By Chris Harris
Five 0-0 draws, no wins and only three goals on the road. It's probably safe to say that Fulham won't be particularly expansive at Emirates Stadium this weekend.
They have performed admirably this season, seeing off Arsenal and seven other sides at Craven Cottage to climb to eighth place in the Premier League table. But when Roy Hodgson's side leave the confines of west London, they retreat into their shells.
To find out why, we spoke to regular Fulham watcher Paul Warburton of the Kensington and Chelsea News. Read on for his take on Fulham's season so far, the January departure of Jimmy Bullard, the unsung heroes in Hodgson's squad and the all-too-predictable tactical approach on their travels.
THE STORY SO FAR
They have been stronger, certainly in defence. Roy Hodgson is a cautious kind of manager, some might say conservative even, but in that conservatism has come a fairly pragmatic manager who spends a lot of time working on the defence and it shows. Five 0-0 draws away from home tells you that Fulham don't concede too many. The downside of that is that they don't score too many either on the road. With only three goals to their credit, draws really are the order of the day. They are probably the first team crossed on pools coupons for those people who still do them.
THE MAN IN CHARGE
It's difficult to know if Roy Hodgson is underrated. People have spoken warmly about him both now and in the past. Usually the word which goes in front of his name is 'experienced' and at 61 he has been around the block a few times. He has managed national teams, Premier League teams, teams in Sweden, teams in Italy, so he brings a lot of experience. I suspect that because he's at Fulham he doesn't get quite the same publicity as Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez do.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
They have won eight at home but none away. Why? I wish I knew and so do about 25,000 Fulham fans who regularly turn up. If you could find the answer I am sure that Roy Hodgson would like to hear from you. But the long and the short of it is that it is probably a mental thing in the end because as you rightly point out they are not bad at home - they beat Arsenal as we both know back in August. Knocking over teams doesn't seem to be a problem at Craven Cottage but away from home it has become an issue and it became an issue almost on the very first day when played Hull away and were expected to beat them but missed sitter after sitter. In the end they lost and that gets ingrained after a while. But Fulham are dogged and determined and if they can get over the mental barrier of being away they might get a few wins. So if Arsenal want to put that mural from the early 1990s up and make it look like the Cottage at one end, that might make Fulham feel at home!
People will miss Jimmy Bullard but he wouldn't be playing anyway because the injury he sustained, the aggravation to that knee problem, means he will miss the rest of the season. I would suggest that Jimmy Bullard was a great player and a good servant for Fulham but if you want my honest opinion there are others who were just as good and just as important in getting Fulham to where they were before he left. A lot was made of Jimmy's squad call-ups for England but there were others who deserve credit too.
THE ONES TO WATCH
Fulham have no obvious stars, although perhaps Andy Johnson comes close, but the sum of their parts is far better than the individual components. Danny Murphy is a typical example of that - he is hard-working, very industrious and very important to keeping the shape and keeping the game going and the passing movement that Fulham want to employ. He's not a 'hero' but he is one of those players who was just as important as Bullard. Brede Hangeland was linked with a number of clubs in the transfer window and he has come on in leaps and bounds. He is a classy centre half and Arsenal might remember him because of course he scored the winner against them in August.
I think we had better race each other down the betting shop and back a 0-0 draw! It is staring you in the face isn't it? Fulham play practically the same way every single game. They move the ball around, they have a very stiff resilience at the back, they tend to employ one up front away from home with one dropping in 'the hole', but occasionally they play with two strikers. They don't change it much. If you look at the Fulham centre halves this season, I would think that in terms of fewest players used, they are probably in the top three in the Premier League.
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
I think they have been unlucky. They seem to pick up an injury every 20 minutes and poor old Arsenal seem to be up against it in that regard. I have a soft spot for them and I just feel that when they need that bit of luck with injuries they seem to get another one. But they keep plugging away and, this is just an outsider's view you understand, but something tells me that, having stepped up a gear for the Champions League on Tuesday, I wonder whether the priority of a Champions League Final and maybe a win there has overstepped the need to win the Premier League title.