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Fragmented & Injury-Hit Arsenal Can’t Fall at First Hurdle

The circumstances surrounding Arsenal never appear assured.

Something, somewhere, has to be not quite right or else it wouldn’t be the beginning of a season with Arsenal, would it?

I mean, come on, what other club is there who could head into the opening day of a Premier League campaign with eight central defenders on the books, five(!) of which are not available through injury? In fairness, we should be familiar with it all by now.

Fans of other clubs are likely saying the same: ‘Why is it always my club who is this unlucky’, ‘only here could X and Y happen at the same time’. Yeah, okay, true.

On top of that, though, Arsenal won’t be starting the season with seven signings in the bag like their west London counterparts. A touch of envy? Perhaps, but it’s got to the point where we are accepting of the situation the club finds itself in. Moreover, we can’t ask too much given it’s unprecedented this and unprecedented that, all of which is genuinely crippling on technical operations – especially when you haven’t got hundreds of millions in cash reserves.

But you know what? I’m confident.

Confident in a team who’ve lifted two pieces of silverware in their last two competitive matches. Confident in a manager who has taken the club aback with his methods and meticulousness to the point of earning a change of title. Confident in the best striker we’ve had at the club this decade. Confident that a patched up midfield with Mohamed Elneny and a makeshift defence with was-going-to-be-loaned-but-is-now-staying Rob Holding can do the business.

This is confidence that, on most occasions, is unfounded.

So what can Arsenal do on Saturday? Let’s rephrase, what must Arsenal do on Saturday? It’s fairly straight forward: win.

The run-in facing the Gunners is foul. Barring the two opening games, the organisers might as well have just started from the top of the table last season and worked their way down. Which, well, it basically is anyway.

Momentum is a word in football that gets flung around a lot, but there is good reason for that. It’s absolutely fundamental in building confidence (another one of the top scoring words on football scrabble). With the set of fixtures facing Arsenal, they need to not only win at Craven Cottage, but do so convincingly.

That doesn’t mean 5-0 or 6-0. Two goals to nothing will do. As long as the team show shape, look compact without the ball, in tune with the manager’s song and a threat in forward areas, that’s the perfect firing pistol for the next 38 matches. If Arsenal look shaky throughout, only offering glimpses of flair in small patches, yet still win, that’s genuine reason for concern.

Fulham are, in no disrespect, not in the top 17 sides in the division. The odds of them going straight back down are stacked firmly against them. With that in the background, the Gunners need to be making a statement win today. Arteta will know that.

Even in Arsene Wenger’s poor final season at the helm, Arsenal were still brushing aside the so-called ‘lesser’ teams on home soil; coming unstuck against sides with more quality was the major sticking point. Last season we saw the same issues, having to grind out turgid draws against weak sides both home and away. If we were lucky.

This is the first hurdle for Arsenal. Trophy success is a distant (yet fond) memory. Come the end of the season, if points are dropped here it will be the results you look at and quiver: ‘that was where we fell short’.

Winning, and winning properly, is Saturday’s remit. Set the tone, get in flow, and try to build a head of steam for what will be some truly knee-trembling clashes to come.

Well, I say that, but if they’re chasing the win with two minutes to go and scrape three points, the celebrations will still be piercing. They would, however, soon dissipate and the reality will sink in that this is not a level that can be sustained if Arsenal don’t to be out of the top four running come the end of the year.

Next: Arsenal vs Fulham Predicted XI & Tactics

Injuries aside and distinct lack of balance in the squad briefly forgotten about, this team are good enough to leave Craven Cottage with three points. They simply must make sure don’t come up short. Not this soon.

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