Arsenal – Fulham Preview: Cottagers out to end 110-year hoodoo

Fulham face the enormous challenge of defying almost 110 years of history when they visit Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.

The two London clubs first met in an FA Cup tie in 1904, when Arsenal’s 3-2 victory set the tone for future meetings.

In the 26 fixtures at Arsenal since then, Fulham have never won, suffering 21 defeats along the way.

And the task awaiting them this weekend is no less daunting than usual, with Arsene Wenger’s side sitting top of the Premier League, unbeaten at home in the league since the opening day.

Defensive solidity has been a hallmark of Arsenal’s success at the Emirates Stadium this term, with just six goals conceded in 10 Premier League matches.

Fulham let in six in their last away league match, when they were hammered at Hull City, although the Premier League win over West Ham and FA Cup triumph versus Norwich City have since lifted the spirits of Rene Meulensteen’s men, who head across the capital one point and two places above the relegation zone.

The Dutch coach was boosted by the long-awaited return of defender Brede Hangeland in Tuesday’s 3-0 FA Cup third-round replay win over Norwich.

The Norway international had been out since October with a sciatic nerve problem, but helped the side to a first clean sheet in eight matches.

Arsenal have had injury problems to contend with, too, and Theo Walcott, who has undergone surgery on his anterior cruciate knee ligament, will not play again this season.

Walcott joins the likes of Mikel Arteta (calf), Nicklas Bendtner (ankle), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Thomas Vermaelen on the sidelines.

Midfielder Tomas Rosicky had an operation on his broken nose and may play with the aid of a mask, while Nacho Monreal (foot) is, in the words of Wenger, “a big doubt”.

Arsenal were 3-1 winners at Craven Cottage in August and this will be their 200th London derby in the Premier League.

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