Fulham Preview: Messing Around By The River
A quickfire return to Premier League action with another London derby, Fulham will be hoping for a repeat dose of their obduracy at The Emirates barely a month ago. Thomas Vermaelen will not be able to score at either end this afternoon, his calf injury may require action in the transfer window that whilst not unexpected, was probably not planned a week ago. Arsène has yet to refute any suggestions that Tony Adams is the quality signing Robin van Persie is clamouring for.
And let’s be honest, Adams even now, probably has more to offer Arsenal than Wayne Bridge. Thankfully – and I use that word in the loosest possible meaning – Taye Taiwo is also being linked with the club. Still, at least when there is dire need for a defender, it’s good to see we’re being linked with a striker. Nick Powell might just get a runout for the first team with all of the misfiring that is going on with senior forwards. One who is on the move, albeit temporarily is Emmanuel Frimpong who has joined Wolves on loan for the rest of the campaign.
So to today’s game, a teatime kick-off courtesy of the billions invested in the game by corrupt corporations. With the frequency of matches, it is inconceivable that Wenger will not rotate his squad in significant numbers except for the defence, of course. There his options are so limited that a long spell of matches is on the cards for all of them. This evening, his decision is left back with the choice apparently between Ignasi Miquel and Francis Coquelin. Based on the managers comments post-QPR, the young Spaniard as the specialist defender seems to be the way the manager is inclining although it must surely have crossed his mind how he successfully converted a French defensive midfielder into emergency left back cover in the past.
In midfield, the probable rotatee (Some people are claiming it’s not a word, it is now!) is Mikel Arteta. Ramsey was rested, albeit after a fashion, against Wolves and it would no surprise to see Tomas Rosicky start ahead of the Spaniard. Alex Song meanwhile, remains a pivotal part of the side’s defensive duties and seems unlikely to be rested.
Against this, the question of starting strikers remains. Arshavin played well against QPR, hinting that his form might be returning but it would be surprising if he started today. Wenger might be hopeful of Chamakh and Gervinho being able to play against Leeds, indeed be needing them for that fixture but with Robin van Persie the only striker scoring at the moment, can he afford to rest him today?
The Dutchman’s fitness is always the key but few of his serious absences have been muscular, most due to impact injuries. They cannot be planned for and whilst I concede he may struggle for fitness without a rest soon, the opportunity to close the gap to the top of the table – let alone third – to six points surely means that he must start?
I don’t think so. The short-term – and football is notoriously short-term – must not overtake the wider picture and for that reason, I would put Chamakh in the middle, with Gervinho and Walcott tasked at providing decent service for the Moroccan. Walcott might covet the central role but his miss on Saturday offered the reason for Wenger being unable to do so at this moment; consistency. As Big Al pointed out in his match report, Walcott was psyched out of the chance by the proximity of Traore, not the best defender in the world but one who had the pace to catch the Arsenal player. He needs to be able to forget such things and produce a consistency of finish in those situations. We know he can, a lot of his goals come from beating the defence for pace and I am sure that this aspect of his game will continue to improve. After all, it was not so long ago that he was utterly dismissed for having those dreams such was the paucity of his finishing.
Theo Walcott is also the recipient of this season’s annoyance over contract negotiations, unsubstantiated reports in yesterday’s Daily Star Sunday claim that the club and player are “at WAR” over his desire for a salary of £85k per week. Interestingly, nobody from either side of the deal has been quoted, directly or as an ‘insider’. It has led to an all-too-familiar, and depressing, reaction amongst those unwilling to apply the necessary cynicism to such media intrusions into the season. Peter Whimsey might like to have a quiet word with his pet paper and point out to them how hard access can become if such drivel continues. For Walcott, well, who can blame him when it looks like the taxman is seeking to capitalise on the ‘Appy ‘Arry enquiry with more booty from the sport.
Today’s line-up that I expect to see is:
Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel; Ramsey, Song, Rosicky; Walcott, Chamakh, Gervinho
Oh and one thing you won’t apparently see today is Thierry Henry on the Arsenal bench. His loan deal will apparently be completed today. Which explains why the left hand photo was hastily replaced by one of Isaac Hayes in the late hours of last night on Arsenal.com: