Arsenal 4 Fulham 1- Player Ratings – Convincing or Flattering?

January 2, 2019

After that disgrace at Anfield against the country’s best team, a decent result was essential heading into a New Year against a Fulham side also struggling for confidence.

First Half

Both sides showed some nerves early on and it was a bit scrappy. Thankfully Sessegnon left his shooting boots at home. Suddenly Granit decided to risk a nosebleed by moving into the rarefied heights of the penalty area. Wobbly’s pass was cleverly left by Laca and the big Swiss had a fairly simple toe poke finish.

Courtesy of David Price @priceyd101

Arsenal’s play picked up from there and we should have added to the lead before half time.

Second Half

The second goal was a thing of beauty with incisive work filleting Fulham’s left flank. Auba’s clever pass to the Wardrobe put him in the ideal position to lay one on a plate for Laca.

After a couple of chances to extend our lead the Tinkerman brought on two forwards with a gambler’s throw of the dice. A sloppy pass out to the Terrier and a barge in the back won Fulham the ball and the inevitable, ‘brown trousers watching The Arsenal’ period of the game came as the lead was halved by a sub. Fulham scented a wounded animal, so the next goal would be crucial.

Thankfully Rambo came on as sub and almost immediately followed up an Auba pinger against the post and we could breathe easy once again. Auba then missed a little dink finish over the keeper before finally getting his goal via a deflection and a Papa assist.

4-1 and game over for a Fulham team which probably expected no less.



A fine result considering the less than perfect performance, though why we can’t see out winning positions without giving everyone kittens will, seemingly, forever be a weakness.


Leno – competent, making crucial stops when the game threatened to slip away from us … 7

Maitland-N – right wing back or right back, equally adept – starting to get some confidence back … 7

Papa – far happier playing lesser strikers and his first assist for twenty years … 6

Kos – our captain is slowly beginning to find his feet again … 7

Shkod – Injured or another half-time tactical admission that we got things wrong in the first half? … 6

Wardrobe – majestic at wing back – like a runaway train on the burst, setting up chances with its front wheels … 8

Guendouzi – heart of a lion – more to come from the young man … 7

Xhaka – his goal should have been the cue for a landslide – he himself could have had another – excellent through ball in the second half to set Laca free … 7

Wobbly – big chances galore came from his feet in the first half – much improved … 8

Laca – Fine goal and perhaps didn’t moan quite as much when he was subbed …. 7

Auba – a goal machine – he’s going to run away with the golden boot if he can sharpen his finishing even further … 7


Terrier – clearly he needs a rest as he’s been carrying some of the team on his tiny shoulders earlier in the season … 6

Rambo – instant impact at exactly the right moment – thanks for all the goals Aaron … 7

Saka – debut boy got a brief taste of the high life … 6

chas (who largely saw the game through BBC goal flashes and Arsenalist clips on Twitter)


How lucky are you? Double Bubble and a rather more sombre reflection on the day’s proceedings from LBG, your man at the stadium……

At the start of the day Chas asked for a “game to be proud of”. I will include the word proud for as long as is possible, but I’m afraid readers may see it disappearing into the ether quite quickly in my assessment of the game.

Be proud AAers of the result and three points, of some evidence of determination to rectify the travesty of a performance that was Anfield.

Be pleased with another goal from Aubang ( even thought he should have had an easy hat-trick) and Laca being given enough time on the pitch to score his goal before being (ridiculously) substituted. (Be pleased that he thought about kicking up a right fuss on seeing his number, but refrained when he heard the whole ground boo the decision, and instead went off graciously).

Be pleased with the short period of time AM-N was able to influence the game further forward before being dragged back in the rearranged defence.

Be pleased Fulham were useless in front of goal and Leno had little to do. (Two x Sessegnon chances put away early on and we could have lost!)

Be pleased that Kos is back, even if puzzled by the couple of pub defenders playing alongside him, which makes him more nervous than usual.

Be pleased Ramsey mishit a shot and scored.

Sorry, that’s the best I can do on the “proud”ish front.

I have an opinion, on why much is not right currently and will share when others have disagreed with everything I’ve said!

LBG Ratings

Leno – What he had to do was fine. Goal was up the other end and, although looked somewhat chaotic, didn’t seem he had added to that … 7

AM-N – Some good things going forward, breaking inside. Shame dragged back, where he is wasted, but still kept his end up defensively … 7

Mustafi – No pace, poor positioning, no sense of danger. Always tackles to the ground. Rarely gets the ball … 3/4 

Sokratis – Didn’t win anything in the air. Always tackles to the ground. Sometimes gets the ball … 4

Kos – Some good work. Unlike the other two, does find his own players mostly with passes going forward … 5/6

Wardrobe – Some good work going forward. Not a very good defender … 6

Ouzi – A good game generally. Looking to play “dynamic” passes and succeeds generally. Makes some mistakes (He’s young), but positive, which is what I want from him … 7

Xhaka –  Slows everything down, shovels poop, passed back more often than forward. Is simply not good enough, not quick of thought and action enough to be “the Controller ” in the deep-lying central position. And because he is (trying) to do this job, displaces Terrier to the right, which wastes him through lack of contact with the ball … 3 (for his goal)

Wobbly  – End product, passing, shooting, dribbling generally poor. Knocked off the ball several times easily. Dribbles round and round and round and up his own backside … 4 ( for his pass for Xhaka’s goal, and probably something else that I’ve forgotten)

Aubang – Goal. Missed goals, closes down occasionally. Would like to see more heart … 6/7

Laca – Goal. Works hard, makes runs, rarely found due to people like Xhaka not looking up unless opposition back off and then Laca’s runs are marked … 7


Ramsey – Goal … 6

Terrier – ( couple of poor tackles on him. Lucky not to be injured …. again) … 6

And the winger Did he touch the ball?

Graham Scott? more like Terry Scott                                                            Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Referee – Absolute pants (original choice of description didn’t pass the censors – ed). One penalty waved away. Tackles from behind allowed throughout the second half … 1

Written by a slightly miffed (it would seem) LBG


New Year Wishes

January 1, 2019

In this first post of 2019 I would like to thank you. Thank you for reading AA, thank you to those who commented and an especial thank you to those who wrote a post.

2018 was a tumultuous year at Arsenal, I expect the same for 2019. Hopefully no managerial change but equally hopefully, a change of on-field personnel. Arsenal have created an entirely new management set-up, brought in the very best chaps to change the club from Arsenal Wenger. They have in Emery a man who will not be concerned about damaging egos and will bring AFC into the modern era.

My targets for AFC up to summer will be a Top 6 finish, a good run in the Europa and most importantly an indication of an Emery team; one which is based upon organisation and a solid defence. He must be massively frustrated by the goals against column.

In summer I would like to see us loan/sell at least 5 players with a similar number coming in.

By Xmas I would like to see us less than 16 points below the PL leaders and playing the Arsenal way. with a cohesive defensive policy, creative MF’s and the same two excellent strikers.

Let’s start with a win this afternoon.


A Proper Arsenal Goal

Many a slip twixt lip and cup, and we know Arsenal can slip up but Fulham have to be good opposition after the recent humiliation. Despite the mounting injury list, AFC should not lose in the manner of L’pool. A player of Sokratis experience should not be conceding 2 penalties (yes, I know they were both bogus).

GN5 gave us the stats which indicate a positive result. We need it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a fine victory this afternoon.

Let it be So.


Our home record against Fulham

December 31, 2018

Fulham were formed in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew’s Church Sunday School F.C., founded by worshippers (mostly adept at cricket) at the Church of England on Star Road, West Kensington (St Andrew’s, Fulham Fields). They won the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and, having shortened the name from Fulham Excelsior to its present form in 1888, they then won the West London League in 1893 at the first attempt.

The club gained professional status on 12 December 1898, the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League’s Second Division. They were the second club from London to turn professional, following Arsenal then named Royal Arsenal 1891.

Famous names like Johnny Haynes, Bobby Moore, Rodney Marsh and George Best had been part of the team through the years.

Our first league meeting with Fulham was in Division 2 on March 14th 1914 and it ended in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal. Overall we have played them 27 times at home and Fulham have never won a single game; they have managed just 5 draws and have been outscored 67 to 23.

Arsenal v Fulham 1914

Complete league results

Fulham’s Bobby Robson clears the ball from Arsenal’s Jon Sammels


At the time of writing Fulham’s 2018-19 record is W2, D5, L12, GF17, GA43 and they are in 19th place.

I cannot envisage anything other than a victory for Arsenal.


Away form to Continue?

October 7, 2018

A trip to The Cottage is full of nostalgia. Cosy ground by the river, no longer owned by that clown Al-Fayed (now owned by a Pakistani American) and managed by a chap from Serbia, Fulham are a fine club

A family club (whatever that means).

They have some decent players as well … the wonderkid Sessegnon, the powerful Mitrovic, the speedy and very expensive ex-Chav Schurrle, a very good Italian MF named Seri. They are a decent team who have yet to find their feet in the PL.

If you need to know more, read GN5’s excellent post from yesterday.


I expect a tough game this lunchtime. We returned from a very long Spursday trip to Baku  late Friday morning and had only a day to prepare for this one, though many players were rested for the Qarabag tie.

The team almost picks itself with only the Holding or Mustafi selection in doubt. My hope is that Emery rewards Holding with a starting  role but I suspect he will give the shirt to Mustafi (AWTH).

Oh … I forgot. We still have the Ozil & Ramsey quandary. I much prefer Iwobi to play instead of Aaron but think we will see a repeat of the early subs with Ramsey starting but not finishing the game.

My Team:


Bellerin    Mustafi    GB   Monreal

Ramsey   Terrier    Xhaka


Lacazette    PEA

As usual we will have a very strong bench.

Much is being made of the possible 9. Given we have yet to see a solid consistent 90 minutes in any of our victories it is proof that good fortune remains important in a fledgling managerial career. Had our opposition taken the many chances on offer we would be discussing Emery in a very different manner.

Should be an entertaining game and, if we can score early, a positive result.



Arsenal FC – our record against the Cottagers

October 6, 2018

Our first game against Fulham was on February 6th, 1904 when Fulham, then in the First Division of the Southern League, passed through all seven Preliminary Qualifying Rounds to make their debut in the First Round of the FA Cup. The eighth game was one too many as Woolwich Arsenal won 1-0. This was the one and only time the two clubs have met in any Cup competition.

Fulham gained professional status on 12 December 1898, the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League’s Second Division. They were the second club from London to turn professional, following Arsenal in 1891- then named Royal Arsenal.

While Fulham have never beaten Arsenal in away games (they have lost 22 tied 5 and been outscored 67 to 23), their home record is a tad better having won 8 tied 5 and lost 14 and were outscored 13 to 38. Their last away win was on Jan 2nd 2012 when they won 2-1.

Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

London Club Trivia

Chelsea beat Clapton Orient in the first Football League derby between two London clubs – in November 1905.

The first derby in the top flight, between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge (November 1907), was watched by an estimated 55,000.

As Highbury Stadium was built in 1913 on land owned by the Church Commissioners, Arsenal agreed not to play on Christmas Day or Good Friday, until they bought the freehold in 1925. The last Christmas Day game there was against Chelsea in 1954.

When Spurs were relegated in 1934-35, a year after finishing third, they lost both games to League Champions Arsenal – by 5-1 at Highbury and 6-0 at White Hart Lane; still their joint record home defeat.

If you think fixture congestion is bad these days, in 1905-06 Chelsea had to play a League game and FA Cup qualifying round tie on the same day. Prioritising the League, they sent their reserves to meet Crystal Palace in the Cup and lost 7-1; still the heaviest Cup defeat by any League club against non-League opposition.

For the 1989-90 season London had a record number of clubs – eight – in the top division, meaning 56 derby matches. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham finished in the top five while Charlton and Millwall were both relegated, the remaining three teams were, Crystal Palace, Wimbledon and Queens Park Rangers.

Arsenal have finished as highest placed London club 58 times, more than everyone else put together. It includes a run of nine successive seasons from 1996-2004; the longest sequence since they were the capital’s only representatives more than 110 years ago.

Steve Bould scored the quickest-ever own goal in the top flight in the Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal fixture on Saturday February 17th 1990. The Arsenal defender put one past his goalkeeper John Lukic after just 15 seconds.


Easier than Spurs?

January 18, 2014

Fulham, should be a stroll but will it?

BR spends much of the day with his head in the clouds pondering upon imponderables and when I sat to start this post it was the name Fulham which interested me. Why are so many places  named …. ham or Ham …..?  Obvious really to a Danish speaker, Ham originates from the Anglo-Saxon “hjem” meaning home or homestead.  ‘Ful’ (in danish *fugl*-silent g) means bird or fowl, so home of the fowls. If one adds another *m* (hamm) it means water-meadow.  As Fulham is on the low lying banks of the Thames shouldn’t it be Fulhamm? I will write to the new owners.

Onto the football. Fulham appear to be in free-fall. Jol couldn’t inspire them and this new fellow is struggling. Will they go down? Much depends upon the form of those around them but with Pulis and Poyet beginning to influence their teams it is highly likely.

Who do you think will be relegated? It is usually a couple of the promoted teams but this season it is almost impossible to predict – at the moment there are just 6 points separating the bottom 11 clubs! My guess – West Ham,  Fulham and Palace (I dislike Pulis and Allardyce and less London derbies).


Cone-Man and The Barbarian

What can Meulensteen do to stop the rot? Well, the return of Hangeland to his porous defence will be hugely beneficial, the Norwegian may be ponderous ( 😀 ) but he is experienced and Fulham’s defensive leader. We welcome back an old boy who has made a fine career for himself – Steve Sidwell who will line up alongside the deeply distasteful Scott Parker (watch him kick lumps out of our lads), possibly TMHT’s fellow countryman and national captain, Karagounis and some fellows called Kasami and Degajah (sound like types of sushi) or perhaps the old but good loanee Dempsey can add some guile. Taarabt is also available but despite his undoubted talent he remains erratic.

Upfront. Darren Bent likes a goal against the club he supports (AFC) – a few years back I saw him as the successor to TH14 – how wrong was I! Will Fulham play two strikers with Berbs and Bent? Highly unlikely, my guess is they will pack the midfield, play deep, look for a set-piece goal and pray to escape a hammering. If we score a couple early it could turn nasty for the Cottagers.

I don’t want to put a bok on us but Fulham have never won away at Arsenal.

Arsenal:  Still lots of injuries but we continue to put out an excellent team, perhaps Mr Wenger is right when he states this is his best ever squad. Is it? We certainly have depth throughout the squad, particularly if Bendtner improves as cover for Giroud.

Can Cazorla and Podolksi start in the same team given Ozil’s automatic start? It assumes Santi will play centrally with Podolski coming in from the left. Is Podolski clever enough to play the great one touch football Ozil, Jack, Santi and OG play? I believe he is but I also expect him to leave in summer (a topic for another day).

My Team:

arse v ful

I know ……. no Pod and no Cazorla but given the balance of the frontline we have to play Gnabry out right with a licence to cut inside his fullback.

Or Cazorla plays left and Gnabry rides the pine. Or Podolski plays in place of Tomas and Santi plays alongside him. Who knows, we could see a few minutes from Park ! Any injury to a CB will result in Sagna playing CB and Jenks getting a run. Let’s hope that with TV out we can keep both Kos and BFG fit.

This may seem presumptuous but if we do not take 3 points today then we can forget the title. Why? Because this is probably our easiest game of the season apart from Spurs away.

Let’s finish with a story of pride coming before a fall but with a considerable silver lining.

There was a young player who learned his trade in the Arsenal youth team and was hailed as the next Liam Brady. He scored for AFC before his 19th birthday but after  just 9 games he was loaned out to Norwich and Blackburn to “beef up”. Returning to Arsenal he put in a transfer request saying he was being denied a first team place ( as attacking MF’s we had Cesc, Bobby, Freddie, Hleb, Reyes & Diaby). His “reward” was a transfer to Blackburn. Two seasons later and in one of the most bizarre signings of modern times he was sold to a team of North London no-hopers for a massive fee and a 6 year contract worth over £50k a week!! His career highlight was to come at THOF in the skinny cock shirt when he scored an outrageous and incredibly lucky goal in a 4-4 draw. He played a total of 44 games for the first team and that was it for him. A number of seasons in the reserves, a couple of loan deals, including one to Championship Birmingham who refused to sign him permanently and finally the spanish archer from Spurs.

So, why do I bring up David Bentley? Because it fascinates me how someone who has totally screwed up his career (he earned 7 full England caps as a 23 y.o) can earn  over 15 million quid in the last 6 years AND get a £1m loyalty bonus because no-one would sign him – an average wage of £360k+ a game for a very average player!! And what now for a man who is still younger than RVP and Mertesacker? I will tell you …. nothing; no team has offered him a contract.


“What sin have I committed to deserve wearing this awful shirt?

The moral of the story: Sign for Spurs and become mega-wealthy whilst sitting in your Essex home playing with yourself (I mean playing computer games you mucky people!)

Another big game for Arsenal and Mr Wenger. The bookies have us as 2/9 favourites and they are seldom wrong.

Big Raddy

Raving at The Craven.

April 20, 2013

A Spring day in London town, an away trip to that pleasant part of the metropolis, our team on a run of unbeaten games and against decent opposition, should be a good day out.

3 points would make it a great day out.

Fulham’s loss to Chelsea last week shouldn’t mask the quality of their recent play, they were the better team in the first half yet went in for their quartered orange slices two goals down – it was a travesty. I am sure Martin Jol will assure his team that today will be different.

Early in the season we were having a pub discussion about who would be the last man standing in a pub brawl amongst football managers, I am sure you have done the same…… Needless to say our beloved Mr Wenger wouldn’t last long, probably even less time than Fatboy Benitez. The unanimous winner was Martin Jol, a man who has a face like a dog chewing a wasp, but a good manager and a man players are unlikely to argue with!


Want Some?

What I like about Jol is that his team play for each other; Fulham have some fine talent in Berbatov and Ruiz, but essentially their strength comes from unity. How else can you explain Big Phil Senderos getting 20 games this season. I have always like Big Phil and thought he could be a future Arsenal Captain, sadly injury, lack of composure and a slower turning circle than even our BFG, has hindered his career.

Let us be under no illusions, today will be a tough game, Fulham beat Spurs at White Hart Lane  only a couple of weeks ago and in Berbatov have a player who likes to score against The Arsenal, but as always this will be about how we play. The loss of two points to Everton was a result of a lack of quality finishing; we won the game in every department but failed to be clinical.

My Team:

arse v fulham

Of course, the above could turn out to be complete tosh, and AW will go with a 3 man midfield of JW, Santi and Mikel, but should he field my team I think we will win the game.

AW has been in the press saying nice things about The Ox – that he is maturing and will have more games next season. Is this a carrot to an unhappy player or will Alex find his place in a team which seems settled with Alex on the bench? The latter hope because he is an essential element in the Triple winning team of 2016.

Today’s English Explorer:  Many of our explorers have been rich men who travelled to find fame, but of course most of England’s great explorers had one thing in mind when they left behind the Cliffs of Dover – Money. Great Britain became Great on the back of trade and opening up of new markets or finding new items for sale was hugely important. Think how the import of silk, sugar, tobacco, teak, cotton etc affected the country we know and love. Charles William Barkley (1759 – 1832) was one of those traders. Going to sea aged 11 working for the East India Company, he was mainly sailing between the Far East and the West Indies. In the 1790’s he went to British Columbia, Canada – there is a sound named after him (the Barkley Sound near Vancouver). The Pacific was his domain and he started trading fur between China and Canada.


There are no images of Barkley but I found this old pic of the Young Raddy

Barkley traded all over the Pacific bringing huge wealth to both The East India Company and his English backers. During this time he opened up unknown areas of the Canadian Pacific coast. He died in Mauritius aged 73.

Can we win today? Well, we have been very good on the road, the team is consistent and the sun is shining. What do you think?

p.s. It isn’t really the Young Raddy – he was better looking.


Big Raddy

Fulham. Mannone’s Last Stand?

November 10, 2012

A skimpy one today…

We are not firing on all cylinders and as such need to dig in to get a result.

Martin Jol is a decent bloke who got shafted by those fools down the road. A man you would want on your side in a scrap.

Fulham are a good team who play decent football. Berbs plays with a Gitane hanging from his lip and is a craftsman. They are strong in defence and have a decent record against us – drawing at The Ems last season. Expect a tough game.

Fulham have the same number of points as us.

Arsenal are suffering from injuries particularly in midfield.
We need some players back. In attack Podolksi wants to play centrally, so does, Giroud, so does Theo and Mr Wenger wants to play Gervinho there. Insoluble problem? Not with the number of injuries we pick up.

Vito has done sterling work in Szczesny’s absence. With TPIG’s return to fitness what will AW do? Based upon Mannone’s Schalke performance I would say he is our Number One for the time being. TPIG will have to work for his shirt

My team:

My concerns are the attacking possibilities of such a midfield and perhaps Mr Wenger will go with Arshavin who has been on fine form this season. Having Walcott out wide will give Fulham problems.

I would love to see us play 4-4-2 with Podolski further forward but know it will not happen.

Todays explorer: Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592). Circumnavigated the globe. Plundered Spanish shipping wherever he found it. Generally a top bloke who brought silk and spices from East Asia to the court of Queen Elisabeth. Cavendish was knighted at the age of 28. Rumour has it that Cavendish was personally acquainted with Elisabeth’s crown jewels. Sadly, he died on his second voyage (32 y.o) off the coast of Ascension Isles. His ship went on to discover the Falklands Islands in 1592. As many know there is a square in London named after him .

A Ladies Man

We need these points more than Fulham. With the cave dwellers coming next Saturday, a confidence booster would be great. Please Arsenal score early – even better score two early. The fans are restless.

Written by Big Raddy

On the Sunny Side of the Street

November 26, 2011

Following the International break, we are back in the full swing of club football with Arsenal playing their third game in a week; what with City on Tues, Wigan on Saturday and Olympiakos the following Tues, we are busy. Long may it remain thus because it means we are in all competitions.

Today brings Martin Jol’s Fulham to the Emirates. Fulham are 16th in the PL, and are on a poor run of form (LLDDDWLLWL ). This is unsurprising because Fulham have been hard hit with injuries and despite the return of the OAP Riise, they will be missing Stephen Kelly, Damien Duff,  ex-Gunner Sidwell and Simon Davies. For a squad as small as Fulham’s this is hard to overcome.


We have won our last 2 games following action in the CL.

Fulham have yet to win at our place  –  Pl 25 W22 D3 L0.

Fulham are on a run of 34 away London derbies without a win.

Fulham have yet to score more than one goal at THOF

Fulham have won  only 12 away fixtures out of their last 101. We are 4/9 to win with Ladbrokes.


It has been pointed out that we have played the same team twice running which showed in the way the players connect, I fully expect us to play the same team again. Why change when the players have next week to rest?  That said, perhaps Ramsey could rest his young bones.

We have been finding a rhythm not seen at THOF for sometime and it is this which is so encouraging. This Arsenal team do not have the swagger of The Henry teams, nor the calculated violence of the Adams years, instead the current Gunners team are becoming more than the sum of it’s parts. It bodes well for the future, and should allow players of the quality of Arshavin, Benayoun, Diaby, the Ox, JW, Sagna etc etc etc to slot seamlessly into the team when required.

My Team:

It would be great if Gervinho  got on the scoresheet today. He has been dallying in front of goal which suggests a lack of confidence (wanting to make sure rather than using his instincts).  Theo is also due a goal as is Ramsey, but it would be a fool who bet anyone’s house on RvP not scoring this evening.

To continue the series of famous Gooners,  we go to the Thirtie’s and as luck would have it I have found a Gooner and a great inventor. Alan Blumlein. This is a top bloke. Inventor of stereo and the Radar. Alan was born in Hampstead in 1903 and at the age of  28 he patented Stereophonic Sound whilst working for EMI. His spare time was spent at Highbury where he was a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Blumein died in 1n an aircrash in 1942 whilst testing his newly patented radar.

Mr Blumlein the morning after celebrating the 1936 FA Cup victory (slightly the worse for wear)

All the form guides point to a home victory but we have learned to our cost that application in all games is essential, losing 3 points to relegation fodder like Blackburn, Spurs and Liverpool is proof that no quarter can be given.


Written by Big Raddy

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners…..

May 9, 2010

I have end of season blues. The past few weeks have been tough but are nothing compared to the cold turkey that starts on Sunday evening. Every close season is tough, but with the prospect of having the “scum from the Lane” gloating for 6 weeks, and the media circus that surrounds the World Cup,  this summer  is going to be grueling.

However, we have the little matter of tying up 3rd place and automatic qualification to the CL. For goodness sake Arsenal please do not blow this…. the consequences are unthinkable. Fortunately today’s opposition have bigger fish to fry in just 4 days time.

If we could have picked who to play today, there can be little doubt Fulham would be at the very top of the list. Fulham have never beaten us at home, and have won only one away game all season – to Pompey on the first day of the season!

In my early childhood Fulham were famous for paying the then England captain, Johnny Haynes the amazing sum of 100 pounds a week. The furore was all over the back pages of the papers. How could a humble footballer be paid such an outrageous amount of money?? If only they knew what was to come!! The 60’s saw Tommy  Trinder and Jimmy Hill.  Then there  was a fine season when Rodney Marsh, George Best and an ageing Bobby Moore played at The Cottage, three of the greatest entertainers ever to grace a pitch. Unfortunately putting two huge party animals together was never going to be a recipe for success and Best’s alcoholism ended the fun, but I was lucky enough to see them play.

It says much about Fuham that no-one I have ever met has Fulham on their hate list. No-one dislikes them. Even with a Chairman of such dubious background that he still awaits a British Passport!

It is difficult to find enough praise for Fulham’s achievements this season, and it would be a fitting testimony to the work of their manager and team should they win the Europa Cup. None of the Fulham team would get in our first choice team (OK  – the GK ) and yet with hard work, excellent tactics and what AW calls “spirit”, Fulham have had the most exciting season in their history. It would be understandable if Hodgson rested some players today, Zamora is out as is Duff. Hangeland is expected to play and is a supposed Arsenal transfer target. It is interesting to note that Wenger says he has never put in a bid for Hangeland despite the media telling us that Fulham had turned down a substantial bid last summer …. who do yo believe?

For Arsenal, Clichy could make a return which would help the team after Traore was so anonymous at Ewood.  Bendtner, Rosicky, Cesc, Vermaelen, Gallas, Song, Ramsey, Almunia and Denilson are all injured. Will Vela or Eduardo get another start? Could Arshavin be playing his final game at THOF? (I do not believe all the transfer talk). It will certainly be Silvestre’s last appearance. Some may say that he has been a poor signing, but nonetheless he has been wearing an Arsenal shirt and as such deserves support and thanks for his input.

The Craven Cottage game  earlier in the season saw us gain a 1-0 victory thanks to a RVP first half goal (in the days when we could hold a lead!), but the stand out player that day was our goalkeeper, the 21 y.o. Vitto Mannone.  Could he get a chance to repeat his heroics this afternoon? The goalkeeping issue has been covered at enormous length in the blogs, suffice it to say that Fabianski doesn’t inspire confidence with the fans, but Mr. Wenger will surely continue with The Pole in Goal.

As this is my final preview of the season, it would be churlish not to supply some facts about the London Borough of Fulham. Called Fulham because the tiny  hamlet was owned by a man named Fulla- it was home to the Bishop of London in the 12th century. By the 18th century Fulham was known as a haunt for gambling and prostitution, which is appropriate considering the other football club within Fulham’s boundary!

I expect us to end the season on a high, winning with style and brio. RvP will definitely score today.  One last time this season…… Come on you Rip Roaring Gunners.