FULL TIME: FULHAM 2-1 ARSENAL: Arsenal just didn’t turn up in the second-half. They were unable to keep the ball as Fulham came out of the blocks after the break with a lot of urgency and deserved at least a point. The winner, however, came after serious pressure and Zamora fired in a poor header by Squillaci. Djourou looked devastated when he was sent off and that changed the game completely. In truth though, Arsenal were always open, even when they were the better side in the first-half. However, they failed to really muster a good attack in the second-half and that’s down to the way Fulham came out. They pressed, pushed men forward and the attacking players used the fulcrum of Zamora fantastically, especially Ruiz.
AHMAD: “An alarming trend this season that has been brought up before has been the inability of some of England’s better teams to control matches from start to finish. An underlying explanation for this could be the inherent nature of the Premier League’s frantic pace.” > A frighteningly prescient comment at half-time and as it turned out, Arsenal were unable to control the game. The team was pushed back by Fulham’s wing-backs while Arteta and Song were just unable to find an out-ball. Could Wenger have reacted better? There seemed little wrong with his changes to give technical reassurance to Arsenal’s play but perhaps the 4-3-3 which looked broken was too obvious. Fulham were always going to attack and maybe, another strike partner may have benefited the isolated van Persie.
PS: It wasn’t a foul by Djourou.
92 mins: ZAMORA 2-1: Why bother?
90 mins: Arsenal have looked vulnerable from crosses, which has been unlike them this season.
88 mins: Ruiz is harshly offside when through on goal.
Robin van Persie magic needed. But, with ten men, Arsenal might have to settle for 1-1. Hang in there.
85 mins GOAL 1-1 SIDWELL!: Szczesny does a De Gea and flaps at that one a bit. The ball falls for Senderos who heads across for Sidwell to head home. Fulham will feel they can win this now. Arsenal just want Squillaci off.
Sebastian Squillaci was mint for Monaco in 2004 in their Champions League run to the final. Hasn’t quite recovered from then.
OH NO! DON’T WATCH NOW! SEBASTIAN SQUILLACI COMES ON FOR ARSENAL!
10 minutes for Arsenal to survive as Ramsey fills in at right-back.
78 mins: DJOUROU SENT OFF!: Djourou leans slightly across Zamora and the Fulham striker falls just outside the area although he nearly times his fall right. Two yellows = red. Simple maths.
75 mins: Yossi Benayoun to come on and give Arsenal “stability” on the ball. Much needed because Fulham sense something that resembles a goal but it probably won’t be judging by their shooting tonight. [JINX!] Gervinho goes off. Lo and behold! Ruiz shoots and Szczesny wonderfully saves!
71 mins: BORING, BORING, ARSENAL. They keep the ball for two minutes before Gervinho puts on second gear, drives at Fulham but not-so-unexpectedly shoots wide.
68 mins: Bryan Ruiz has been like a ballerina. Gliding and pirouetting. And swishing his long hair like a girl. His chipped pass, first at 66 minutes is headed wide by Dempsey while another one finds the American but it’s offside.
66 mins: Arsenal not so dominant around their own box now as they were in the first-half.
64 mins: Walcott’s impotency and his failure to track Riise sees him go off for Rosicky. Arsenal can’t keep the ball out the moment so that change should kill two birds.
63 mins: Senderos has always been dangerous for Arsenal whether he’s on the team or not. Szczesny rushes out to claim a corner which Senderos just about heads wide. Close shave.
62 mins: Djourou slide tackles Riise and is then visibly holding his groin. Or shall I say PENIS! He’s later booked for his, ahem, tackle.
Coquelin reminds me of Drilbur. He’s a pokemon. Judge for yourself.
60 mins: Arsenal wanted a penalty on van Persie. Not given. Steve Sidwell than has a shot that went over. Also not given but for what, I’m not sure.
57 mins: Fulham keeping the ball well but lacking that spark. Arsenal need to make more of their breaks. 56%-44% possession to Fulham.
50 mins: Riise has been getting forward with alarming regularity and his cross is disappointingly headed over by Sidwell.
SECOND HALF: That Moussa Dembele is quite unflappable in possession, isn’t he? He dances his to the edge of Arsenal’s box before his pass is squeezed only through to Arsenal’s goalkeeper who shall remain untyped.
Man of the first-half: Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal’s good use of the pitch can be shown by where they’ve won their take-ons. Fulham, on the other hand, have had some joy breaking and the narrowness of Arsenal’s defending – because Fulham also like to cut inside – can be shown by their take-on chart:
Twitter @Orbinho: “HT Stats: Fulham v Arsenal. Shots 9-16. On target 1-9. Passing Accuracy 83%-85%. Fouls 3-6. Duels Won 50%-50%. Possession 47%-53%.”
HALF TIME: That sound is Senderos heading over the bar and thus ending a pulsating half. Both teams playing some cracking football; Arsenal have had plenty of chances and their 4-2-3-1 looks a bit open but it’s allowing them to weave pretty patterns. Likewise for Fulham actually but they’ve been less explosive going forward and in van Persie and Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal have the game’s two attacking stand-out players. Laurent Koscielny has been superb all season and here again, given a test by Booby Zamora. His goal separates the sides. Fulham 0-1 Arsenal.
44 mins: Brede Hangeland and Philipe Senderos striding forward looks as comortable as Per Mertesacker striding forward but that’s what’s been happening. On the one hand, Arsenal are getting space to break but Fulham can also compress play by pushing up.
“Let’s give up tracking runners for a bit.” This has been pulsating stuff; attack and counter-punch. But with finesse.
Fulham have a Michael Jackson statue. Just laugh at that for a moment.
34 mins: Robin van Persie looking threatening as always and is giving Senderos the runs everytime he has the ball. His shot is tame though.
33 mins: Alex Song makes a great tackle on Ruiz. Arsenal looking a bit vulnerable on the break down the channels.
It’s attack vs defence for Arsenal at the moment. They are leaving four players up and defending with the rest. And when they get forward, any number of options can be found.
31 mins: Ruiz is allowed to use his right foot and comes forward as Arsenal back off. And off. His shot is just wide. Close shave.
30 mins: Some of Arsenal’s interplay is impressive. Fulham surviving due to getting back in numbers.
Coquelin leaves his left-back position with gay abandon. Just watch him pop up at the bottom of your screen. And he’s not trying to sell you a Russian bride.
Ahmad (again. Spread it out a bit guys!): “A lot of Fulham’s attacking play focused out wide which makes sense considering our makeshift fullbacks. The space between Djourou and Mertesacker is looking especially vulnerable as highlighted by the chance created only a few minutes ago. Also, I cannot wait for Gervinho to add a finishing touch to his game. Frustrating to see him miss so many chances after getting into wonderful positions.”
From ArsenalColumn Twitter: “When Arsenal attack, they have Fulham really compressed. Aaron Ramsey’s drive and pressing setting the tone for Arsenal.”
GOALMOUTH SCRAMBLE: Ramsey shoots, Song shoots, Gervinho shoots. Nothing goes in. Mayhem.
GOALAZO!!!!! KOSCIELNY 1-0 21 mins: Arsenal win a corner and after much pontificating around the box, Ramsey dinks in a wonderful cross and the hesitating Fulham defence watches on as Koscielny places his header in the corner.
Both teams have a certain outlet. Zamora keeps on drifting left, which may or may not be because it’s Coquelin’s side. He did so at The Emirates too. Arsenal finding joy through pressing high up and then feeding Gervinho. Well, as joyful as it can be.
15 mins: Zamora can’t get onto Riisse’s cross. Senderos or Hangeland heads over. I can’t tell.
13 mins: Murphy gives the ball away – we think he can be pressured on the ball. Gervinho goes on a run that only he’s capable of before falling over and unconvincingly trying to claim a penalty. Senderos caught him like Tiote caught Gervinho. Touch and go in more than one definition of the term.
Arteta under a LOT of pressure at the moment.
10 mins: Arsenal look more narrow in the centre with Arteta and Song very close to each other.\Arteta dispossessed by Sidwell a nd the ensuing break sees Zamora test Szceszzzzny. Well held though.
8 mins: Gervinho shoots not-too-unexpectedly over from close to goal. Should have scored or gotten closer. But we expected that not to happen.
Ahmad: “Should be interesting to see Coquelin at left-back up against Ruiz.. Last time out, I thought he gave a promising display coming off the bench.” He’s already sauntered into the centre-forward position and is having a bit of a grappling battle with Ruiz. Interesting.
5 mins: Arsenal are a shaken for a minute. The Fulham are in full voice and Zamora showed good feet to make a chance than he didn’t have.
3 mins: Johan Djourou has been uncharacteristically high up the pitch in unfamiliarity territory. Aaron Ramsey has a shot poked straight at Stockdale. Good start. My fingers hurt already.
1 min: Arsenal already caressing the ball like Chantilly lace before the ball falls to Gervinho. But his shot goes not-too-unexpectedly over.
Gunslinger: “This will be tough i hate craven cottage the games are always too close. I feel gervinho will be the key”
M. Gordon: “I am guessing Stockdale has the game of his life. But I am intrigued by Coquelin in that left back position.”
Some tactical thoughts: Dembele and Dempsey are Fulham’s in-form players. In particular, Dembele and his anus, hold the ball very well and they along with Bryan Ruiz should play around Bobby Zamora. The England striker hasn’t had the best relationship with his coach, Martin Jol, at times resembling a father and a son who’s rejected his dad’s farm and chose University instead. Also, there’s sexual tension too. Growl.
Here’s what happened last time: http://arsenalcolumn.co.uk/2011/11/28/eight-points-on-arsenal-1-1-fulham/
Silly season is very much underway as a number of Arsenal teams were “confirmed” before we were airlifted the official teams to our secret headquarters in the sky. Alas, Robin van Persie does start indicating that for Arsenal, it’s “serious season” and if he, and they, because let’s face it, van Persie IS Arsenal at the moment, can get through this congested fixture schedule, then a deserved week’s rest beckons. Here are the teams:
Fulham: Stockdale, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, J Riise, Dembele, Murphy, Sidwell, Ruiz, Zamora, Dempsey. Subs: Etheridge, Baird, Orlando Sa, Gecov, Duff, Hughes, Frei.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Coquelin, Song, Arteta, Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho, van Persie. Subs: Almunia, Rosicky, Squillaci, Arshavin, Chamakh, Benayoun, Miquel.