Fulham 2-1 Arsenal: Finishing and fullbacks finally tell
The short report
Seven points from a festive three were on the cards until around 80 minutes, that would have been a highly satisfactory position given that our rivals have slipped up on more than one occasion. But a lack of goals has ultimately undone Arsenal, with three goals in three games you deserve no more than the four points achieved.
The AL report
A one all draw at the Emirates late in November with Fulham, that and a single goal apiece at home to Wolves and QPR flagged this match as a game that Arsenal may well struggle, a close encounter was always on the cards. Arsenal who have seemed jaded in recent matches started rather brightly pinning Fulham in their half for a good 3-4 minutes. Fulham gradually began to get going and upped the tempo, the first half saw Arsenal for the large part in control but as the Gunners faded in the second half Fulham found their verve, aided by the sending off of Johan Djourou.
The full back position does now look rather dire, even the out of position centre halves are unavailable. Djourou will serve a 1 game suspension in due course leaving Arsenal with the likelihood of pairing Francis Coquelin and Ignasi Miquel out of position. I like what I have seen of both players however at 19 and 20 you would have to have some reservations about pairing both in their natural positions let alone as makeshift fullbacks together, it looks a certainty that Arsene will make a loan move in the full back position and with the offensive limitations of our game right now I would be punting for an attack minded full back who can offer something going forward.
I thought the early goal would be decisive; it was of vital importance that Arsenal got it having failed to score more than once in their previous two home matches. Fulham themselves are fairly tight but themselves are not the most prolific of opposition, I think most supporters would have wagered that at least a point was on the cards with a goal lead. Had Arsenal hung on it would have been four away wins from five, but in truth a win would have covered over some fairly wide cracks and ones you would hope now that Arsene Wenger looks to resolve in the January transfer window. The team is running low on gas and the returnees from injury cannot come soon enough.
Once again Walcott and Gervinho failed to produce in terms of end product, that both have just four goals apiece is a real concern for a line up and game plan that looks reliant on the front three. Another repeat facet was that Arsenal were denied a penalty, on 13 minutes Gervinho’s quick feet evaded Senderos but the former Arsenal player should have been penalised for catching the Ivory Coast star.
It is noticeable though how much better Arsenal are this season at getting people in and around the box, for the goal on 21 minutes there were 8 men forward from an open play position. Aaron Ramsey’s deflected cross was well finished by Laurent Koscielny profiting from generous space between the Fulham defence. It was nearly two soon after, again with plenty players forward, Arsenal lay siege to the Fulham goal. As Ramsey’s shot came back off the keeper it bounced off a Fulham defender and Stockdale reacted quickly to divert the ball onto the post. Gervinho couldn’t divert the rebound goal ward or set up a teammate.
The second half was somewhat an anti-climax, Arsenal’s chances dried up as Fulham began to dominate possession. On the balance of play it would be hard to deny that they deserved a point for their efforts, in truth Fulham could and ought to have scored another couple of occasions. A defeat though was rather harsh on Arsenal, particularly in light of the first half dominance.
Francis Coquelin will in time be some player. His first touch and quickness to find space over the first 5 yards are impressive, he’s a player with a fine engine, tenacity and silky feet it’s a rare combination and why he’ll go far. Frimpong is another I have much time for, it was always likely he would be the one to move on loan with Coquelin’s versatility a key advantage. The right-footed midfielder did well considering he was asked to play as an emergency left back for the first time. His positioning was on occasion a little off and his defending a touch acrobatic as a result but otherwise impressed. A couple moments really caught the eye, on 24 minutes a tremendous sliding tackle and ball forward to Van Persie and on 32 minutes the same combination almost led to a second Arsenal goal with Coquelin showing some silky footwork to beat his man and cross in for his captain.
Man of the match
Mikel Arteta and Alex Song sat as the base of a midfield triangle, Arsenal looked to play a fairly direct game plan and commit players forward. There was a danger therefore of the deep set up becoming somewhat detached but Aaron Ramsey had a fine game getting up and down the park all night long, his deflected cross set up the Arsenal goal. It’s a shame he was withdrawn for Squillaci, had that situation not arisen we would be sat praising a match winning 90 minute performance.
Moan of the match
This selection may prove unpopular given just how well the young Polish keeper has done, like most supporters I love his attitude, and feel we have at last a solid spine. However he made two poor mistakes and was lucky that both didn’t cost the team, on 63 minutes Senderos’s header went inches past the post as Szczesny who came and got nowhere looked on and 85 minutes his flap at a cross did though prove costly, Senderos setting up Sidwell. Squillaci‘s the ‘plug in accident’ even that far down the pecking order managed to find his way of costing Arsenal again, it’s difficult to understand just what he was expected to add as stand in right back.
The final word
More than a few issues culminated in a defeat; Szczesny at times is over zealous in coming off his line, the full back picture and ultimately a shear lack of goals. We were close to achieving seven points from a festive three which perhaps goes to show the fine line between success and failure, certainly this result and performance is not all black and white. Had any of our fullbacks been available I am convinced that neither the Fulham defeat nor draw at home to Wolves would have transpired. Four points from Wolves (h), QPR (h) and Fulham (A) is a disaster in isolation, the chief factor is goals with only 1 goal in each match scored. Arsene Wenger looks set to add Thierry Henry for two months but given the lack of trust in Chamakh / Park and wasteful finishing from Walcott / Gervinho it’s clear that more firepower needs to be on the cards.
2011-12 | Match Reports