Arsenal face Fulham in the Premier League at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
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ON THE DEFENSIVE - AARON RAMSEY
One of the key elements of Arsenal's six-game unbeaten run has been Aaron Ramsey's superb form in central midfield. The Wales international has been utilised in a number of different positions this season, but has returned to his natural habitat and is flourishing. "It makes a big difference [to be in central midfield]. That's my position and it's where I want to play," he said. "My performances have shown what I'm capable of doing in the middle."
His energetic displays and strength have added a physical edge to the midfield, while his vision and range of passing has helped Arsène Wenger's side score 13 times. But equally as important has been the role Ramsey has played defensively, covering back, throwing himself into tackles and muscling players off the ball.
As our heatmap and chalkboard above shows, Ramsey plays a very disciplined role in the centre of the park, and makes major contributions to win the ball back. Against Everton, he made four successful tackles, one key block on the edge of the area, two interceptions (at opposite ends of the pitch), one clearance inside the area and an impressive 10 recoveries.
Ramsey's robust performances have helped the side exert control in this key area, while his high-energy pressing game puts real pressure on opponents. It has been a major return to form for the 22-year-old as he ends the season on a high.
KEY BATTLE - ARTETA v RUIZ
When Fulham drew 3-3 at the Emirates earlier this season, Dimitar Berbatov may have done much of the damage with two goals but Bryan Ruiz was equally as dangerous. The Costa Rica international has a tendency to drift around in attack, moving out wide, dropping deep, appearing in the hole - anywhere where he can cause most damage.
This makes him a difficult player to pick up, and much of that will fall to Mikel Arteta on Saturday. The Arsenal vice-captain has successfully reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfielder but he is not in the mould of the traditional 'defensive enforcer'. The Spaniard is more of a pivot, linking up play between defence and midfield and keeping the tempo of the game high.
The defensive side of his game will be tested by Ruiz at Craven Cottage, though. Staying close to the Costa Rican will be vital, denying him the time and space to pick out the passes and crosses that Berbatov thrives on. It should be a intriguing battle.
FULHAM v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last four Premier League meetings with Arsenal, drawing three and winning one
- The Gunners have won just one of their last four trips to Craven Cottage in the Premier League (D1 L2), losing their last trip there in January 2012 (1-2)
- There has been a red card in the last two Premier League meetings between the sides at Craven Cottage - Johan Djourou (Arsenal) and Zoltan Gera (Fulham)
- The Gunners have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games, winning eight (W8 D2 L1)
- Since the beginning of February, Arsenal have conceded only six goals in nine Premier League games, keeping four clean sheets during this run
- Martin Jol has won just one of his 10 Premier League meetings with Arsène Wenger (L4 D5)
- Since the start of 2010, Arsenal have won just three of their 13 London derbies away from home in the Premier League, losing eight and drawing two
- Fulham have only kept one clean sheet in their last 12 home games in the Premier League
- The Cottagers have accrued a joint league-high five own goals this season, but are yet to concede one themselves
- Mikel Arteta has taken (six) and scored (five) more penalties than any other player this season
The Matchday Programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 19 Apr 2013