Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Fulham

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, November 10
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Ron Ganfield and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Lee Probert
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 1 Fulham
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 34 Arsenal wins, 8 Fulham wins, 9 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-L-W-L-W-L
  • Fulham's League Form: W-L-D-W-D-D
Arsene Wenger sings a haunting rendition of "I Dreamed a
Dream" from Les Mis, but the fourth official is not a fan.
Photo: Daily Mail.
I wrote on my personal Twitter account towards the end of the Schalke match that this Arsenal team has a lot of problems, but a lot of them seem to be mental. I feel like this team needs to hire more psychologists, rather than bring in new signings. The starting XI on Tuesday was not poor by any stretch; it was, in fact, a strong and experienced group. And yet, in the first quarter of an hour, you could plainly see how hesitant they were, as they allowed Schalke to start on the front foot. The talent was there, but it was obvious that in those moments, Arsenal did not believe they could win the game.

Then, a break, an Arsenal goal, and suddenly, the Gunners were flying to a 2-0 advantage. Arsenal dominated for just short of half an hour, but around the 44th minute, Schalke found their legs again. Then, a Santi Cazorla slip, a fabulous through pass to a lethal striker, and the Royal Blues pulled one back before the whistle. The Arsenal belief was gone, Schalke dominated the second, and the Gunners had to settle for a tough road point instead of three. If that game goes into the break 2-0, the second half likely plays out much differently.

Last year, things didn't start going Arsenal's way until late in the first half of the North London derby in February. You start to score a few goals and then the belief comes back and you start winning game after game. Arsenal desperately needs to score first on Saturday; if they can, I think the rest of the match will take care of itself. If they concede early again though, you'll see the confidence drain straight out again.

Arsenal Squad News

Jack Wilshere nonchalantly punches some guy in the face
during Tuesday's Champions League match.
Photo: Daily Mail.
Out: Gervinho (ankle), Diaby (thigh), Fabianski (shoulder), Rosicky (Achilles)
Doubts: Ramsey (groin), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip), Gibbs (thigh), Szczesny (ankle)
Suspended: Wilshere (one match, two yellow cards)

Well, we're close to a number of returns, but it looks like a lot of players will be subjected to late fitness tests. Wojciech Szczesny will play for the U-21 team on Friday and could slip back into the line-up if all goes well. There might be returns for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and/or Kieran Gibbs. Aaron Ramsey might return from his groin injury; if he doesn't, and with Jack Wilshere suspended, I think Francis Coquelin would have to slip into Mikel Arteta's spot, with the Spaniard shifting forward.

Thursday's news features Jack Wilshere's call-up to the England national team for a midweek friendly last week (Theo Walcott was called too, but Kieran Gibbs and the Ox were not.) This would normally be seen as bad news for Arsenal, considering the fear that Jack is going to be overused in his comeback, but with his one match ban being served on Saturday, it'll probably be good to get him 45 minutes before next week's North London derby.

If Gibbs is not fit, then you'd have to think the back four stays the same from the Schalke match, and with out Gervinho and Ramsey, the front three probably doesn't change either.

Predicted XI, if Nobody Returns: Mannone, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Coquelin, Arteta, Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott, Giroud.

Fulham Squad News

Diarra could miss out with a knee injury, which really isn't
being helped by this treatment... oh, this is from six years ago.
Photo: BBC.
Out: Davies (hip)
Doubts: Diarra (knee)

Simon Davies is likely out another two months or so with a hip problem; the Welsh midfielder will be returning around January. Ex-United ex-Sunderland midfielder Kieran Richardson was dropped from the side for last week's 2-2 draw with Everton, possibly through injury, but Martin Jol did not mention him in his pre-match presser, so I suspect he'll return to the side.

The big doubt in Fulham's midfield is Mahamadou Diarra, who is 50/50 with a knee problem. Fulham leads the Premier League in interceptions per game, with 18.7 and personally, Diarra is second on the team in that statistic, behind Chris Baird.

Current Form

I draw your attention to the table at the right, which compares results so far in the league this season versus the results in corresponding fixtures from last season. Of course, to make a comparison like that, you have to swap out the teams who were relegated last year with the teams who were promoted for this year. For the purposes of that, let's switch Blackburn for Southampton, Wolves for West Ham, and Bolton for Reading.

What you see is that Arsenal picked up 20 points from those 10 fixtures last year and they have picked up 15 points from the same 10 this year, for a net loss of five points in the table. Two points worse against Sunderland at home, a point worse against Chelsea at home, and three points worse against Norwich away. The only result they've put in that was better than last year was at Manchester City.

Last year, Arsenal picked up one point from the next two fixtures on the list: Fulham home was a point and Tottenham away was a loss, so there's a chance to improve that comparable form back to even with two wins. After that, Arsenal plays a string of four matches they won last year before playing Reading away (Bolton away last year was a 0-0 draw.)

Fulham are unbeaten in four overall in the league and are also unbeaten in their last three matches away from Craven Cottage. Fulham have not lost away from home since the first international break (they were caught out 3-0 by West Ham on September 1.) They have not kept many clean sheets of late, and their last two draws have been by 3-3 and 2-2 scorelines.

Match Facts

Theo Walcott loves Thomas Vermaelen thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much.
Fulham took four points from Arsenal last year, with the Gunners managing just one. Fulham was only one of two teams that Arsenal did not beat in league play last year; the other was Manchester United.

Thomas Vermaelen scored both goals in this fixture last year; unfortunately, the first one went in the wrong net. In the 65th minute, his attempted clearance ended up in the back of his own net, but eight minutes from time, he equalized from a Walcott cross. Fulham won their home fixture 2-1 last year, with two late goals after Johan Djourou had been sent off. I blame Squillaci, but also, I blame Lee Probert.

Fulham have played Arsenal 51 times all-time and have won only eight of them; all eight of those wins came with Fulham as the home side, so that's... irrelevant for this match. Fulham have visited Highbury/Emirates Stadium 25 times and have come away with a total of four points from four draws, including last year's. Arsenal have won 21 home meetings with the Cottagers.

The Referee

"Ugh, why didn't I become an accountant." Photo: Sky.
The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. Marriner took charge of four Arsenal matches last year, and three of them were bizarre goal-fests. Unfortunately, Arsenal split those four matches, with two wins and two losses, and boy were the two losses head scratchers.

In September of 2011, Marriner was in charge of Arsenal's 4-3 loss at Blackburn Rovers. Then, in October, he was in the middle of the 5-3 win at Chelsea. In early February, he took charge of Arsenal's 7-1 win over Blackburn (so, for those counting, that's 23 goals in those three games.) In April, he was the referee for Arsenal's 2-1 home loss to Wigan Athletic.

Marriner has not been the referee for a Fulham match since October 2, 2011. The Cottagers will carry fond memories of that match; they beat QPR 6-0 in a West London derby.

Around the League

There's no early match in the Premier League this week; the lunchtime match of the weekend is the East Midlands derby, as Leicester City faces Nottingham Forest. That will put a whopping six matches in England's non-televised time slot, which includes Arsenal v. Fulham. With no early match on in the States, ESPN2 gets the first choice for matches, and will air the Arsenal game. There's always that fear when there are a lot of 10:00 a.m. Eastern games that if too many big clubs are playing, the game could get pushed off live television, but that's not the case here.

Thankfully, the other five matches don't hold much of significant interest: Everton hosts Sunderland at Goodison, Readings hosts Norwich at the Madejski, Southampton hosts Swansea at St. Mary's, Stoke hosts QPR at the Britannia, and Wigan hosts West Brom at the DW. Wow, that's quite a list. Saturday's late match features Aston Villa hosting Manchester United at Villa Park.

Three matches take place on Sunday, all featuring teams in the Europa League as is usually the case after they play on Thursday. At least two of them are very intriguing fixtures. The third is Newcastle v. West Ham at St. James's, by the way.

As for those two intriguing matches, the early game sees Manchester City host Tottenham Hotspur at Eastlands; the late game sees Chelsea host Liverpool at the Bridge.

The reverse of these fixtures will be played the weekend of April 20-21.