Will Arsenal be top of the table by 3pm on the opening Saturday of the Premier League season? Read Peter Le Beau's wonderfully warm preview of the Gunners trip to the Cottage. PICTURE: Fulham's Stevenage Road Stand. CREDIT: @laythy29
What can we expect from Arsenal's trip to Fulham?
The Gooner's Peter Le Beau takes a trip down memory lane while previewing Arsenal's trip to the Cottage on Saturday in this wonderfully warm piece.
Read on for Peter's evocative article.
Whenever someone mentions Fulham Football Club to me I imagine a grainy black and white image of Craven Cottage back in the early 1960s.
Strange because I went to the ground many times but the black and white represents the fact that Craven Cottage always seems something of a throwback to a very different era.
The period of Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Hill, of Langley and Leggatt, of Cohen and Maurice Cook - all players of the fifties and sixties when Arsenal regularly travelled to that quaint and genuinely charming ground on the banks of the Thames.
The walk from Putney Bridge Undergound station through Bishops Park to the Cottage is enchanting, so different from almost any other approach to a football ground.
When you, as an away fan get into the ground the Putney End is ostensibly neutral but when I go, chockfull of Gooners.
I took two Arsenal-supporting friends, who had never been there, to our last fixture there about two years ago and they said after the match that they’d never enjoyed an away match more- but we did win 5-1 in the days when we thought Emeryball was the future.
Despite having said that Craven Cottage has a unique and wonderful atmosphere a game - a quite awful game - in the spring of 1967 was one of the most violent London derbies I have ever attended as Arsenal fans strove to take over the Hammersmith End.
Yet that Christmas watching Fulham and Chelsea I stood in the enclosure and was offered mince pies and champagne at halftime by a friendly Fulham fan.
That friendly face has normally been the one extended by Fulham fans and it has been a relatively lucky ground for us too.
On my first visit in the early sixties we won 4-1 with Geoff Strong scoring twice, the following year Joe Baker scored twice in a 4-3 victory.
In more recent years I saw Vito Mannone defy Fulham on a brilliant debut as we triumphed 1-0 through Rboin Van Persie.
Per Mertesacker clinched an edgy 1-0 victory in 2013 and a few months later Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski drove us to a 3-1 victory in the drizzle at the start of the season in which Mesut Ozil joined us.
And then the 5-1 extravaganza when Arsenal were kind enough to score most of their goals in front of ecstatic Gooners including that wonderful team goal topped off by Aaron Ramsey.
Fulham fans felt relegation was unavoidable that season because of poor recruitment and too much change to their promotion team.
They are scarcely more optimistic this time round but first games of the season are notoriously unpredictable and Arsenal are struggling to field an experienced defence.
We all hope that Gabriel and Saliba are the future…but are they the present, and will we have the midfield creativity that we exhibited two years ago?
Every new season brings either a sense of anticipation or dread often informed by our activity in the transfer market and our ability to re-sign our stars.
At this stage we wait with bated breath for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
We are curious about Willian and what he will bring, excited by the progress that will be made by Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli this season and desperately pray for signings in midfield that will provide a combination of solidity and and creative excellence.
But Saturday will come too soon for there to be any change in that direction.
We have given up on Emeryball in disillusion but have joyfully embraced the vision shown by Mikel Arteta.
We have to believe that however unsatisfactory our build up to the game we have too much to prevail on Saturday and to top the table at 3pm on the first Saturday of the season.