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Arsenal v Fulham: Must-Win For Feeble Gunners + Podolski Up Top?

Arsenal writer Jacob Windon previews an important game for the Gunners at home to Fulham on Saturday, including preferred starting line-up and news on Podolski


Podolski – wants central role

Good morning to you and welcome to another Saturday of Arsenal action. We host Fulham this afternoon, the first game in a series of must-wins, and the start to a rather testing period of the season. It’s another chance too for the misfiring Gunners to make up some ground on the rest of the top four after some pretty awful performances, it has to be said. There’s a lot to look forward to and preview as always, so without further ado lets have a brief look at the team news.

Wojciech Szczesny could return in goal, having played 90 minutes for the U/21’s on Friday afternoon, but in all likeliness we will see Vito Mannone continue in goal. Which I have no particular gripe with, especially having seen Szczesny play with an injury in the home game against Southampton, and how average his performance was because of that burden. Mannone has done pretty well for us this season however it’s obvious that he is not first choice, and hopefully Szczesny will return to goal for next week’s game at home to Spurs.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey face let fitness tests, so both could be in contention to play a part at some stage against the Cottagers. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are unsurprisingly still injured, and to be honest who knows when they’ll return. Hopefully soon, as we’ve really missed Rosicky’s creativity and attacking verve this season, and Abou Diaby showed his qualities, albeit briefly, during a neat run of games at the start of the season. Unfortunately Kieran Gibbs is still unavailable, so Thomas Vermaelen will continue at left back. As usual, below is my favoured XI:

Arsenal vs Fulham

I would like to see Francis Coquelin come in to replace the suspended Jack Wilshere. Whilst Aaron Ramsey may be the more likelier candidate to replace Jack, I feel that against a team like Fulham, spoilt for choice going forward, we will need a recognised defensive midfielder to try and contain the likes of Ruiz, Berbatov and even Rodallega. Coquelin has put in some decent performances this season and it’s a good chance for him to impress. Apart from the suspended Jack Wilshere there are no other changes to the side that drew 2-2 against Schalke midweek.

It has been a relatively quiet week off the pitch for Arsenal, but one story that caught the eye of many, including my own was Lukas Podolski’s ‘plea’ to play up front in a central role. It’s hard to argue with the German on that, who has been used on the left so far this season. Podolski admits himself that he is not a ‘classical winger’ and I for one can’t really understand why Arsene Wenger has been playing him there. There is a lot asked of Podolski when he plays on the left wing, he has to put in a defensive shift every game which ultimately limits his attacking input. This has been evident over the past couple of games, where Podolski has been reduced to a mere spectator. Part of this is due to the absence of Kieran Gibbs, whose excellent combination play with Podolski was a crucial factor in the fledgling games of the season. In addition to this defensive responsibility there is also the notion that Podolski has to share most of the goal scoring this season, and so far, after a good start, he has found it rather difficult dealing with this added pressure.

It’s a rather difficult situation, where Wenger has two strikers at his disposal and feels he has to play both of them every week, unfortunately this results in Podolski shunted out to the left. I suspect that Giroud will continue up front for the coming weeks but one thing I’d really like to see Wenger experiment with is playing Podolski up front flanked by Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The reality is that Podolski was given the number 9 shirt – a number that we almost always associate with a centre forward. And unquestionably, Lukas Podolski is a centre forward – yes he has played all of his football for the German national team on the left but this is Arsenal football club, not the German national team. Ultimately, we have to recognise that we are playing two strikers that are still adapting to the English game – and therefore we should search deep inside ourselves for yet more patience.

We should be looking to take all three points today against what I consider to be a very good team. Perhaps a vague positive heading into the game is Fulham’s dismal away record – but this stat is often exaggerated I feel, and they have been showing signs that they are trying to rectify this problem that has hampered their credentials as a consistent top ten side over the last few years.

Arsenal have failed to click in an attacking sense and we have to prepare ourselves for more of the same. However, the inclusion of Coquelin could potentially be a very positive move for the team, pushing Arteta forward slightly where he can have a greater influence on proceedings.

Arsenal are out of form – and it’s hard to play your way out of these little periods sometimes, but the best thing we can do is start winning games, starting today against Fulham. So fingers crossed from an Arsenal perspective. I’ll be back on Sunday, hopefully to talk about three very valuable points.

Come on you reds.

In the unlikely event that you enjoy reading me babble on and on about Arsenal and football and stuff, leave a comment below, I will reply back to you. Feel free to disagree with me on anything – that’s fine, however it would be most appreciated if you could refrain from using any abusive language.

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