The Emirates plays host to what promises to be an attractive London derby on Saturday (3pm GMT) when Arsenal entertain Fulham.
Arsenal come into the match on the back of a 2-2 draw away to Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday. The Gunners had led 2-0 midway through the first half, but were in the end perhaps fortunate to emerge with a point, thankful to goalkeeper Vito Mannone for some vital interceptions.
The result came just a few days after a comprehensive 2-1 defeat away to Manchester United in the Premier League. That scoreline does not tell the full story of a match in which Arsenal were dominated for large stretches and rarely looked likely to threaten the United goal.
Arsenal have lost three of their last five Premier League matches and are currently seventh in the table, level with Saturday’s visitors on 15 points. Arsene Wenger has already all but thrown in the towel in the fight for the league title, admitting in the wake of the defeat to United that his team were “far away” from genuine contenders at this point in time.
In fairness, the Gunners have had a difficult fixture list to date, going away to Stoke, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United as well as hosting Chelsea. But Wenger will still be concerned by the home draw with Sunderland, the limp 1-0 defeat away to Norwich and the laboured 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.
The Gunners have the best defensive record in the league, but have looked a little frail at the back in recent weeks. United could easily have scored more than the two they managed last weekend, while Schalke cut through the Arsenal defence with ease during both of their recent encounters, scoring twice on each occasion.
The potential return from injury of Kieran Gibbs would be gratefully received with Andre Santos proving a less than able deputy at left-back.
On the offensive end, summer signings Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud combined to score Arsenal’s second goal in midweek, but are yet to contribute on a regular basis, managing just three goals between them in the Premier League this season. Santi Cazorla thus far looks the best of Wenger’s off-season purchases, consistently inventive and not afraid to chance his arm from long range.
Theo Walcott put in a promising performance against Schalke, scoring the opening goal, and is likely to start alongside Podolski and Giroud in a three-man attack on Saturday.
Fulham arrive at the Emirates in the midst of a four-match unbeaten run, albeit one that has featured three draws. Martin Jol’s men have been one of the great entertainers in the Premier League this season, involved in matches with four or more goals on five separate occasions.
Jol has gradually evolved a team that under Roy Hodgson and then Mark Hughes were famed for their defensive solidity into an attractive attacking side, occasionally lapse at the back but regularly thrilling going forward. Any side that makes room for both Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz is guaranteed at least a couple of moments of magic each match.
The club’s good start to the season is even more impressive in consideration of the summer departures of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, two of the cornerstones of last season’s ninth place finish. Jol has bought wisely, adapted the style of play and moved on. Had it not been for late equalisers conceded away at Southampton and Reading, Fulham could even have been in the top four at this stage.
The Cottagers have some tough fixtures coming up, though, with away trips to Stoke City and Chelsea to follow before the end of November. By the end of the month we should have a better idea of where they stand as regards competing for a European place. But the signs thus far have been promising and Jol will take his side to the Emirates looking to at least replicate the point they obtained in a 1-1 draw last season.
Arsenal v Fulham Betting Tips Verdict
Arsenal have endured an average start to the season by their standards and after conceding a two goal lead in midweek must now face a Fulham side high on confidence and scoring goals for fun.
Fulham have enough quality in the final third to seriously trouble the Arsenal defence, but at the same time are unlikely to keep a clean sheet themselves. We therefore believe a score draw is the most likely outcome.