Vito Manonne produced a string of saves to ensure Arsenal took the share of the spoils after going under the cosh somewhat by Fulham’s expansive play.
Roy Hodgson is becoming quite the tactical master against Arsenal as his side once again tested the Gunners to their limits yet somehow, mainly in the form of Vito Manonne, came away with nothing. The Italian was in inspired form and produced a string of saves to ensure an Arsenal win in a game the Cottagers deserved more from.
It would be easy to criticise Arsenal because of the niggling faults that still persist but on the other hand must be praised for their resilience to come away with maximum points which in other seasons may have resulted in defeat. Last season Fulham took three points at the Cottage by taking an early lead and hanging back at the edge of their own box to stifle Arsenal. And in the reverse fixture earned a goalless draw as they stretched Arsenal in possession and with the movement of their two forwards, troubled the back four on the break.
This time round it was much the same story and rather intriguingly, Fulham made more passes than Arsenal although the Gunners maintained the greater share of the possession. But in truth this stat told it’s own story of the game as Fulham passed the ball quickly particularly down the channels, once again looking to stretch the Arsenal back line. The full backs had great joy, breaking forward with much ease as they made a mockery of the Gunners’ high intensity pressing game. And every time they won the ball back, Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson sought to catch the Arsenal defenders off guard by drifting towards the channels.
It was from these areas they profited from but were fantastically denied by the heroics of Arsenal’s third choice goalkeeper, Manonne. His best save(s) came from an Andrew Johnson’s header which was en route towards the bottom corner but Super Manonne flew out a hand to stop the shot before blocking the Dempsey follow up with his face. After the game, Arsene Wenger was quick to remind his new young hero of the competition he has this season with Polish ‘keeper Wojciech Szczęsny also impressing in the midweek Carling Cup fixture.
Wenger’s prognosis before the game was of a tough match but one which he was quite confident of if his troops stuck to his instructions. “It’s going to be hard,” he said. “But as long as we can put the pressure on the opponent, play together and share the goals then I’m quite confident.” It was quite concerning the apparent ease in which Fulham negated Arsenal’s game plan as they played the ball forward quickly before they were pressured and then in turn, pressure back when the Gunners had the ball. Perhaps playing such a style will be rather more difficult domestically because of the direct nature of the Premier League. And that is probably where the Gunners missed Denilson as it may have demanded the midfield to play deeper which the Brazilian will have provided. The gap between defence and attack was too large hence the amount of chances Fulham had rather than dumping all the criticism on the Arsenal defence.
As it was Alex Song was given much responsibility and he duly stepped up to the task, working harder for the cause than Dwight Yorke’s toothbrush. It was his interception that brought Arsenal their goal as he read the pass from Paul Konchesky before playing the ball to Cesc Fabregas to float delightfully on to van Persie’s chess trap. The Dutchman shielded away the defender and arrowed a low shot past the reach of Schwarzer.
Andrey Arshavin’s law of diminishing returns saw him give Arsenal only 40 minutes of full fitness and Abou Diaby, despite his potential is still a box of chocolates and is unfortunately producing more Turkish Delights rather than chocolate truffles. And Cesc Fabregas admitted to Spanish magazine Don Balon that he is playing more attacking now which upsets the balance of the side.
It may have been less than what Fulham deserved but Wenger will be at least delighted with the way his team didn’t crumble but will also be the first to demand improvements are needed.
Fulham (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey; Zamora, A Johnson.
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Baird, Gera, Kamara, Riise, Smalling, Greening.
Arsenal (4-3-3) Mannone (8)*; Sagna (6), Gallas (7), Vermaelen (6), Clichy (6); Song (7), Fabregas (5), Diaby (5); Bendtner (6), van Persie (6) (Eboue 5), Arshavin (5) (Rosicky 5).
Subs not used: Szczesny, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Gibbs.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||4|
|8||Shots off Target||10|