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Match Preview - Fulham v Arsenal 11.09.04

last updated Friday 10th September 2004, 4:52 PM
Fulham boss Chris ColemanFulham manager Chris Coleman sends his team out against champions Arsenal candidly admitting he has not 'got a trick up his sleeve' to surprise Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal's unbeaten run now stands at 44 matches and Coleman realises that no matter what tactics teams employ against the Gunners, Wenger's men always come out on top.

Heading into the showdown at a sold-out Craven Cottage on the back of two successive defeats, Fulham's young boss will be relying on grit and determination to give his side a fighting chance.

He said: "They've not lost in a long, long time and they are a special team. Everybody's tried everything and it hasn't been good enough."

"If you can't get revved up playing against a team like that - the best club team in Europe at the minute and the best Premiership team I have ever seen - then there is something wrong.

"The players will be aware Arsenal haven't lost for a long time but they have got to walk onto the pitch with their sleeves rolled up, full of confidence and determination and we are going to have to show a little bit of bottle."

Fulham's problems could come at the other end. Because of international calls, the manager has has had little opportunity to work on tightening his defence after the 4-3 defeat at Portsmouth.

"I said my piece to my defenders and we've got to move on and concentrate on Arsenal."

Coleman laughed off a suggestion that Arsenal, without injured England defender Sol Campbell, lack pace at the back as he said: "That's not a weakness because they haven't lost for so long. "They score more goals than anyone else and concede less so I don't see a weakness. They've been without Sol, who is a very good player, but they still haven't lost."

"They can't keep winning - or not losing - forever. Somebody is going to have to beat them so why not us? "Even if we come off with a draw it will be an achievement for us. Ideally we want to take three points, beat them and make a bit of history. We need a win, we've just lost our last two games.

"We're now playing against the best team in England so we have got to go and be brave, which we will. "I'm not going to get 10 men behind the ball, which we did in the past. That works sometimes but we have got to ask them questions," said the Fulham boss.

Arsenal boss Arsene WengerArsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists it is too early to make comparisons between the current Gunners line-up and his all-conquering 'immortals' of last season.

Wenger's men blazed a glorious trail to the Barclays Premiership title last term and negotiated the entire league campaign without losing a single game.

They have carried that scintillating form into this season, occupying top spot in the Premiership table while their unbeaten record has now been stretched to 44 successive matches.

Arsenal's squad has undergone only moderate change over the summer while the big guns have been used sparingly as Wenger looks to give his Euro 2004 stars as much rest as possible.

Skipper Patrick Vieira has yet to make a Gunners appearance this season and there are suggestions that last season's achievements could be eclipsed once Wenger fields his strongest line-up.

But the French manager said: "It is difficult to compare the two sides because we are only four matches into the season.

"Instead, we must judge the team at the end of the season. This side has plenty of potential and could be successful.

"But a successful team must have mental strength and be able to take points when it is raining in January - that is the mark of a quality side."

Wenger admits that with his side brushing aside all before them - they have averaged four goals a game in their four Premiership outings so far this season - his managerial skills have yet to be properly tested.

"It's never easy being consistent. The most difficult part of my job is when you lose. We lost two on the trot last season and had to respond quickly in the Premiership and we did just that," he said.

Wenger is preparing his side for Saturday's London derby against Fulham at Craven Cottage and must decide whether to give Vieira his first taste of Premiership action this season.

The France captain is fully fit but was sent off during Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands for receiving two yellow cards.

Source Sporting Life
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