The FourFourTwo Preview: Fulham vs Arsenal
Perhaps the league's least aggressive London derby pits Fulham against their wounded neighbours from up the road.
It all went horribly wrong for Arsenal on the opening day. Any early season optimism chanelled by Olivier Giroud's lovely sweeping strike against Aston Villa was soon dashed in devastating style by Paul Lambert's side, who stunned the hosts with counter-attacking verve, directness and the odd disputed refereeing decision to come back and win 3-1.
Angry jeers and cries of 'spend some f***ing money' rained down from the stands at the Emirates, and even this early into a new campaign the pressure is already on Arsenal to come up with a performance at Craven Cottage.
By contrast it went swimmingly for Fulham up at the Stadium of Light, where their only shot of the entire match with Sunderland was enough to secure an encouraging 1-0 away win. Patjim Kasami scored the game's only goal with a back post header from a corner - keep an eye on him this season.
Fulham won three of their opening five games last season, including a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich, and will look to build on a solid start with a result against an Arsenal side spurred by the Fenerbahce win but far from peak physical condition.
Arsenal have a mountain of injury worries to deal with at the moment. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby and Ryo Miyaichi all miss out, as does Laurent Koscielny, wounded by a horrific boot to the face against Fenerbahce in midweek. Suspension would have kept him out anyway.
Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs are also all lacking full fitness but should be okay to feature.
Maarten Stekelenburg injured his shoulder against Sunderland so David Stockdale should start, while Kieran Richardson picked up a hamstring injury and is unavailable. After joining his fifth London club Scott Parker could be handed a start by Martin Jol, and Darren Bent could also be involved, though a lack of match practice means a place on the bench is more likely.
Player to watch: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Aaron Ramsey's influence on Arsenal continues to grow, and after an impressive display against Aston Villa and a goal at Fenerbahce, the Gunners will again look to the Welshman for inspiration at Fulham.
Although he ended up on the losing side, Ramsey's passing against Villa was approaching Xavi-like levels of awesomeness - 81 out of 92 successful passes at a completion rate of 88%. Ramsey completed more passes than Villa's top three passers combined in that game and was at the heart of everything positive for Arsenal - a beacon in the darkness of a day where Gunners fans had little to smile about.
The 22-year-old was involved in all of Arsenal's top 5 passing combinations, recovered the ball nine times (second only to Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph (13)) and won 4 of 5 tackles attempted.
“His improvement is blatant,” Wenger raved this week. "One year ago, nobody would have imagined that Ramsey would be at that level now." After a shocking injury setback at Stoke in 2010, this could be his year.
Gone are the days when Wenger and former Spurs boss Jol used to tussle on the touchline, but a professional rivalry still exists and the gruff Dutchman will be keen to get one up on his opposite man. Wenger has long held the upper hand in this particular battle, winning 5 of his 11 Premier League clashes with Jol and only losing once.
Facts and figures
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Fulham 0-1 Arsenal (Prem, Apr 13)
- Arsenal 3-3 Fulham (Prem, Nov 12)
- Fulham 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Jan 12)
- Arsenal 1-1 Fulham (Prem, Nov 11)
- Fulham 2-2 Arsenal (Prem, May 11)
- Only against Manchester United (17) have Fulham lost more Barclays Premier League games than versus Arsenal (16).
- Arsenal won the most points from Barclays Premier League London derbies in 2012-13 (19).
- Fulham have won just three of their previous 24 Premier League games against the Gunners, but all three of these victories have come at Craven Cottage.
- There have been four red cards given in the last three Premier League meetings between Fulham and Arsenal (two each) at Craven Cottage.
- The Gunners have been given more red cards in the Premier League since the start of 2012/13 than any other side (6), including Laurent Koscielny's dismissal in the opening game of this term.
- The Whites attempted just one shot at goal (excluding blocked) in their opening day win over Sunderland, but this shot from Pajtim Kasami decided the game.
- Darren Bent has scored six goals in his last eight Premier League games against Arsenal.
- Arsenal have not lost their opening two matches of a Premier League season since 1992/93. In 2012/13, Arsenal did not win in the league until their third game, after drawing the first two 0-0.
- Fulham have never won their opening two matches of a Premier League season. The last time that they won their first two league games of a season was in 2000/01 in the second tier.
- Following his goal against Aston Villa, Olivier Giroud has now scored 12 goals in the Premier League for Arsenal. However, just one of these has come away from home.
Between a trip to Turkey and a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, fatigue could well play a part here. But Arsenal should be too strong for Fulham. 1-2.
Fulham vs Arsenal LIVE ANALYSIS using online Stats Zone