herald

Friday 24 November 2017

Wenger braced for a hard collision at the Cottage

ARSENE WENGER expects another tough match when Arsenal travel to Fulham in the Premier League today.

The Gunners head into the game fourth in the table after defeating QPR 1-0 on New Year's Eve.

Robin van Persie netted the all-important goal that propelled them up to the Champions League spots and above both Chelsea and Liverpool.

Wenger now leads his side across London to Fulham and expects a difficult match by the Thames. "I am expecting a tough game," he said. "You can see that everybody finds a good motivation against Arsenal.

"Everybody organises well, stops us from playing and that will happen again at Fulham. Of course we have three points and will be very focused to get the win there. For us it is always a difficult game at Fulham."

Wenger's task was made all the more difficult by Thomas Vermaelen limping off against QPR. The Belgium international was forced off in the 54th minute with a calf strain, leaving defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin to fill in at left-back.

Vermaelen's injuries severely weakens Wenger's options with Kieran Gibbs (stomach) and Andre Santos (ankle) both sidelined for the foreseeable future. Asked whether Vermaelen's injury heightens the need for defensive reinforcements, Wenger said: "Straight after the game I don't know because I need to analyse it all.

"Gibbs is three weeks away but it would be stupid to lose points because we don't have a left-back."

The aforementioned trio all miss the match at Craven Cottage and will be joined on the sidelines by Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson and Bacary Sagna. While injuries may sap Arsenal's defensive strength in particular, Wenger has been pleased with his side's character this season.

"I give credit to my players because we have been 17th or 18th in the league. Nobody focused on that and we improved as a team. The spirit in the side got us to where we are today."

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