Testing times at the Cottage

Posted by Phil Mison

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesFulham will once again be relying heavily on Dimitar Berbatov to spearhead the team's attack against Arsenal.

Can Fulham regain belief come Saturday's match with Arsenal after their demoralising loss to Chelsea this week? The current run of games don't get any easier, with the Gunners bearing down on us full bore in search of the same Holy Grail as Chelsea: a passport to the riches of next season's Champions League.

Thank heavens we already have those 40 points on the board. From our final five matches, and with the personnel available to us presently, only the Reading match suggests real hope of taking more points from a season that started so well, but is going rapidly flat.

Martin Jol must make changes from the supine performance of Wednesday night. Steve Sidwell has served his ban and will be the first name on the team sheet. Emmanuel Frimpong cannot play by the terms of his loan deal.

Counter Sidders' return however with the alarming news that Player of the Season Sascha Riether is doubtful.

Alex Kacaniklic has been summoned back from Burnley, which suggests we will have one genuine winger out on the park, though I have little faith in him making much difference.

- Kacaniklic returns from Burnley loan

I will be staggered if Kieran Richardson does not come back in however, and I suspect the crowd will further go all sulky at 2:55 if Mladen Petric runs out from the tunnel again.

Regardless of the men picked to wear the white shirt, Fulham have no other game plan under Jol than the one that continues to come up short. The only danger comes from Dimitar Berbatov. The attack offers zero aerial threat to Arsenal's back four and Fulham are far from physical enough in key areas of the game where it matters.

We will see plenty of the ball and have a lot of midfield possession, while remaining largely ineffective in piercing the Arsenal back line or testing the keeper.

At present, one could almost file the post-match report from a pre-selected template. There is no game changer from the players available in my view and certainly no alternative to Jol's discredited system and tactics. While worthy of motive, Fulham do not have players to the skill levels Jol dreams of.

It all still raises huge questions regarding our supremo's ability to take this club forward on limited funds. I'm far from reassured by all the soundings to date on where we will be strengthening for next season. If the over-riding priority at present seems to be snaring a goalkeeper for £5 million when that is the one position at present that doesn't need addressing, it strikes me as foolish.

To come out in the media and suggest "we had Benteke on our radar too; maybe we should have tried harder to get the funds," is an insult to those paying £55 on Wednesday and struggling to get home before midnight. What about the finances we lay out following the club? It’s all relative.

Arsenal are currently flying. With so much at stake I cannot see beyond an away win, unless Arsene Wenger's men somehow contrive to lose through their own stupidity or ill-discipline.

Another sobering afternoon in prospect, I fear for us fans, and a first Arsenal win at the Cottage since 2009. We will do well to score. Really hope I'm wrong on all counts!


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