – 3
A bit of luck allowed Giroud to open the scoring and Podolski followed it with a brace. It was a confident and assured performance from the team, and it never looked in doubt. Bent managed to score a debut consolation goal in the 77’…he’s always had a bloody talent for scoring against us.
Fulham v Arsenal 0 – 1
Ex-gunner Sidwell was given his marching orders on 12′ for a dangerous tackle on Arteta. Despite this Fulham closed the game down in their predictable boring fashion. The BFG scored the breakthrough from a Theo free kick. A hard fought victory and it was 8 wins in 10 games for the mighty Arsenal! Draxler!
Arsenal v Fulham 3-3
This is the one which irks. Early goals from Poldolski and Giroud made this seem an easy 3 pointer but Fulham, with 2 goals and an assist from Berbatov looked like they might actually take all the points. A late header, from Giroud levelled it and then, at the very death, referee Phil Dowd awarded us a penalty when a desperate (and cheeky) Andrei Arshavin chipped a ball onto the arm of a Fulham defender Sasha Reither. With such a strange turn of events and maybe not trusting normal forces (i.e. gravity, etc.) Mikel Arteta struck a weak penalty, easily beaten away by Fulham goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, costing us two very valuable points.
EPL Form Guide: Arsenal: : WWWWD Fulham: LWLWL
Arsenal are unbeaten at the Emirates this season (not counting that diabolical opening fixture) and sitting pretty on top of the table. However, City and Chelsea are breathing right down our necks and it’s about as enjoyable as TMHT setting his sights on you… One slip up and it could be all over, red rover! We haven’t been at our best but like Man U of seasons past we are getting the job done anyway we can. We’ve heard it all before, sometimes you have to win ugly. I would like to see us belt a team soon though because this squeaky bum stuff is knocking years off my life.
Take away the one blemish game and we’ve conceded a mere 13 goals this season. A good defence has been a long time coming!
Fulham on the other hand have let in 46 goals this season. 11 more than any other team. This is a far cry from the Fulham we’ve come to know of seasons past. Previously I’d dread this fixture because I knew a goal against Fulham was like getting blood from a stone. The loss of Mark Schwarzer, a long term injury to Hangeland, an unsettled defence, and ex-Arsenal defender Senderos have made them easy to break down. Just ask Hull, they knocked 6 past them in Fulham’s last away fixture; Relegation zone Sunderland also put 4 past them at Craven Cottage a week ago. Since then, however, they dispatched Norwich in the FA Cup 3- nil. Two spots above the relegation zone means every point is vital for Fulham. Draxler!
This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s a 2 goal victory against Fulham during the 2004/05 season. Henry was on another level that day. What a team we had! Have a look: (Draxler!)
One to Watch:
This week’s one to watch is ex-spud and ex-red devil Dimitar Berbatov.
From the opening of the January transfer window he’s been linked with Arsenal (heaven forbid he actually came). I think he’ll be out to impress the home crowd and Arsene in this fixture. With Berba it all comes down to enthusiasm. Last season he was motivated, this season his clear cut chance conversion has dropped from 59% to 33%. He’s capable of great things but I expect Kozzer to entrench him firmly in his pocket.
Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than Santi Cazorla. Despite Podolski scoring 2 goals last time the two teams met I would have given the MoTM to Santi. The pitch was wet, the midfield compact and he had Parker snapping at his heels constantly, but he was on another level and oozed class. He hasn’t had the best of seasons (partly because we hold him up on a mantle after his exceptional first season) but when it all clicks for him magic happens. I’m sure Arsene would have told him how important he is going to be with Theo going down, and I have no doubt Santi will begin a meteoric rise once again.
This week’s finger goes to our injury curse…again.
Come on, it’s getting a bit ridiculous now. We would like to win the title this season, rather than thinking back to what may have been. Surely the balance of luck should be tipped in our favour for the next 100 years.
Pre-Match Pat on the back:
This week’s pat on the back is going to the Big Feckin’ German.
great work by @The_Zama
What a massive difference he makes to this team! I really can’t say enough good things about the BFG. When he first came to the club I was over the moon. After a few performances… Not so much. The game against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago sticks in my mind. He appeared lightweight and despite his large stature he seemed to decrease in size when he went up for a header. Something changed. Now he tackles, he barks, he scores goals, and best of all…he organises the troops. Over the years I’ve thought a few players deserved to be taken out back and slapped around bit so they might pull their finger out and start to perform. After Mertz’s first season he definitely did extract a digit. Whether that can be attributed to getting his body right, settling into the EPL, getting to know the players, or Bould taking him under his wing, I’m not sure, but whatever happened, he has transformed into our most important player. I do enjoy seeing/hearing him let his teammates recognise when they’ve made an error out on the pitch (first the Ozil incident and then the Santi situation against Villa). It’s hard not to love the man. Draxler!
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by Cookie-6262 and dempsey’s revenge…there were others but let’s just say tensions are high for Fulham supporters these days. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:
1. What are your thoughts on the Morrison ‘taping up’ row?
Cookie – The tapping up row is a load of rubbish, Rene was asked about transfers and he replied “we have bid for Ravel Morrisson but it has been rejected.” He was then asked, “Do you think he wants to come” and he replied, “Yes, I think he does want to come.” Hardly the crime of the century; he was just saying what he honestly thought.
DR – It’s nothing. They’re not playing him, so why would they care?
2. How is Senderos travelling?
Cookie – hopefully Senderos is travelling via Beijing and won’t arrive at the Emirates until next Thursday…. Most fans have him as our fifth best Centre back and our weak link yet he still sometimes gets games. Our chance of getting something from this game is 10% at best; with Senderos it’s about 2%.
DR – He’s an idiot, so he frequently loses his luggage. Hope to God he’s not playing.
3. What do you want during this transfer window?
Cookie – A left back is a must–someone who can go straight into the team. To keep Berba but if he goes we will need a striker and possibly a centre back although young Dan Burn has come in for the two cup games and looked very good.
DR – All new players except for Riether and Parker.
4. What position/ player is your weakest link?
Cookie – Weak link is centre back, just look at the goals against column. But Hangeland is back after 3 months out so hopefully he will make a difference. Left back is an issue as well. Iif Walcott were fit he could have done double figures.
DR – All positions except where Riether and Parker play.
5. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?
Cookie – Do Arsenal have a weak link??? Possibly up front if Giroud is off form. You are light up top, but does it matter when you have a midfield including Ozil and Carzola plus Podolski?
DR – Manager thinks he’s God.
6. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?
Cookie – Ozil is world class and a joy to watch
DR – Nearly all of them. I’ll make this observation; Arsenal players nearly always thrive after leaving the team (but not Senderos), which shows that a) Wenger has a good eye for talent and b) the coaching there is top class.
7. What is your match prediction?
Cookie – Not expecting anything from the game but just hoping for a half decent performance and not getting a thrashing. A good display in a narrow defeat wouldn’t be a disaster for us though you never know, a Mertesacker red card in the 2nd minute and Berba slots away the pen. (You can but dream…)
DR – We will get our heads handed to us and probably slip into the zone as a result.
It will be an improved performance by Fulham thanks to the return of the big Norwegian Hangeland. However, it won’t be enough and I think he’ll be lost at sea out there as the team crumbles around him. Watch for them to park all the buses in Fulham in front of their goal. It won’t be enough though because Gnabry is going to kick a hole through them en route to a 4-0 victory!
What is your prediction?
What starting line-up would you choose?
What position is our weakest link at the moment?
What tactic would you employ to beat Fulham?
What two players would you buy during this transfer window and why?
By Oz Gunner
Draxler! (hey if I say it enough he just might come!)