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Priced Out

Priced Out

'What we did tiday was just not good enough.' Succinctly put by Arsene Wenger, it's certainly a few expletives short of exactly what I think of yesterday's performance. That's a real shame because the day itself otherwise was a pretty nice one. I've spoken before of my fondness for trips to Craven Cottage, and Fulham away on August Bank Holiday weekend was as much as I could have asked for from the fixture computer. We began the festivities nice and early, meeting in the Boat House pub at 1.30pm. Picturesquely located on the bank of the Thames, the place was swollen with Gooners enjoying the sunshine. From there we made our way over the bridge to find a very noicy Eight Bells, a baying throng of red and white in fine voice, before making our way through the park and into the stadium.

The jollity ended there as Fulham completely outplayed Arsenal in the first half, Bullard and Murphy pulling the strings in the centre of the park and Arsenal's complete lack of desire meant we refused to capitalise on Fulham's lack of muscle in the middle of the park. Wenger's decision to wait to buy a midfielder looked every bit as stupid and naive a risk as I felt it would be. Denilson toiled but had a real off day, misplacing passes and uncharacteristically pulling challenges. Basically put, Eboue was our best player. A brief flash of invention was evident after 15 minutes, Walcott overhit a cross from the right, the bristling Nasri neatly cut the ball back and the anonymous van Persie flashed a shot wide. But the Cottagers took control, Seol played in Zamora who smartly turned Toure, but the beefy Ivorian got the tackle in. The resulting corner was a microcosm of the game itself. Bullard and Murphy worked the short corner and swung in a cross and Brede Hangeland wanted to meet the ball more than William Gallas and studded the ball in, with Denilson turning his back on the challenge. Gallas has to ask serious questions of himself for that goal, when the captain won't fight for the ball you have to ask why.

The Gunners reply was immediate but short lived. Sagna, who also had a rare off day, swung in a beautiful cross from the right and Adebayor's header thumped the foot of the post. But Fulham went in at half time deservedly in front. In truth, steeped high in the Putney End, I wasn't at all worried. I thought Fulham would burn themselves out and Arsenal would cruise the gears in the last twenty minutes. The truth is, Fulham were too resilient and we didn't work them hard enough. Adebayor was starved of service and largely a peripheral character. van Persie was entirely ineffective, refusing to drop back and link the play between midfield and attack as he is supposed to. I'm struggling with him, I really am. Too often he is a cerebral character in a match and I get the impression he has no concept of team work whatsoever. There was an incident with five minutes left when Arsenal won a free kick on the right hand side of the penalty area and van Persie elected to shoot from an impossible angle. What infuriates me most though is that van Persie is something of a golden child amongst supporters, as evidenced yesterday. Criticising him is an act of heresy that will not be tolerated. Eboue, despite being our most committed player, still bore the brunt of acid tongued ranting in the away end, while van Persie swanned around and received no ire. In fact, in the twenty minutes Bendtner was on the pitch, he produced more than Adebayor and van Persie put together.

With around ten minutes remaining, Bendtner produced a 180 degree pirouhette and lifted a gorgeous through ball to van Persie, but the Dutchman was again guilty of rocking back on his heels. Long shots from Adebayor and Song were all we could muster from a Fulham side who were rigid. van Persie collected a pass from Sagna and fired a long shot just wide. Fulham nearly caught Arsenal on the break with a flowing move, Bullard fed Zamora who tucked the ball back to Davies, but he didn't trust his left foot and sliced horribly wide with the outside of his right. The final whistle saw the predictable outburst from the away end. The supporters really got my goat yesterday, I'm starting to wonder if football fans even watch the game anymore, it seems they arrive armed with their cliches and preconceptions and fire them off at will. So no matter that Eboue actually had a good game, it's his fault. No matter that van Persie was woeful, he's the favourite so no blame can be attributed to him. Somebody behind me fumed, 'Denilson can't control a game like Fabregas can Wenger!' If that gentleman could find a midfielder who can and who is willing to sit on our bench for six months a year, please be forthcoming with a name. Ultimately, Nasri and Eboue apart, we did not perform as a team or as individuals. The lack of depth in the midfield has hurt us like I knew it would. Wenger may want to wait for deadline day and save us a million or so on a midfielder, which is great, but we've lost a very attainable three points in waiting. That is a price we just cannot afford.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday August 24 2008
Time: 10:42AM


Bit of a wake up call methinks!
24/08/2008 11:11:00
Bendtner has all the ideas but not quite the deftness of pass for his ideas to bear as much fruit as they should. But did he really contribute more than Ade and RvP combined? Not entirely fair to judge a player on 30 minutes but the reality is that other than half a dozen good passes at best he made no difference. Sagna's off day will have had more to do with not having Eboue in front of him and having to cover for the woefully unproductive Walcott than any loss of form.
24/08/2008 11:51:00
we lost the premiership by four points last season. kind of puts this loss in perpective. we really need to be winning these kinds of games so as to not put undue pressure of "must win" situations when we face the top four teams. i thought our guys looked lost on the field. not knowing where each other were or what they were supposed to do. i dont want to single anybody out becos it was a collective bad effort. i dont think a magical signing of one DM will solve all our problems so i have no issues if wenger wants to wait til the final hour to sign someone (if he does at all). i think its more of a problem with the team not gelling. this IS only the second game, and we DO have quite a few injuries. so lets see how the lads bounce back midweek and the following few games. go gunners!!!
24/08/2008 12:24:00
Very true Merlin. If Wenger wants Alonso then he has to phone Rafa this morning and just give the man his money. If we really can't afford the big payout then Wenger needs to tell us and we can move on and accept that we've got to deal with what we've got and that we just can't compete at the moment. But if he keeps insisting that we've got that cash then he's got to bail us out before we're out of the chase before the end of September.
24/08/2008 12:24:00
Superof - The thing is without Cesc that midfield has no collective premiership experience whatsoever. And in that part of the pitch it's crucial to be on the same wavelength and we gotta be dominant.
24/08/2008 12:31:00
Though I think there is a small element of being away on international duty having an effect, the bigger factor here is that the core of our team last year that played so well isn't together - Rosicky, Cesc, Hleb, Flamini - and it's going to take time for the team to gel. Sufficient depth and experience in the squad cost us last year; clearly we haven't rectified this. Maybe this defeat and performance is just what was needed to make Arsene realise that he needs to take action because we're unlikely to win anything other than plaudits for our beautiful game otherwise.
24/08/2008 12:51:00
Bendtner tried to create something in that last half an hour, which is more than RvP and Ade did. True about Sagna, but he also just had one of those days where his distribution was off kilt and he couldn't control the ball, it happened to Clichy too. It happens. But I'm struggling to remember what Walcott produced, one overhit cross which Nasri rescued. Fulham realised Theo needs a couple of seconds to hit his stride before he can run at people, so Fulham crowded him instantly. He really needs to work on the basic skill of controlling the ball properly. But again, he is somehting of a darling amongst Gooners, so let's not criticise him and, in the words of Jackson 5, "Blame it on Eboue." That's much easier.
Little Dutch
24/08/2008 12:54:00
Good interview by Amy Lawrence with Cesc. I honestly feel he should be made our captain - he has Arsenal in his blood more than Gallas I feel and is our real figurehead on the pitch, the symbol of our club.
24/08/2008 13:20:00
Sorry, here's the link -
24/08/2008 13:21:00
Again that's an easy target. We didn't lose yesterday because Gallas is a bad captain anymore than we beat West Brom because he's a good one. I'm not sure what Gallas has to do, he scores important goals at the Reebok against Twente, and nobody puts it down to good captaincy, but we lose and apparently it's because that small piece of material on his arm didn't conjure up this magical power to all of a sudden make our midfield play well. Cesc doesn't need the captaincy to be our best and most crucial player and we don't need to lumber him with yet another responsibility. Part of Henry's deterioration was down to the fact that he took all set pieces, penalties, top scorer, top assists etc, etc. Fabregas can be a great captain in a few years, but there's no essential need now. It won't change anything,in fact, the only discernable effects it will have will likely be detrimental. We also have to make sure he has targets, if we give him the captaincy now, he will have hit the ceiling as to what else there is to strive for atArsenal. I'm happy to have it as a little carrot dangling just above his head for a little while yet.
Little Dutch
24/08/2008 13:54:00
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