As we take in our annual boat trip down the Thames there has to be a certain sense of trepidation considering previous form, the result against Everton and the news from Arsene that Santi, Jack and the Ox are all carrying knocks from Tuesdays battle.
You could see these knocks coming with cynical body-checks happening throughout and the Barkley incident where he rolled back and up Santi’s standing leg was enough to make me wince. Something that perhaps looks an awful lot worse in slow-motion, but also that requires looking at by the FA. There have been a few incidents of this recently and perhaps something needs to be done about it.
That said, I liked the Barkley kid, he is a bit like Rooney, big, strong, creative and he doesn’t hide in the big games. It will be interesting to see if Everton can keep hold of him.
So we take on the Cottagers again in yet another must win game knowing that a win would put us back up into 3rd overnight and leaving Chelski to play Liverpool and Spurs to play Citeh. Psychologically a win would be a great boon, putting the pressure back on both sides and we need to pick up our momentum again. I don’t think there will be any dropped heads following the game on Tuesday where we fought well but we just didn’t manage to nick it.
Fulham caused us serious problems in the reverse fixture earlier in the season which ended in a 3:3 draw although Arteta had a penalty saved in the 90th minute which would have taken the result our way. Recollections from the game include the rampaging, in-form Alex Kacaniklic tearing down the right and creating chance after chance with the ever-dangerous Ruiz and Berbatov causing problems for our centre-backs.
For this game Alex Kacaniklic has been recalled from loan so I doubt he will be a starter, but Jol might be thinking to let him loose again after a month away and 6 games under his belt. Regardless of the personnel available to Jol, if we perform as we can then the result will be ours.
For this to happen Rosicky needs to be fit. He has been behind some of the really good things we have been doing recently so we need him back on the field, especially when other key players are looking a bit leggy, such as Giroud who has given so much all season – playing in practically every fixture. I think we need to start with Poldi up front, give Olivier a bit of a breather and give Fulham something different to think about.
We’ve all waxed lyrical about how great Rosicky has been recently. He really is the conductor that calls the time, he makes us tick at our most fluent best and we are a much better side with him in it. That said, a fully fit Jack Wilshire can do that job too, as well as Thomas Eisfeld, who in the limited amount of times I have seen him has impressed me very much and indeed seems to have modelled his midfield game on Rosicky. In essence we need someone who can receive or retrieve the ball and then move it forwards 10-15 yards in the space of a second or two. Rosicky gives us that. He either beats a player and carries it himself, or passes it on and moves, creating space, fluency and he always provides an outlet. A great player and it’s a crying shame we haven’t been able to see more of him.
Of the other players who can really make the difference, it was Theo who was very effective against Riise in the previous fixture, getting two assists so Arsene must be thinking of unleashing that again. If I was picking the team it would look like this;
I would take this opportunity to rest Giroud and put him on the bench, he has given an awful lot this season and whilst he got two goals in the reverse fixture, Podolski scored too so this is a good time to give Olivier a breather and go for Fulham’s jugular.
Whatever the lineup, this is a results-based business and we are at the business-end of the season, no messing about just three points please lads. I’m serious, don’t muck me about.