Red alert

Wednesday 27 February 2002

Last Saturday's defeat at Highbury served as a reminder to many fans that life in the Premiership was not going to be as easy as past seasons in Divisions One and Two. Perhaps the ease with which Arsenal carved out their chances finally hit the message home that Fulham are now in with the big boys.

As Fulham found out earlier this season, almost every victory came as a result of the opposition playing badly, according to media reports anyway. Much to the frustration of the supporters, victories against Newcastle and West Ham were more often reported as a bad day at the office for the opposition rather than a good performance from Fulham.

Whilst no one can question the quality of Arsenal's play last weekend or argue with the final result, according to midfielder John Collins, Fulham's performance didn't exactly help matters.

"It was a really disappointing result we didn't play well and started the game poorly. I don't think we were compact enough and we left Arsenal too much space. If you leave a team like Arsenal a lot of space they'll kill you with their speed and quick thinking.

"The really disappointing thing was how poorly we performed as a team. I think that was the worst we've played all season. We don't want to be putting any more performances in like that again."

Clearly disappointed with the team's performance, the combination of a bad display from Fulham and Arsenal being on top form was a major contributing factor to the result. However, the topic of much conversation will no doubt be 'what if' Fulham had played as we all know they can. What could the score have been then? That's a question that no one will know the answer to, indeed the players and staff aren't looking to dwell on Saturday's defeat as the Liverpool match draws ever closer.

The old saying that you learn more from a defeat than a victory couldn't be truer as Jean Tigana now sets his sights on the forthcoming encounter at Craven Cottage. Undoubtedly there were lessons to be learnt from the Arsenal match, but was it a case of an immediate verbal volley from the manager?

"Obviously he was very angry. He didn't say too much after the game but this week in training we've done a lot of tactical work, so we're working hard trying to iron out the problems we had against Arsenal so we'll be ready for Liverpool." Collins revealed.

In some ways it's probably best that Fulham have another big team on the horizon. From the players' point of view, they'll be looking to get another bite of the apple against a big side and Collins is under no illusions that the Reds will prove to be an easier proposition than Arsenal.

Whilst most of the focus has been on the weekend's result, the previous defeat at Middlesbrough was also a bitter pill to swallow.

"The game against Middlesbrough was a disappointing defeat as well, although on that occasion I thought we played well and we probably deserved to win that game. But it's been two defeats on the bounce and we're not used to that and we don't want to get used to it either.

"Liverpool are going for the title as well. We've done well at home this season, we've won our last few home games so we'll want to keep that going."

Liverpool's build up to Saturday's match has been made slightly more complicated with the simple matter of an away match at Galatasaray. Having come away from that encounter with a tough draw, does Collins feel that they'll now be something of a slightly spent force come Saturday?

"Their players are used to playing in the big matches three times a week. Plus they've got a large squad to pick from so they can always rotate the team. But it's not about what Liverpool do on Saturday, it what we do. If we play as well as we're capable of, I've got no doubt that we can get a result and win the game."