Arsenal v Fulham: Will Mark Schwarzer wish he had changed sides?
Arsenal v Fulham, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, Saturday December 4, 3pm
FULHAM were the undoubted success story of English football last season, when the only Cottagers’ fans Roy Hodgson was unable to endear himself to were those suffering from vertigo.
An unforgettable run to the Europa League final combined with a respectable mid table Premier League finish was some feat considering the limited resources at the club’s disposal.
Perhaps its greatest resource was indeed manager Hodgson, however, and his considerable experience that saw previous relegation candidates become established in the top half of the table saw him lured away by Liverpool in the summer.
That left a tempting vacancy for an unemployed manager, and for Mark Hughes Craven Cottage fitted the bill nicely after his tumultuous reign at Manchester City had come to a bitter end the previous autumn.
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Hughes has, however, failed to inspire, with his side managing only two victories all season both of which came at home. Indeed away matches are a major issue for Fulham, as they simply cannot win on the road, managing it only once away in the league last season, against eventual relegation victims Portsmouth.
With no European adventures this time around to distract from Fulham’s remarkable susceptibility to home-sicknesses, their away form has once again become a major cause for concern.
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It is a concern that may well become synonymous with Fulham if their recent dismal form is not turned around. With low scoring draws, a derby defeat at Chelsea and a hammering at home to Manchester City in recent weeks, the prospect of this weekend’s trip to the Emirates does not bode well for Hughes’s side.
Added to this is the fact Fulham have never won at Arsenal, meaning the chances of points returning to the Cottage are likely to be as low as the temperature will be on Saturday.
Clint Dempsey, Danny Murphy and Simon Davies are still the mainstays of the side, although Brede Hangeland and Mark Schwarzer, who were often impassable during last season’s European run, have failed to hit the imperious form of last season that attracted the interest of Arsenal over the summer.
The pair could be in for a torrid time of it this weekend, and may well wish they were in the home dressing room come 5pm on Saturday.
Prediction: Arsenal 4 Fulham 0