Arsenal vs. Fulham: EPL Fixture Is Make-or-Break Matchup for Both Clubs

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 10, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02:  Francis Coquelin of Arsenal holds off Bryan Ruiz of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on January 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Sitting at sixth and seventh in the English Premier League table, respectively, the fixture between Arsenal and Fulham in Emirates Stadium is a make or break matchup for both clubs.

Arsene Wenger's bunch recently lost to Manchester United and notched a draw with Schlake 04. The Cottagers are unfortunately moving in the wrong direction as well. They have only won one of their past six matches, with two draws in the mix and the lone victory over lowly Ashton Villa on October 20.

Arsenal isn't without their faults. Wenger's managing record is stellar, as the Gunners have never finished below fourth place in the table under his watch (h/t Ben Chodos). But that is in far severer jeopardy in 2012-13 than it has been in years past.

The departure of former striker Robin van Persie—who led Arsenal in goals over the past three seasons—to Manchester United has left a gaping hole in the Gunners' attack that newly acquired Lukas Podolski has been able to fill. However, Theo Walcott has been providing some spark for the Arsenal offense, along with attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla.

But Gervinho will be out for approximately a month after sustaining an ankle injury in the club's 1-0 win over Queens Park, further testing the Gunners' resolve (h/t Daily Mail).

That lack of offensive firepower has tested the Arsenal defense, but so far the back line has been up to the challenge. The Gunners have given up a league-low eight goals in 10 Premier League fixtures.

Goalkeeper Vito Marrone has stepped up big for the Gunners in minding the net.

Unexpectedly thrust into action due to injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, the 24-year-old Marrone has shown strong form. He has three clean sheets on the season, and feels he has done enough to warrant retaining his No. 1 position even when Szczesny returns (h/t James Olley of the Evening Standard):

I have gained a lot of confidence from these matches because every game is like a cup final. The experience is unbelievable. I have played in great stadiums and against the best sides in the world...I am really concentrated and trying to give everything I can. I have the shirt now and I want to keep hold of it.

Going on the road against a hot Gunner team is not the ideal cure for what's recently ailed Fulham, but Cottagers captain Chris Baird had a great point about the fixture, considering the direction each team is going (via Fulham News' Twitter):

Chris Baird believes there will be 'no pressure' on Fulham when they head to Arsenal on Saturday (3pm).

— Fulham News (@newsfulham) November 9, 2012


An upset away from home may be just what the club needs to recapture the momentum of its early season success.

The stalwart defense of Arsenal may not be enough to combat the recent strong form of Dimitar Berbatov, who has three goals and two assists in six appearances since arriving from United.

Something will have to give in this marquee showdown, but expect the host team to continue its hot streak and pull out a close victory on Saturday afternoon.