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Friday, 3 December 2010

Fulham (h) preview, no comment on FIFA

Now that we're in to December the games really do come thick and fast. At the end of the month we have the most ridiculous calendar in football including a Monday night game against Chelsea, followed by a trip to Wigan within 48 hours. There is really no need whatsoever for this congestion. The idea that football in this country needs the Christmas fixtures because the attendances are higher, thus bringing in extra revenue, does not apply to the Premier League. Most of the Premier League grounds are full whatever the time of year (apart from Bolton and Wigan perhaps) so there is no need for games in the top flight. Indeed, if the Premier League had a two week hiatus then maybe more people would go to lower division or non-league games. I would certainly consider going to watch my local side for an early kick-off on Boxing Day if Arsenal weren't playing. I've gone off on a bit of a tangent there, but our first December fixture is tomorrow against Fulham, who are really struggling at the moment.
The Arsenal team news is that Nasri and Squillaci have shaken off knocks and are fit to play tomorrow. I think that if Robin Van Persie has come out of midweek unscathed he will play in the pivotal role at the front of the midfield. Arsene Wenger made a point today of saying that RVP and Marouane Chamakh can play together in the team, with Van Persie behind the front man. He stopped short of saying what would happen when Cesc Fabregas returns, but Wenger has certainly prepared the ground for the pair to play tomorrow. I expect Sagna and Clichy to return, and I would imagine Koscielny will continue to somehow keep Johan Djourou out of the team.
Fulham are having a poor season. It's no coincidence, I suspect, that Mark Hughes is their Manager. The defensive organisation brought in by Roy Hodgson has started to disappear, with the back-four being exposed more than it has been in the past couple of years. However, Fulham are not short of quality players. Mark Schwarzer usually plays well against Arsenal (his mistake on the final day of last season against us being a rare error) and the giant Hangeland is formidable in the air - probably Chamakh's biggest test so far. Danny Murphy is a very good footballer in the midfield and Clint Dempsey and the underused Zoltan Gera are very dangerous going forward. With our record at home this season Arsenal will have to get over this complacency against the smaller teams and put in a proper performance tomorrow. I'll be interested to see whether Hughes has persuaded his new side to adopt the usual tactics he uses against Arsenal - i.e. kick anything that moves.
Manchester United's game against Blackpool has been postponed tomorrow so Arsenal and Chelsea both have a chance to go top of the table. Chelsea are at home to Everton who need to respond to their hammering at home by West Brom last week. Chelsea's patchy form has seen them rush John Terry back in to their squad yet again. If Everton can get a result at Stamford Bridge, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, Arsenal could go back to the top with a good win. There is no doubt that Arsenal should win comfortably, but that was also the case against West Brom, Newcastle and West Ham. This is the team I think we might see tomorrow:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Van Persie - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.

I don't want to comment on the World Cup vote too much. As you know I am not a fan of international football during the season, but World Cup's and Euros get us through the Summer that much quicker. The thought of the World Cup being in England was very exciting to me. There is not a doubt that the English bid was by far the strongest in every way. In my view England shouldn't need to "bid" but should be invited to host the World's biggest jamboree. The press are taking a lot of the blame because of the corruption stories, but this merely highlights FIFA's warped sense of priorities. As I've said before, FIFA should have spent less time attacking the English media and actually dealing with the scandalous behaviour that infects that organisation. Sadly this will never happen. Therefore, it was no surprise that Russia and Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. I'm willing to wager that one of the major endorsements for World Cup 2018 will be taken up by Sibneft (google it if you don't know who owns that firm). I'll say no more, otherwise I won't be able to enter any sushi bars in London (not that I would as the very thought of sushi makes me want to puke).

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