Monday, January 02, 2012
Ten Thoughts on Arsenal 1 Fulham 2
Well, that was frustrating, but let's start at the beginning (always a good place to start):
* We had, in many respects, an excellent first half. We raced out the box and dominated the game - I think we had something like 60% of possession at certain points in the first period, which is brilliant for any performance away from home.
* Our goal was very nice indeed. A great ball over the top was met by Kos who get a well deserved goal, given his recent, excellent form. Ramsey showed at several points during the game that he has the class to be the fulcrum of our midfield.
* For all our dominance in the first half, the score was only 1-0 after 45 mins. Yes, we should have had a pen for the foul on Gervinho, who was definitely caught by Senderos, but we were creating enough chances around the Fulham box that we really should have scored a second. Indeed, the game's major turning point may have been when we hit the post just after we scored. If we had gone 2-0 up at that point, we could have really romped home.
* But we didn't, and the difference in our performance in the second half was worryingly huge. Whether Arene had told us to play deeper, or whether it was due to some heavy legs after so many recent games, we barely got out of our half for most of the second period, and even before the sending off Fulham really should have scored, with Dempsey and Senderos both going close.
* A major reason that we didn't go 2-0 up was the performance of Walcott and Gervinho. Walcott gets far too much abuse, in general, from Arsenal fans, but he was truly woeful today. When he's prevented from linking up with van Persie, he looks worryingly one-dimensional. Together with Gervinho, they were responsible for the majority of our attacks breaking down on the edge of the Fulham box.
* And this obviously leads into a wider concern - there is no real competition for Gerv and Walcott's places. I've talked a lot about our need for new strikers, but we desperately need new attacking options in midfield. Rosicky came on and did his usual running about routine, but, as usual, provided no goals, assists or even any real defensive cover. I like Benayoun, but he didn't offer a lot when he came on. In terms of the squad, I am growing increasingly bemused by the Park signing. Where was he today? When we needed to rotate the team a little, he wasn't even on the bench. Bischoff mark II?
* The sending off was the turning point in the game, and was the culmination of a series of poor refereeing decisions. By my count we should have had two penalties, and we did not get many decisions in our favour all afternoon. At one point, Riise shoved over Walcott in front of the ref, who gave nothing. In addition, I think that's about 6 penalties in the last 3 matches which we haven't been given. Arsene will get into trouble for his comments after the game, but I think that we haven't had a lot of decisions go in our favour recently.
*Squillaci will undoubtedly get most of the ire for his ten minute cameo, not least because of his 'assist' for the second Fulham goal. But Zamora was completely unmarked, just outside the six-yard box - who was meant to be covering him? Squiddy can't be blamed for everything that goes wrong in defence.
* Indeed, he can hardly be held responsible for the first goal. My article on SZCZ drew a fair amount of criticism, but he was massively at fault for the first Fulham goal. Yes, he made some excellent saves beforehand, but the last thing you want when you're trying to see a game out with ten men is for your keeper to make a massive error when under virtually no pressure.
* Overall, it's days like today which make me think we'll finish fifth this season. Over the festive season we got a great win at villa park, dropped points at home against wolves, scraped past QPR at home and then lost at Fulham. That's 7 points from 12, from a set of fixtures where you'd really hope us to take 10 points out of 12. Chelsea are now back above us, and I have a feeling that they and Spurs will edge us out for fourth come May. Maybe if we get in another 2 players in January in addition to Thierry, then I'll be proved wrong. We've also played all the top four away from home. But today showed how thin our squad is, and that a few players are running out of steam half-way through the season. If nothing else, Wilshere, Sagna and Santos really can't come back too soon.
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