Hughes sees reasons for optimism
Published 03/12/2010 | 16:43
Mark Hughes has told his Fulham players they must take full advantage of Arsenal's defensive frailty if they are to stand a chance of a first ever away win against their London rivals tomorrow.
The Gunners have lost their last two Barclays Premier League home games and three of their last five in what has been a frustrating start to the season in front of their own fans.
West Brom, Newcastle and Tottenham have all recorded shock victories at the Emirates Stadium but a Fulham win after more than a century of trying would arguably be the biggest surprise of the lot.
Manager Hughes is under no illusions about the task at hand but has seen enough weaknesses in tomorrow's opponents to convince him his side can cause an upset and end a winless away run that stretches all the way back to the start of last term.
"I have probably seen Arsenal more times this season than any other team in fairness," he said.
"The quality they have on occasions is excellent.
"At times, defensively, they have been caught out. We will use that as a positive.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we can create situations that will ask questions of them.
"It is up to us to take the chances that present themselves."
Despite having lost as many home games as any side in the division, Arsenal are only two points behind leaders Manchester United and Hughes is refusing to write off their title hopes.
"Chelsea have been pegged back and United, obviously, will always challenge, you feel," he said.
"Arsenal would hope that this year they would show some progress in terms of challenging for the title.
"It doesn't seem as if any one side at the top wants to grab the opportunity and run away with the league this year.
"Arsenal, I would imagine within their own confines, would think they've got a hell of a chance."
Fulham's concerns lie at the other end of the table, with Hughes having registered only two wins from 15 league games since taking charge.
The Cottagers have lost just four of the remaining matches but have been undone by a series of damaging draws and could find themselves joint bottom by the end of the weekend.
Hughes, whose side have been without star forwards Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson and Mousa Dembele for much of the season, said: "We have probably had just one poor 45 minutes in a 15-game season to this point, which is not too bad.
"We were disappointed with what we produced against Man City in the first half but, apart from that, we have been competitive in every game and our defensive record is decent.
"We are equal fifth in the Premier League in terms of goals conceded. But we are missing key strikers.
"A number of clubs have injuries as well so we are not going to hide behind it but obviously it is a factor."
He added: "We are working hard but it is difficult this year. Everyone is very close in the Premier League.
"Teams are taking points and winning games when you don't expect them to, so the mid-table is very condensed.
"We obviously are at the lower end of that table but one or two wins back to back very quickly moves you to the other end."