Arsenal v Fulham Match Preview
The English Premier League season kicked off last night and the big shock was newly-promoted Sunderland scoring a last-gasp 1-0 win over Arsenal’s London rivals Tottenham. Sunderland were solid throughout with Tottenham rarely threatening in the second half but it was still a surprise when Michael Chopra placed the ball in the bottom-right corner after some ball-watching from the Tottenham defence. The result is great for Arsenal fans not only because it always great to watch Tottenham lose, but because it should ease some of the media pressure on the club that Tottenham are genuine contenders for their spot in the top four. I know it’s only one game but this is exactly the type of match that Tottenham need to win if they want to be considered a genuine threat this season.
In other results that matter to Arsenal, Liverpool snuck home 2-1 over Aston Villa thanks to a lovely free-kick from Steven Gerrard, Newcastle thumped Bolton 3-1 away and Manchester City – who I consider to be a real dark horse this season under Sven Goran Eriksson – took care of a below-par West Ham 2-0, new signing Martin Petrov particularly impressing. Arsenal, along with their two major rivals for the Premiership, Chelsea and Manchester United, all play today and will be looking to get off to a perfect start after Liverpool picked up three points in their first game.
Three points a necessity for Arsenal
Arsenal have been given the perfect opportunity to get off to a good start to the season against a Fulham team that many people, myself included, see as relegation candidates. Arsenal will go into the game without Gilberto Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor but new signing Eduardo da Silva looks set to at least make the bench after winning his battle with an ankle injury. Whether he starts or not is another matter -the match preview on the official Arsenal website suggests that he will – but I am expecting Alexander Hleb to take up the position in behind Robin van Persie as the support striker. Jens Lehmann should start in goals and the first-choice backline of Bacary Sagna, newly appointed captain William Gallas, Kolo Toure and the exciting Gael Clichy should also start. In midfield Cesc Fabregas is a certainty with either Abou Diaby or Mathieu Flamini as his partner whilst Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue should begin on the left and right respectively.
After some excellent pre-season performances, anything less than a win against Fulham would be a disappointing result for Arsenal. There have been a few people on the blog who have suggested that anything less than a 3-0 or 4-0 win would not be good enough but at this stage of the season I would take any win. It is obvious that manager Arsene Wenger’s side are in good form going into the game against Fulham but when it’s all said and done, this test will be bigger than any so far and it is more important that Arsenal get the three points than put in a polished performance for no reward. If they can do both, great, but if not then it is vital that the boys get a result against what is surely one of the lesser teams in the Premiership. I’ll be watching the match via an excellent free streaming football service provided by FSi and anyone who wants to do the same should check it out.
Despite my optimistic pre-season predictions I am expecting Fulham to cause Arsenal some problems. Gallas and Toure will need to keep a close watch on Brian McBride and new Northern Ireland striker David Healy, who has been in the form of his life with the national team. However, Fulham’s weakness is their defence and the likes of van Persie, Hleb, Rosicky and Eduardo should have a great opportunity to knock in a few goals. I’m especially hoping that Wenger gives Hleb the opportunity to prove his worth in a more central role and will be hoping he has a good game to build his confidence. I’m also expecting van Persie to get his assault on the Golden Boot off to the perfect start with a goal or two. 2-0 Arsenal.
What do you think?
Voice your thoughts in the build-up to Arsenal’s first Premiership game against Fulham by leaving a comment.