Fulham v Arsenal, Saturday 15:00
– Fulham were soundly beaten 0-3 by a resurgent Chelsea side at Craven Cottage in midweek, the Cottagers falling victim to some clinical attacking from the Blues.
– Even at 34 years of age, Damien Duff remains a force to be reckoned with on the Fulham flank. Duff has now delivered 48 crosses this season, which, according to the EA SPORTS Premier League Index is the highest in the Premier League squad and also makes him the old player to have surpassed the 40 cross-mark this campaign.
– Fulham will need Brede Hangeland’s steady influence this weekend against an Arsenal side packed with attacking talents. Hangeland has registered 175 interceptions this season, one every 15.9 minutes, and you can expect this number to rocket given the Gunners’ tendency to engage in intricate passing moves around the opposition box.
– Although regarded as an out-and-out striker, Bryan Ruiz has demonstrated a distinctive ability to drop back and receive the ball in the pocket before taking on opposition defenders with their backs to goal. Ruiz has now racked up a squad-high 17 dribbles and 8 assists, highlighting his importance as a another attacking option to Dimitar Berbatov.
– Arsenal’s winning run of form was halted on Tuesday evening as they played out a goalless draw with Fulham. They could have claimed another three points though had several of their players not been somewhat wasteful with the chances presented to them in front of goal.
– Club captain Thomas Vermaelen may have been struggling for form in recent weeks but his commitment has certainly not dipped. No Arsenal player has been more willing to throw his body in the line of fire than Vermaelen, his 16 blocks the highest in the Gunners’ squad. His passion and leadership could well be key for Arsenal in what will no doubt be a tense London derby with Champions League implications.
– Arsene Wenger admitted this week that he had perhaps rushed Jack Wilshere back into action prematurely in recent weeks. However the Frenchman can be forgiven for wanting his star player back in action, given the level of influence Wilshere has on proceedings when on the field. He is the youngest man in the top 10 players for lowest minutes per pass rate according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index (2.51). Wilshere has also completed more dribbles than any other member of the same top 10 (19) showing his willingness to drive play forward rather than playing the safe pass.
– Lukas Podolski will be desperate to get on the pitch and show his manager what he is capable of this weekend, giving a frustrating run of starting on the bench. Podolski clearly has the skill to trouble Fulham should he get the chance to play a role, his 71.4% shot accuracy rate from 42 attempts the best in the Arsenal squad.