On January 18th, Fulham travel to the Emirates to take on the league leaders Arsenal. Arsenal will be brimming with confidence coming off their fifth consecutive win, in all competitions, while Fulham are coming off a 3-0 win vs Norwich in the FA cup. Fulham have been incredibly inconsistent in their recent games with two 2-1 wins, a 6-0 defeat, and a 4-1 loss. This is a battle of teams at opposite ends of the table but, this is still a London derby and should be exciting.
While Arsenal are littered with injuries throughout the team, Fulham are nearly injury free. Fulham’s Mathew Briggs will be missing through injury but that is Fulham’s only injury concern. Arsenal continue to be near the top of the injury table. Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, and Abou Diaby are all out. Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, and Nacho Monreal are doubts for the game while Yaya Sanogo could make a return to the side.
Fulham have only beaten the Gunners once in their last 10 meetings and have never won at Arsenal in the Premier League era. That said, Arsenal have drawn their last two games vs Fulham, at the Emirates. Fulham are yet to draw a game under Rene Meulensteen and are 3-0-5 since he took over. Fulham have conceded 11 more goals than any other team in the league while Arsenal are tied for the best defensive record in the league.
Dimitar Berbatov will have to be up for the game if Fulham are going to get a result. Bearbatov’s performance’s have not been as good as they were in his first season at Craven Cottage. Berbatov’s chance conversion rate has dropped from 23% last season to 13% this season and his clear cut chance conversion rate has dropped from 59% to 33%. His creative numbers are also down slightly but was brought in for goals and has been unable to provide many goals this season. The biggest key for a Berbatov is whether he is motivated and whether he is up for a game. Of all the games Fulham will play this season, you’d think he’d be able to get up for the league leaders Arsenal. Not only does the fact that they are league leaders provide motivation but, Berbatov played for Manchester United as well as Spurs – both major rivals of Arsenal. Berbatov has that extra bit of class you do not often find in the relegation battle and could help Fulham get something from this game and stay up in the top flight.
Olivier Giroud playing well is a huge part of whether Arsenal play well or not. Olivier Giroud is a player who has faced a lot of criticism since he came to England. In his first season, Giroud struggled to fill the rather large boots of the departed Robin Van Persie and faced heavy criticism even as far as being labeled a flop. This season, Giroud started very well getting in among the goals and received praise for it. In November and December he faced a lot of criticism for going through a goal drought. While strikers will be judged on their goal returns, his hold up play and link up play are just as important for Arsenal as his goal scoring exploits and he should be praised for it more than he is. Giroud isn’t the best finisher but still has a solid chance conversion rate of 18%. What many people overlook is that, he’s one of the key cogs in Arsenal’s system right now, even when he isn’t scoring. The Frenchman links the play together and allows the talented Arsenal midfield to do what they do by putting them in good positions. A key example of what he brings was in the game where he didn’t play on New Years Day vs Cardiff. In that game Lukas Podolski got the nod on his own up top. While a better finisher, Podolski is not very good at holding the ball up due to his smaller stature, his passing is not as good nor is his movement. Arsenal ended up winning this game thanks to a dramatic late winner but, there was a noticeable drop in performance and Arsenal lost its shape up front too often without Giroud. Giroud has two goals in his last two games but is a huge cog whether he is scoring or not.
While anything can happen in football, it is hard to see past an Arsenal win for this one. Arsenal are back in great form and have lost only once at home this season. Fulham, on the other hand, have only taken nine points from 10 road games all season. Arsenal have only allowed six goals at home all season, with half of those coming in one game, so it will be tough for Fulham to score goals against this solid Arsenal team. If Arsenal are to reach their title aspirations, they have to continue picking up points against sides like this. I am predicting an Arsenal win from this one.
Prediction: 3-0 Arsenal
Arsenal are favourites to win this game at 2/9 with Winner Sports, while you can back a draw at 11/2 and a Fulham win at 12/1.
The 3-0 predicted scoreline is 7/1, while you can also back over 2.5 goals at 9/20.
You can also back either of the key men score first with Olivier Giroud at 2/1 and Dimitar Berbatov is 14/1.
All odds via Winner Sports where you can pick up a £25 free bet when you open an account!