Fulham V Arsenal at Craven Cottage - Match Preview

Jol backs Arsenal to reach top four

Fulham manager Martin Jol is confident that Arsene Wenger will again lead Saturday's opponents Arsenal to a top-four finish.

The Frenchman has not enjoyed the best of times this season, leading to talk that the Gunners may miss out on a Champions League berth for the first time in his tenure.

However, a run of seven wins from their last nine league games has put the north Londoners back in the hunt for a top-four finish ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage.

Victory by the Thames would propel them into third and former Spurs boss Jol thinks Arsenal will end the season successfully.

"I admire him, he is an unbelievable manager," the Dutchman said of Wenger - a man he has the odd disagreement with in the past.

"Of course you have got your problems now and then if you meet each other.

"He is emotional, he wants to win but even this season if you look at them they have been under pressure.

"Then they had an unbelievable win at Bayern, they came back and other teams like Chelsea, Spurs and Everton are fighting for a top-three, top-four spot.

"They are doing it again and I think they will make the top four."

Arsenal have won just one of their last four trips to Craven Cottage and Jol sees this game as the ideal opportunity to make amends for Wednesday's 3-0 west London derby defeat at the hands of Chelsea.

"I can remember the team struggling here," he said. "But, for example, we have done very well against Chelsea over the last four games and then we lost 3-0.

"Arsenal have done ever so well the last couple of months. They are on the top now and they want to play Champions League football.

"Hopefully we can get back to winning ways because that is important."

Fulham will welcome back influential midfielder Steve Sidwell for the game after a three-match ban, although Sascha Riether is a doubt.

Alex Kacaniklic could be involved after being recalled from a loan spell at Burnley, while Damien Duff, Ashkan Dejagah and Mahamadou Diarra are all unavailable through injury.

Another unavailable is on-loan Emmanuel Frimpong as he is ineligible to face his parent club.

Meanwhile, Wenger is in no doubt that Olivier Giroud brings "another dimension" to his side's attacking options.

The Gunners head to Fulham looking to jump back up into third place in the Barclays Premier League, with fellow Champions League contenders Chelsea and Tottenham not in action until Sunday.

But for some more clinical finishing from Giroud, Arsenal could have seen off Everton's resolute challenge in what was a bruising goalless encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

Wenger, however, feels the France striker, 26, will only improve as he learns quickly from a first season in the English top flight after a #13million summer move from Montpellier, where his goals had speared them to a first Ligue 1 title.

"Giroud gave a lot until now and for his first season he is doing extremely well because he has a fantastic attitude, he is a positive mind," said Wenger, who reluctantly agreed to sell captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United during the summer which severely depleted Arsenal's frontline.

"He is a little bit less (like) the strikers we used to have until now, but he gives us another dimension with the physical challenges in the air.

"Olivier has good physical potential, has a good basic stamina and he can absorb the games.

"He can absorb the body to body (challenges) because he's a strong guy.

"He wants to do well, but is not the one who hides afterwards. He stands up for what he has done and I feel he deals quite well with that.

"Giroud has scored 17 goals in all competitions, 11 in the championship, for a first season that is quite good.

"I think you will see more from him next season, and there is a lot more to come from him."

Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is set for a spell on the sidelines with a cracked rib, so fellow Pole Wojciech Szczesny will get the chance to reclaim the number one jersey again.

Source: PA

Source: PA