Fulham V Arsenal at Craven Cottage : Match Preview
01 January 2012 03:01
Jol calls for ruthlessness in front of goal
Martin Jol believes Fulham need to be more clinical in 2012 after they conceded an injury-time goal to Norwich.
The Cottagers were just moments from securing only a second away Barclays Premier League win of the season at Carrow Road before Simeon Jackson grabbed a dramatic late equaliser.
Portugal striker Orlando Sa had fired Fulham into an early lead, and then had another effort cleared off the line before Clint Dempsey's header hit the bar.
Despite looking so comfortable during the first half, ultimately Fulham paid for failing to get themselves a two-goal cushion as Norwich forced them to defend deeper and deeper as the match went on.
Jol knows if Fulham, knocked out of the Europa League, are to progress over the second half of the season, they must make more of their opportunities.
"We created three or four opportunities, but we only scored one. We should have scored probably more," said Jol, whose side host Arsenal in the late afternoon kick off.
"That has maybe been a bit of our problem this season, we played some very good games, but even when we defended well, we could not score at the right times. That is what we have to do.
"But whatever happens, we will still play our football."
Fulham earned a creditable 1-1 draw at Arsenal in late November.
The Gunners have turned their season around after a terrible start to move into the top four with a 1-0 home win over QPR.
Much water may have passed under the bridge since Jol famously squared up to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in the dugout when the then Tottenham boss was battling for Champions League qualification.
The Dutch coach, though, remains an admirer of the way Wenger goes about his business.
"When I was in England five or six years ago, Arsenal were older, with more experience, then they started to build a new team," Jol said.
"They are younger now, and it all needed a couple of years, but they still play great football."
Jol will assess his squad, but indicated neither strikers Bobby Zamora nor Andrew Johnson were expected to be involved against Arsenal as they recover full-match fitness.
However, Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff could feature having returned from his injury lay-off with a 10-minute cameo at Carrow Road.
Meanwhile, Wenger may be pleased Arsenal start 2012 in the top four of the Barclays Premier League but he insists the team never lost their self-belief as they prepare for the game.
Few would have predicted such a rise after their poor start to the campaign, but Wenger insists his players never lost belief.
"When we were in a difficult situation I always said 'look, we have to take the critics and focus on performing better and improving'," he said.
"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.
"For me, the spirit in the side got us to where we are today.
"We still have some room for improvement but there is a good base there because the attitude and the spirit are really great."
An area Wenger may look to strengthen now the transfer window has reopened is at left-back.
Kieran Gibbs is not expected to return until the end of January with a stomach injury, while summer signing Andre Santos is expected to be sidelined until March with an ankle complaint.
Arsenal's defensive woes deepened further on Saturday when Thomas Vermaelen was forced off in the 54th minute with a calf strain.
Defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin filled the void for the remainder of the game against QPR, but some suggest a new signing could be in the offing.
Out-of-favour Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge has been linked with a loan move, which Wenger has previously refused to rule out
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.M