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Michael Taylor 25th Sep 2009 - 17:21

Hodgson’s golden touch can catch Arsenal cold

Arsene Wenger's reputation as a Premier League tactical master might not be in doubt but his London club rival Roy Hodgson may make another charge for his throne in ESPN's Saturday night game at Craven Cottage.

Fourteenth placed Fulham were the feel good story of last season as they romped from miracle relegation escapees in 2007/08 to European qualifiers in Hodgson's first full year in command.

Such was the calibre of Hodgson's performance many football fans were left shaking their heads' as Sir Alex Ferguson was named as the Premier League manager of the season.

This year though expectations in west London are far higher and an average start to this campaign only further exacerbates the need for an inspirational victory over their prestigious London rivals.

The Cottagers, judging from last year, certainly have what it takes to justify the 13/2 about a home win as well.

They ignored the big named stars to record to clean sheets en route to picking up four points against a Gunners' side that usually picks up the season double without breaking sweat.

It came as little surprise as well given the presence of a quality centre back partnership in Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes and the ever reliable Mark Schwarzer between the sticks.

That trio remains intact, despite mass interest in Hangeland, and they'll feel confident of keeping the free scoring Gunners' attack in check once again - a home team clean sheet is priced at 9/2.

Hodgson will know the importance of keeping the solid base better than anyone given his attacking options have managed to find the back of the net just four times in five Premier League games this season.

More is needed from Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora, the big question has to be whether they're actually up to the job.

10/3 says AJ is capable, 7/2 for Zamora, however, if the Cottagers are to find the net you may be better looking at set-piece takers or aerial threats.

Penalty and free-kick taker Danny Murphy grabbed Fulham's solitary goal in last week's defeat at Molineaux and can be backed at 6/1 to score anytime, while Hangeland at 16s looks great value.

For Arsenal everyone will be looking to see what they're made of against one of the potential banana-skins in the Premier League.

Wenger's side blew Wigan away with a 4-0 battering but life before that wasn't quite so rosy with disappointing losses against the Manchester duo.

With problems away from home and more than a few goalkeeping issues created by the absence of Manuel Almunia they look extremely difficult to back at a minute 1/2.

They may welcome back Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin but we've seen all too many times how easy they can be to restrict if teams defend deep.

Eduardo looks their best bet to score at 5/4 but, until they show they can win away from the Emirates, I think I might just hold off backing what I see as the weakest Gunners' side of the past few years.




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