Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side take on Fulham on Saturday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Giuseppe Muro for their views.
Arsenal have failed to beat Fulham in their previous four meetings, which have produced three score draws and a 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage last season.
There doesn’t appear to be a single obvious reason why Martin Jol’s side cause such problems - their league position indicates they’re a decent rather than a spectacular side, while stylistically there’s nothing in particular that consistently causes problems.
Despite frequent managerial changes over the last three years - Roy Hodgson, Mark Hughes and now Jol have all taken charge - there’s been a consistent approach.
Hodgson’s favoured two banks of four remain, with Fulham generally retreating into a deep position without the ball.
"It is from those deep-lying positions that Arsenal must play positive forward passes, because Fulham keep it tight between the lines in deeper positions"
Bryan Ruiz, who will probably play the support striker role behind Dimitar Berbatov, has become more disciplined without possession, dropping back to pressure the opposition’s deep-lying midfielder, which will probably be Mikel Arteta.
Ruiz remains a naturally languid attacking player, however, and some good movement from the central midfielders should allow Arsenal to pass around him.
It is from those deep-lying positions that Arsenal must play positive forward passes, because Fulham keep it tight between the lines in deeper positions.
Arsenal youth product Steve Sidwell will return to the midfield zone after a three-game ban, probably in place of loanee Eyong Enoh. His midfield partner, Giorgos Karagounis, can spray good diagonals towards the flanks, but often dawdles on the ball, and should be closed down to force errors in possession.
At the back, another former Gunner, Philippe Senderos, forms the centre-back partnership with Brede Hangeland. They’re imposing aerially, but Fulham lack the calm positioning of the underrated Northern Irishman Aaron Hughes, who used to sweep up effectively, so pace behind the defence might be a decent way to attack Fulham.
On the flanks, Fulham’s wingers protect the full backs in a disciplined fashion before breaking quickly at speed. Damien Duff has done this excellently for years, while the inconsistent Urby Emanuelson is highly energetic too.
Stanislav Manolev is a more defensive alternative, and might appear as a substitute.
GIUSEPPE MURO, EVENING STANDARD
It's a big London derby. Fulham were really poor against Chelsea on Wednesday. It was probably one of their worst performances of the year. After the game, Martin Jol spoke about responding against Arsenal at the weekend and a lot of the players have said the performance wasn't good enough.
To get brushed aside so easily on their home patch wasn't good enough. I don't think they will be that poor again. In a way I think that could work against Arsenal this weekend. You've got to expect a response. I'm sure that Jol has got into his players. I think Arsenal can expect quite a difficult game.
"Since Jol arrived at the football club two years ago, he's had them playing some really good football. Alongside that good football, there are some really steely players"
Since Jol arrived at the football club two years ago, he's had them playing some really good football. Alongside that good football, there are some really steely players. You look at the likes of Brede Hangeland and Philippe Senderos, an Arsenal old boy. Steve Sidwell was suspended for the Chelsea game but he returns for the Arsenal game so that will be a big boost.
It was all a bit too easy for Chelsea on Wednesday and I think that hurt the Fulham players. They've got a lot of flair players in the team, the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz. Martin Jol prides himself on having a good mixture. For them to get rolled over was a real surprise.
Jol gets fed up of talking about Berbatov because he is always the focus of every single press conference. You can say rightly so, because he is still in my opinion one of the best players in the Premier League. I know Arsenal fans will remember him from his time at Spurs where he scored some important goals against them.
Since he's gone to Fulham, he's really relished being the main man. Everything goes through him. He's so difficult to mark because he can drop deep and play between the lines. It's difficult to pick him up because you're unsure whether your defenders or your midfielders should be marking him. He's got clever players around him like Ruiz and Giorgos Karagounis. Berbatov is the main man but Fulham have got other players at the football club that can hurt Arsenal.
Where Fulham struggle is that they don't have too many options coming off the bench. If they are chasing a game, they are looking at players like Urby Emanuelson, who is on loan from AC Milan but hasn't really done it. When it doesn't go right for them, they do struggle when they are behind. If Arsenal can get an early lead, as Chelsea did, Fulham could struggle to get back into the game.
I think Fulham will win, purely because they were so poor against Chelsea that I can't see them playing that badly again. I haven't seen too much of Arsenal recently but, from what I understand, they struggled to break down Everton. If Fulham can be resolute and hold out for the first half hour and then get an early goal in the second half, I can see them winning. I'm going to go for a 2-1 home win.
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