Amidst the excitement of Thierry Henry’s possible return to Arsenal, the Gunners (after a shocking start to the season) have the little matter of league games to win and next up is Fulham.
Arsenal looked to have started the 2011-12 Premier League season in the worst possible manner collecting just one point from their first three games (conceding 10 goals and scoring just 2). When they succumbed to that legendary 8-2 honking at Old Trafford it looked like their name could be removed from the “Big Four”. Le Proffessor looked to be under Le Pressure and there was even talk of Arsene Wenger being a spent force in the Premier League, something that would have been utter hearsay just a few years ago. Things took a huge turn for the better (after Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham) and the Gunners went on a tear, collecting 29 points from their next possible 36. 

Robin Van PersieArsenal look to be back 

At time of press (ahead of their New Year’s Eve class with QPR) the Gunners sit 7th in the league and a win could take them as high as fourth.  A short distance across London town lie Fulham who had an equally poor start to the season, but seem to have no idea of just how to turn things around. The Cottagers made just four points from their first six games and despite recording an unlikely treble of taking points from Liverpool, Manchester City (who face Sunderland) and most recently Chelsea; they have still succumbed to Swansea, Everton, Stoke and Newcastle. Fulham presently sit 13th in the table and are 14 points behind their local opponents. 

Now that the distraction of European football has left Fulham (following a “noble” exit from the Europa League) the Cottagers and Martin Jol can concentrate on climbing the league. They’re a reasonably safe bet to avoid the dreaded drop this year, currently at 12/1 to be playing Championship football next season, but they are also (and more tellingly) at 6/4 to record a top ten finish this season. Arsenal may be 11/1 to win the league this year (as they are already 12 points off the pace) but they are 1/100 to record a top ten finish, which should speak volumes about Fulham’s chances on Monday.  

The simple soccer odds have a home win at 11/4 and an away win at 10/11, a draw (maybe worth a cheeky bet) is at 13/5. Much as I like Fulham I can’t see them causing Arsenal too many problems. 

Horrible Histories

Looking at the last five meetings between these sides, (all in the EPL) Arsenal have been on the winning end three times and we’ve had two draws. I really don’t think this match will buck this trend and the best Fulham can hope for would be a draw. That’s not actually a wild bet as the last time this fixture was played (in the last game of last season) the game ended 2-2. Fans twice saw Fulham take the lead and force Arsenal to claw the game back, stealing a point thanks to a 89th minute equaliser form Theo Walcott. That game was memorable as it was the first draw for Fulham (in Premier League history) at home against Arsenal and only the second time that Arsenal had drawn the last game of a Premier League season. It was also quite the surprise result as Fulham had failed to score in six of their previous eight league games against Arsenal at Craven Cottage. This time round a 2-2 is at 11/2. If you fancy a draw, 1-1 (the result the last time these teams met, in November) is at 14/1, worth considering as Fulham have conceded exactly as many goals at home as they have scored all season.

I don’t fancy a draw as Fulham have conceded 14 goals in nine games at home this season and Arsenal have scored 19 in their nine away games. I feel Henry or no Henry Arsenal will start the New Year on the good foot.

Prediction: A 2-0 away win available at 17/2.