Arsenal will try to make it two for two this week when they make the short journey through London to take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday with Howard Webb refereeing the match. The Gunners are coming off of an impressive 3-0 whitewashing of Fenerbahce in Turkey on Wednesday in a Champions League qualifier while Fulham took all three points last weekend with a 1-0 win in Sunderland in their Premier League opener.
With Man United, Spurs, Man City and Liverpool all winning last weekend and Chelsea already having a pair of victories under their belt Arsenal needs a win on Saturday to make sure they don’t fall behind any further this early in the season. Of course, they got off on the wrong foot last Saturday at the Emirates by dropping a 3-1 decision to Aston Villa at the Emirates.
With the win over Fenerbahce certainly being good news there was also some bad news to swallow for manager Arsene Wenger in the past week as Alex Oxlade Chamberlain will be out of action for at least six weeks and Laurent Koscielny suffered a badly cut head in the midweek match. Oxlade-Chamberlain looked energetic and effective against Villa, but suffered a knee injury during the first 45 minutes and had to be substituted at halftime.
Fulham proved to be a bit of a handful for the Gunners last season. In fact, they’ve been a thorn in their side for the past couple of years as Arsenal has only managed to beat them once in their past five meetings. New signings Darren Bent, on loan for the season from Villa and Scott Parker, who signed from Spurs, could debut for the Cottagers making them an even tougher side to deal with.
However, manager Martin Jol won’t have new goaltender Maarten Stekelenburg between the posts as he suffered a shoulder injury at Sunderland and Kieran Richardson pulled his hamstring during that match. On the flip side of the coin, forward Alexander Kacaniklic could be back in the side after recovering from a hamstring injury. With veteran Australian international keeper Mark Schwarzer leaving for Chelsea during the summer, expect to see David Stockdale start in goal.
For Arsenal, Wenger will be without Koscielny for sure even if he’s healthy since he received a red card last week against Villa and is suspended for this match. Skipper Thomas Vermaelen is also out with a back injury and it looks like Bacary Sagna will help matters put by playing centre-back. It also looks like midfielders Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta will also miss the match with injuries. The good news is Nacho Monreal made it back to the lineup on Wednesday so should be ready to go.
The last time these two clubs faced each other was in April with Per Mertesacker scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory at Craven Cottage. The match was a chippy affair with both sides being reduced to 10 men. When they met in November at the Emirates the game ended n an exciting 3-3 draw. The previous three affairs saw Fulham win 2-1 and draw 2-2 at home with Arsenal earning a home1-1 draw. Overall, these two London clubs have met a total of 52 times with Arsenal dominating the series. The Gunners have 34 wins and 10 draws against their neighbours and just eight losses. They’ve also outscored them 110 to 59.
All eight Fulham wins have come at home though and their squad is certainly a lot stronger than it was last season. This is going to be a tough test for the Gunners and it’s one they have to pass or they’ll be looking up at their rivals from the bottom end of the table.