Former Arsenal star fears Gunners could struggle at Fulham

Arsenal's Theo Walcott (left) and teammate Per Mertesacker walk off dejected following the Aston Vil

Arsenal's Theo Walcott (left) and teammate Per Mertesacker walk off dejected following the Aston Villa game - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Arsenal travel west for their first London derby of the season on Saturday with the pressure cranked up after their lamentable home defeat to Aston Villa.

Their 10-game unbeaten Premier League run – a sequence which pushed them over the line into fourth place last May at the expense of Tottenham – was shattered in emphatic fashion by Paul Lambert’s side.

Fulham, who were 1-0 winners at Sunderland last Saturday, have strengthened their squad with the signing of out-of-favour Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker – an Arsenal target not so long ago – and will fancy their chances of overcoming a Gunners squad down to its bare bones.

Former Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson is not overly confident about his old club’s chances.

“They will be nervous going to the Cottage, very nervous,” said Robson ahead of Saturday’s big game.

“It was a poor start to the season last weekend – we are still waiting for fresh new blood to come into the club and the squad is looking very thin. Nerves will be stretched.

“I have been honest about where the club is at and where I think it is going, and I honestly felt that we would improve on last season.

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“We’re only one game in so it is early days, but it doesn’t bode well.

“Fulham is a tough place to go to – I was there last season when we won 1-0 against 10 men although we really scraped that win. It was far from convincing.

“The squad has just had a midweek trip to Istanbul, and there are injuries. Add the pressure that is building up and it is a big weekend for Arsenal.”

Robson has polarised the Arsenal faithful with his outspoken criticism of the club, but he claims there are serious flaws that make him sound like a “stuck record”.

He added: “I feel like I am repeating myself but nothing changes – that has been the case for several seasons, I’m afraid.

“Players continue to play out of position, defenders don’t do the basics properly, midfielders don’t cover them … when we don’t have the ball we look vulnerable and you could see that against Villa.

“For one Villa goal the referee ran past Jack Wilshere! I love Jack, he is a great player, but he wasn’t exactly chasing back hard to help his defence out.

“And on top of that we desperately need reinforcements – quality reinforcements –which is what all the other clubs are doing. Spurs have brought in several big signings while we have brought in one lad on a free!”

Arsene Wenger celebrates 17 years at the club next month, but Robson is critical of the manager’s methods – echoing a growing debate among many fans.

“He has been fantastic on so many levels but now I have big concerns,” admitted Robson, who made 186 appearances for the club before leaving for West Ham in January 1987.

“He has too much control and even helped hire his own boss, which simply cannot be healthy. I want to see Steve Bould take more coaching and to really have an impact on the defence – I sometimes wonder how he feels about the situation.

“I am sorry, but Wenger doesn’t convince me any more despite the fact there are some quality players at the club.

“I honestly believe that if Jose Mourinho was at the club we’d finish top two easily.

“In fact, I would say the same if we had Guus Hiddink or even Rafa Benitez. We need to get back to basics and see the players do the simple things.

“With this side they can easily go and score two or three goals – and that is possible at Fulham on Saturday – but we also know we are vulnerable and can concede sloppy goals too easily.

“Which Arsenal will turn up at the Cottage?”