Preview by Numbers: Fulham v. Arsenal

Craven Cottage, London
Saturday, April 20
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Mark Scholes and Sian Massey
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 3 - 3 Fulham
  • This Match, Last Year: Fulham 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 34 Arsenal wins, 8 Fulham wins, 10 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-W-W-D
  • Fulham's League Form: D-W-W-L-D-L
  • Weather: Sunny, 11 C / 52 F
Five games to go: Fulham away, United at home, QPR away, Wigan at home, Newcastle away. It sounds so very doable on paper, but from these five fixtures last year, Arsenal lost four of them and drew 0-0 in the other. Two of those losses (QPR away and Wigan at home) came down the stretch under similar circumstances to the situation at present. It just goes to show you how inconsistent this team can be.

But for now, Arsenal can only focus on Fulham Football Club. The legs may be a bit tired for Arsenal, having played grueling matches on Saturday and Tuesday, but that's no excuse, as Fulham played Saturday and Wednesday. The Cottagers always seem to make things difficult for the Arsenal. Three points are critical after dropping two midweek.

Every game from here on out is massive. All points are vital.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Fabianski (ribs), Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Cazorla (knock), Wilshere (knock), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knock), Rosicky (hamstring)

There's very little concrete in the team news as of right now (provided you're reading this before Arsene's Friday press conference, which you're probably not.) Lukasz Fabianski remains out after taking a kick to the ribs against Norwich. Abou Diaby remains Diabied.

Much of the midfield will face late fitness tests, coming through Tuesday's game a bit banged up. That includes Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Tomas Rosicky could be good to return again from his hamstring knock that has kept him out since his brace at West Brom. So basically, it's a little too early to tell what the front six will look like.

As for the back four, I've heard Nacho Monreal may return at left back, but the other three (Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny) should remain the same.

Fulham Squad News

Out: Duff (abductor), Dejagah (ankle), Diarra (knee)

Fulham will likely still be without Damien Duff, who left Saturday's match against Aston Villa with an abductor muscle strain (not to be confused with an abdominal strain,) though his recovery is going better than expected. His injury means Fulham have recalled Alex Kacaniklic from Burnley; he was on loan to the Clarets. Kacaniklic scored against Arsenal in the reverse fixture.

Ashkan Dejagah and Mahamadou Diarra are out for the season with ankle and knee injuries, respectively.

Current Form

Since losing consecutive league games to Manchester City and Chelsea in mid-January, Arsenal have lost just once in their last 11 league fixtures, drawing twice and winning eight. That's 26 points out of their last 33 available; not too shabby. Arsenal have climbed out of the... how shall I put this?... gap, and are well positioned for a run at a top four finish, just as long as they don't drop any points stupidly from here on out.

As for Fulham, they have been consistently mid-table since November. The Cottagers went unbeaten in five between February and early April, but are now winless in three, having lost to Newcastle and Chelsea and drawing Aston Villa. With 40 points, Fulham are currently in tenth, just one point back of Swansea in ninth, and four points back of West Brom in eighth. West Ham (39 points) and Southampton (38 points,) however, are breathing down their necks. They are nine points clear of relegation and all but mathematically safe.

Match Facts

It might come as some surprise, but Fulham are unbeaten in their last four against Arsenal, with three draws and a victory in this fixture last year. Arsenal scored first in that match, last January 2, via Laurent Koscielny in the 21st minute. Everything was cruising along just fine until Johan Djourou was sent off for a second yellow card. With the back four decimated by injuries at the time, Sebastien Squillaci came in, Fulham scored twice, and the Cottagers won 2-1.

Earlier this year, Arsenal and Fulham played a bonkers 3-3 draw at the Emirates. Arsenal went up 2-0 through goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, but Fulham struck back to equalize through Dimitar Berbatov and Alex Kacaniklic. Fulham went ahead 3-2 from the penalty spot, but Giroud leveled for Arsenal just two minutes later. At the death, Arsenal were awarded a penalty, but Mikel Arteta's spot kick was saved by Mark Schwarzer and both sides split the points.

Arsenal have won once in their last four visits to Craven Cottage, a 1-0 victory on September 26, 2009 which included a man of the match performance from Vito Mannone. As mentioned above, Arsenal lost at the Cottage last year. In the final match of 2010/11, the sides played a 2-2 draw there and in early 2008/09, Fulham came away with a surprise 1-0 win.

So, tricky fixture, this.

The Referee

The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner, who this week was appointed referee for the FA Cup Final. It's a well-deserved appointment for Marriner, but he came under considerable criticism last season (and was dropped from top flight football for a long while) for a blunder that cost Wigan a match, allowing Blackburn to score from an illegal corner kick.

As for the teams involved here, surprisingly, Arsenal have only seen Andre Marriner in the middle once this season, in late January, for their 5-1 win over West Ham at the Emirates. That was the match in which Arsenal scored four goals in about 10 minutes. Arsenal matches with Marriner have been high scoring in recent memory, including the aforementioned 5-1, the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge last year, the 7-1 over Blackburn last year, and even a 4-3 loss to Blackburn last September as well.

Fulham have had Marriner twice this year: they lost at home to Swansea 2-1 on December 29 and beat Blackpool in extra time 2-1 in an FA Cup replay at Bloomfield Road on January 15.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Reading; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Queens Park Rangers v. Stoke City; Loftus Road, London
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Everton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Southampton; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Newcastle United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Wigan Athletic; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday: Liverpool v. Chelsea; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Monday: Manchester United v. Aston Villa; Old Trafford, Manchester