So. Shite performance against Birmingham. Attack didn’t really get going. It happens. As a result we seem to have been written out of the title race by all and sundry. Particularly sundry. Every team has the occasional off day at home. When we won the league unbeaten in 2003/2004, we unexpectedly drew with Portsmouth, Fulham, Bolton and, oh yes, Birmingham. And that was a year we were unquestionably the best team in the league. The time before that when we won the title in 2001/2002, we lost at home to Leeds and Charlton, and drew with Bolton, Blackburn and Southampton. Not exactly league winning home form. Except we won the league. There’s only seven home league games left this season, and we’ve only not beaten United and Birmingham. Not bad.
This may be an response to a hyperbolic reaction to the Birmingham draw that didn’t actually happen, I haven’t looked particularly in depth into the post match analysis. We’re firmly into the latter half of the season now, and we really need to get going. Even though we drew and lost a few games in the 2001/2002 season, it was our remarkable form towards the end of the season that saw us take the title. With United in excellent form, it’ll take something similar this time round. We’re capable of it, but we need to stop playing shit. The last time we played something approaching our best for most of the game was against Reading back in mid November. Since then we’ve been grinding out results while not really performing to the best of our abilities and, while it’s a vast improvement of last season, we’re going to start dropping more points if we keep playing shit, and United don’t seem to be showing signs of being merciful if we do. However, that was probably said a few weeks back and they duly went and lost to West Ham.
Fulham are looking like they’re going to genuinely struggle to stay up this season. They currently find themselves second from bottom five points off safety. You have to go back to the start of November for their last win, since then they’ve lost seven and drawn three, as well as a draw against Bristol Rovers, which will see them having to play a replay next week after it was postponed. After Wenger fumed at the lads a tad after the weekend, I expect we may see a backlash here. We certainly shouldn’t take the game lightly, we lost this fixture last season, but against a side who’ve won two home games all season, with the players wanting to prove to Arsene that they’re up for it, this has surely got to be a win. We can’t really afford not to.
In their current seven season stint in the Premier League, we’ve only failed to beat Fulham twice in twelve meetings. A 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage last season, and a 0-0 draw in 2003. In the six previous away games against Fulham, we’ve scored thirteen goals and conceded three.
I expect Rosicky for Walcott will be the only change from the team that limped to a draw against Birmingham a week ago. Van Persie is dead. No point fooling ourselves. Hopefully he’ll be back and fit before the Champions League ties against AC Milan in a month’s time. When fit, he’s a world class forward, so we need to hope he’s back. The team that we play tomorrow, assuming it’s as I’ve put below, will be the first choice side for the next month or so I expect, until Toure returns. Djourou won’t be in the squad due to injury and will miss the next couple of weeks.
Subs: Lehmann, Hoyte, Diaby, Walcott, Bendtner.
Fulham currently top the injury table, with seven players out. Simon Elliot has Achilles Paratendinopathy. Harsh. Most noteworthy injuries are Bouazza and McBride. Well, I say noteworthy. Paul Konchesky is suspended. New signing Marlon King might be in the starting line up. Brede Hangeland was signed too close to this game to play. Bullard is fit after a long term out.