Meulensteen "in the dark" over Gunners clash

Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen admits he has no idea what to expect from his team in Saturday's trip to Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Rene Meulensteen

The Cottagers head across to north London on the back of their midweek 3-0 FA Cup third-round replay win over Norwich.

However, Fulham will need to produce a much-improved display from the one they gave last time in the league when Meulensteen's men were thumped 4-1 at home by fellow relegation-battlers Sunderland.

But he cannot guarantee what Fulham will be able to produce, accepting he is still learning about his team, who he compares to a new set of playing cards.

"And that is the situation you get when you are thrown in and taking over at a club," said Meulensteen, "because you are playing a deck of cards that is not yours."

The Dutchman has won four, drawn one and lost five of his 10 matches in charge since taking over from Martin Jol.

"You look at it and you try to play the best hand in different situations and that is what I have done - I made nine changes against Norwich," Meulensteen said.

"You are still trying to get to the situation where you say 'now I know which cards suit best'."

Meulensteen has been impressed by the Gunners' consistency as they continue to stay just ahead of Manchester City in the championship race.

"Arsenal have got a very good chance compared to the previous seasons, but Arsenal have got no secrets and they have had no secrets for the last eight years. They play as they play - they won't change. That is the way they are," said the former Manchester United coach.

"For many seasons they have picked up the accolade of being the team that plays the most beautiful football.

"You know what you are going to be up against - you are going to be up against a very good football team, some very good individuals, but there are no secrets."

Meulensteen believes this season's title race is set for an exciting conclusion.

"The reason why Arsenal are very confident at the moment is because they are up there, when in recent seasons they haven't been," he said.

"Arsenal are at the top, then City are at the top, then Chelsea - it is like a revolving door and they know every game is so important to make sure they stay up there.

"Only time will tell which teams will sustain that. That is why it is going to be one of the most fascinating ends to the season."

Meulensteen could retain Darren Bent in Fulham's starting XI after he scored against Norwich.

The former Sunderland and Tottenham forward, on loan from Aston Villa, has netted eight times in his previous 10 appearances against the Gunners.

Meulensteen said of the 29-year-old former England striker: "Darren has still got that in him. It is that little game you play with a deck of cards - when is it best to play him?

"There is a validity in it, because certain players do always score in certain places and against certain teams."



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