Gunners hope revival goes on against Fulham

Updated: 25 November 2011 13:42 IST

Arsene Wenger knows success for Arsenal will be measured in silverware but the club's impressive recovery following a dismal start to the season is an achievement in itself.

London:

Arsene Wenger knows success for Arsenal will be measured in silverware but the club's impressive recovery following a dismal start to the season is an achievement in itself.

Wenger's side face Fulham at the Emirates Stadium here on Saturday seeking a sixth successive Premier League win that could, other results permitting, lift the Gunners into the top four for the first time this season.

And they will go into the game having established themselves as the standard bearers for English football in the Champions League following the mid-week victory over Borussia Dortmund.

While Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have floundered in Europe, Arsenal have shrugged off a testing start to the season to secure qualification as group winners with a game to spare.

That means they can now focus their energies on domestic matters until the knockout stages in February, presenting them with the opportunity to finally make an impression on the Premier League.

They remain 12 points adrift of leaders City, but much worse was feared after a run that brought just one win in their opening five games -- although Wenger's public support for his players never wavered.

The turnaround has been impressive and Gunners midfielder Alex Song says the criticism directed at the club had proved a motivating force.

"We want to show everyone is wrong about us and we did very well, but we don't want to stay in the same situation now and just say, 'Everything is working and we will just keep on like this,'" Song said.

"We want to push ourselves to try to look forward.

"We started really badly, but it is not easy when you have new players -- you need to give them time.

"Everyone tries to help each other and we have very good cohesion, which is important. When you play for a team like Arsenal, you just want to finish all the time at the top of the league."

Victory over Dortmund was secured with two goals from Robin van Persie, who has now scored 12 in the last eight games and is central to Arsenal's hopes of maintaining their recent progress.

Van Persie's fitness will be closely monitored but Wenger's hand has already been strengthened by a shortening injury list, although Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna remain long-term absentees.

Kieran Gibbs will also be out for another four weeks with a hernia problem but Tomas Rosicky could return after a thigh strain.

Martin Jol's Fulham have struggled for consistency and they are just two points above the relegation zone.

Last weekend's scoreless draw at Sunderland helped erase memories of the frustrating home defeat by Tottenham in their previous outing but the Cottagers need wins if they are to move away from trouble.

Jol's side appear to already be paying the price for an extended season that saw them play their first Europa League qualifying tie in June, while the squad has also been stretched by a spate of injuries.

Steve Sidwell and Stephen Kelly may miss the Arsenal match, while Orlando Sa and Zdenek Grygera are out for the foreseeable future.

Fulham's best hope of gaining something from the trip to their London rivals may be to stifle the supply-line to van Persie, particularly from Theo Walcott, who has provided the most assists for the Dutchman this season.

Cottagers defender Chris Baird is well aware of the threat posed by Walcott, having played with the winger at Southampton.

"Theo was fantastic, even at such a young age," Baird said.

"Obviously he was thrown into the team but the more games he played, the more confident he got, scoring a few goals.

"His pace always caused defenders problems. I am glad he is doing well at Arsenal. He deserves it."

Topics : Football Mark Hughes Alex Ferguson Manchester City Arsenal Middlesbrough Fulham Wigan Athletic Chelsea English Premier League
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