Macdonald: Arsenal can learn from Cottage spirit

Arsenal must take a leaf out of Fulham s book if they are to finally wrestle the title away from Old Trafford. That's the assessment of Gunners goalscoring legend Malcolm Macdonald ahead of Saturday's clash in west London...

Arsenal must take a leaf out of Fulham's book if they are to finally wrestle the title away from Old Trafford.

That's the assessment of Gunners goalscoring legend Malcolm Macdonald ahead of Saturday's clash in west London.

Macdonald was born in SW6, played for the club and spent four years as manager at Craven Cottage between 1980 and 1984 - guiding his side to promotion from division two during his tenure - but would be happy to see Arsenal take the three points needed to keep Premier League leaders Chelsea in their sights.

The Cottage, though, has become a tough place for visiting teams with Roy Hodgson's side winning 11 times last season as they finished seventh - their best ever finish in the top-flight.

"Fulham play great football, but they also know when to show resilience, fight and spirit when they need to," Macdonald - dubbed Supermac by the North Bank after 42 goals in just 84 games between 1976 and 1979 - tells Ham&High Sport.

"Unfortunately, Arsenal don't show enough of that. The football they play is, at times, breathtaking, but it means nothing if you're not prepared to scrap for every ball.

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"I'm sorry to say Arsenal haven't got those qualities and until they acquire them they will not be able to break the Manchester United-Chelsea axis. Not this season, anyway."

Despite netting 17 times in just five Premier League outings this season, Macdonald believes Arsenal remain too profligate in front of goal, a claim borne out by crucial missed chances in both Manchester defeats this month.

"We had a similar problem at Arsenal back in 1978," he recalls. "I'd stand in the centre circle with my hands on my hips watching this great passing football - but I'd never see the ball myself.

"Then one day our coach Don Howe tore a strip off me in front of the squad for not doing enough. He screamed at me for an hour - I couldn't get a word in.

"The other players stood there embarrassed for me. The next day I scored a hat-trick and I went up to Don and told him he could stick my three goals where the sun doesn't shine.

"He took me to his office before I even got changed and told me I wasn't the problem - it was the other players who were forgetting we needed to score.

"It was cracking reverse psychology as my team-mates gave me a bagload of chances that day - Arsene Wenger's side needs that same attitude now.

"We are hammering some teams easily, making a great start at Everton and at home to Pompey, but we need to convert more chances when it matters."

Eduardo stands out for Macdonald, left, as the club's most natural striker - a little like himself.

"Players these days seems almost embarrassed to score one yard tap-ins - but not Eduardo," says Macdonald.

"He's prepared to get hurt to score. You can see that. I had it and Ian Wright had it..

"Dear old Ted Drake was a director at Fulham when I was manager there and he had more scars and stitches than any other player I'd ever seen. He'd do anything to score a goal.

"Something tells me Eduardo with Robin van Persie as his partner could work well for Arsenal - their contrasting styles should complement each other very well."

Macdonald also fears some players in Wenger's side are too scared to marry art with grit.

"I think one or two simply don't fancy getting their hands dirty. But even the greatest artists had a little paint down their shirts didn't they? You have to get dirty.

"Playing 30-ball moves is not good if there is no end product - you need to fight for that, and be more direct.

"They also need to hang on to leads, like the old Double-winning side of 1971. Frankly, if we are only 1-0 up you always fear the other side can still get back into the game."

The 59-year-old was among the many footballing figures at Sir Bobby's memorial service at Durham Cathedral and spoke to the current incumbent in the Fulham hot-seat, Roy Hodgson.

"I congratulated him on the exceptional job he has done at Fulham," adds Macdonald.

"His No2 Ray Lewington was my captain when I was manager and between them they make a formidable management team.

"Roy said the club hasn't been in such a good position since my days there. I was impressed when he said that because he clearly knows the club's history and what makes Fulham tick.

"It's a tremendous club and with Roy there they can continue as a top 10 side. In fact, who knows what they can achieve?"

Prediction: The Cottagers are a tough proposition at home and beat Arsenal in the corresponding fixture last season, but their thin squad could be their undoing while Arsenal rested many of their key players in midweek. Arsenal to edge it 2-1.