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Fulham 0 Arsenal 1

Fulham away has been my favourite Premiership away fixture since the Cottagers moved back home in 2004. Possibly London`s most picturesque borough, situated as it is right on the River Thames and the quaint, traditional ground is annexed onto the idyllic Bishop`s Park. The area also offers some of London`s best boozers. I always hope that this game is played in the summertime and with the weatherman granting sumptuous blue skies and late summer sunshine, the scene was set as we took our place in the opulent Boathouse pub on Putney Bridge, set on the Wharf of the Thames at precisely 1pm. With four and a half hours until kick off, there was plenty of time to sample the delights of a Young`s Pub, the Young`s Kew Bitter proving to be my pallet`s preferred weapon of choice. The establishment soon became awash with Gooners, with Goonerholic, Navydave and Gooner_Vin all in attendance, the cyber world was made flesh for Vital Arsenal. I`m sorry I didn`t get the chance to natter with you all at any length; most of you caught me at the bar with an armful of beverages! Being one of the youngest in our entourage, I`m told juniors always make the bar run in lieu of the seniors, who have earned their stripes. Some people will use any old excuse you know.

Ironically, one of the things we discussed was who would play in goal. Almunia`s "chest infection" (who misses four games with a bad cough? Talk about man 'flu) coupled with Szczesny`s impressive performance in midweek left the position open to question. Lord Lowe commented that Mannone had looked "unconvincing" which I countered to be a little unfair. Come 19.30 views would be rectified. We made our way to the ground, a little disappointed the barbecue had disappeared in Bishop`s Park, giving way to a bog standard burger van. In Mike`s case "bog standard" burger proved to be a little apt. One of the great things about the Putney End is that it retains noise very well and the travelling pilgrims filled the cathedral with singing throughout. Andrey Arshavin`s return lubricated the vocal chords, as did the sight of cult hero Eboue jogging across the turf to take his place on the bench. The Gunners struggled to get their rhythm in the opening stages; Bendtner and van Persie were very industrious but lacking in guile. Fulham created the first opportunity of the game, a ball into Zamora in the channel saw him tuck the ball back to Zoltan Gera and with Vermaelen chasing him out wide, Arsenal lacked the aerial presence in their own box to prevent Johnson stooping to meet his cross with a firm header which Mannone beat away, Dempsey was swiftly onto the rebound but Mannone was up and the ball hit him in the face. You might say there was an air if serendipity about the follow up save, but Mannone was sharp to his feet to increase his chances of getting something in the way. The importance of an early save for a young rookie goalkeeper was to be crystallized later on.

Arsenal ebbed and flowed but once in the first half, the "Triple Entente" proving to be the pivots. Fabregas used van Persie as a sounding board in the area, before dinking the ball into the path of Arshavin on the left of the area, an awkward bobble coupled with a sliding challenge from Gera culminated in the Russian poking the ball over the bar. I`ve seen and heard a fair bit of criticism for Fabregas` performance yesterday, yet when it came to it, he created our goal and our best opportunity. I often think he is so good we take for granted how precious he is to us. Don`t make the mistake of taking him for granted, you`d notice if he wasn`t there. Fulham carved another good opportunity with some neat football, Murphy played the ball into Johnson who showed great awareness to flick the ball into the path of the onrushing Gera but Mannone got down to palm his low steered shot wide. The first half proved to be a war of attrition with the home side just shading it. But Gallas and Vermaelen looked very solid and you had the feeling Arsenal had a couple more gears to cruise.

They would find those gears early in the second half; Song intercepted an aimless Konchesky clearance, Bendtner thought quickly to nudge the ball to Fabregas and the captain swerved an inch perfect pass into van Persie who embellished the beauty of the ball with an excellent first touch and low finish with his right foot as he manoeuvred between Hughes and Hangeland. Song, Bendtner, Fabregas and van Persie all thought and acted quickly in the build up to the goal, it was the speed and accuracy required in a game as tight as this and van Persie`s touch and finish in the tightest snatch of space was of game winning quality. I`m still confused as to why people don`t believe van Persie can play at the arrowhead of the front three. Goals such as this and his efforts against Everton and Liverpool last season show he has the quality and strength to eke out space with his control and movement, he`s strong and intelligent with his back to goal. I think people have taken his goal tally to now a little too personally. He`s performed a valuable function for the team all season long and that`s all that matters, not Fantasy Team points or whose name you have on the back of your replica shirt. Arsenal were in their stride and could have had a second, Gallas moved the ball forwards to van Persie, he turned brilliantly with his back to goal and released Bendtner in the right channel, but his low shot was beaten out by Schwarzer.

Fulham proved to be dogged opponents, as you would come to expect from a team under the wing of an excellent coach like Hodgson. Zamora again worked the channel and pulled Vermaelen away from the area, he flighted in a cross to find Johnson stooping for a header again, again Mannone beat it out and again Dempsey was quickly onto the rebound, but he could only drive it across goal. More hearts would be a flutter in the Putney End when Dempsey collected Murphy`s pass on the edge of the area and the American`s shot ricocheted off of Sagna`s studs, kissed the outside of the post. Arsenal would look vulnerable in the air again when Konchesky put in a late free kick, Zamora easily out leapt Diaby only to find Mannone`s gun slinging finger tips push the ball out again. In injury time, Gallas made an heroic block from Murphy`s attempted volley, putting his body on the line for the cause. Arsenal might have sealed the game on the counter attack when Fabregas found Eboue rampaging into space with Fulham committed, but he dragged his effort wide when he ought to have at least worked the goalkeeper.

In the end it was a solid, hard fought 1-0 away win against an excellent Fulham side. I`ve actually come to be more enthused about results like this than when we are at our free flowing best. Shoeing Wigan and Portsmouth at home, whilst very satisfying, does not tell us anything we don`t already know about this team. Questions abound as to our ability to win ugly and grind out results. I reckon United won at least fifteen games in this exact manner last season. We weren`t at our gorgeous best- Fulham simply didn`t allow us to be with a determined, formidable display. (They also showed it is possible to be committed, determined and aggressive, as well as creative, without the need for leg snapping challenges- I`m looking at you Allardyce, you slimy walrus). I think the midfield three did a steady, solid job and held their positions well. This might be the first time ever that I`ve seen Diaby have a 7 out of 10 game, he usually veers wildly between the sublime and the ridiculous but yesterday he was solid, that was what we needed him to be. Still a modicum of worry that Fulham found free headers so easy to come by in our penalty area, had Mannone not intervened that might have been highlighted more rigorously than it has been. Tightly contested games such as this are won by pieces of quality in the crucial areas- or mastering the key phases of the game- a phrase I have used time and again in describing Arsenal`s deficiencies. In the end, Arsenal showed one massive piece of quality in the attacking third with Fabregas` pass and van Persie`s brilliantly taken goal. At the other end, Mannone showed four pieces of match winning quality and that reflects well on the individuals responsible and the maturity of the team as a whole. Let us hope that, as the days are getting shorter, we did not bear witness to a false dawn.LD.

Team: 24.MANNONE, 3.SAGNA, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 22.CLICHY, 17.SONG, 4.FABREGAS(c), 2.DIABY, 52.BENDTNER, 23.ARSHAVIN (7.Rosicky `68), 11.v.PERSIE (27.Eboue `82).
Unused: 12.Vela, 16.Ramsey, 18.Silvestre, 53.Szczesny.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 27 2009

Time: 12:12PM

Your Comments

Good point about Cesc. We would miss him if he wasn't there. But we have missed sufficent other creative influence in midfield for sometime. Cesc suffers because too much has to go through him. He didn't get the level of help he might have expected from Arshavin yesterday but he definitely needs more if we are to see as much as we would expect from him. This game creates heroes and villians so readily. Mannone has been rightly feted for a great shot stopping performance yesterday but the defence looked panickier and less organised for longer than at any other time this season. There seemed to be a more than usual nned for frantic effort to protect the goal with Gallas particularly making some fine blocks. The number of chances Fulham created may of course be down to good tactics from Hodgson but maybe a collective lack of confidence or belief in all the components of our defense played a part. For sure we won't always be able to rely on great reflexes alone to save us if we give as many chances to other teams.
Amos.
Great write-up. Agree with everything but - Diaby SOLID???? wtf?
sunaadh
il nostro portiere č imbattibile
ajwb
Good to finally put a face to the name yesterday LD. It's about time we won a game like that. United & City we played well and got bugger all. We have the chance now to get on a good run leading up to Spurs now. How Zoltan Gera only started on the bench I will never know, I thought he was very good yesterday.
navydave
How awesome was Vermaelen in that last 10-15 minutes?!
Tom14
We certainly had Mannone to thank for the 3 points. The defence (all of them, at different points during the game) found it difficult to deal with Fulham on several occassions. Atleast, Arsenal can claim 3 points when 1 would have been a fair outcome. Thats good to know, but how many times will the keeper save us like that? Arshavin had a stinker yesterday, and I thought Diaby was again inconsistent (although not as much as usual - he was too casual on occassion, having the ball robbed from him too easily). The 1st half was a write off, but the goal was a move of beauty, and there were a couple of other moves which said fluid free flowing football, which was pleasing.
prits
I would imagine Nasri coming back will ease some of that burden on Cesc. Whether he would fit into the central midfield three or the front three I'm not sure- I could see him doing a job in both areas. Ditto Rosicky, who I actually think has looked better playing deeper in his cameos this season. You'd have to imagine he might not be as mobile as he used to be, so it might be just as well to put him in with Cesc and Denilson- who I believe can perform better without Song than vice versa. van Persie creates a lot in the final third too, though Denilson uses the ball very well. All in all, I think any burden on Cesc will be temporary- we're missing personnel in similar areas just now. I also think Cesc did the dirty stuff pretty well yesterday, getting tackles in an tracking back. Yes Gera was everywhere, I always thought he was a good signing for Fulham but he doesn't seem to have taken off as I thought he would. Perhaps with Greening and Duff on board, it's given him a kick up the backside?
Little Dutch
I do think Hodgson was clever with his tactics. I think Arsenal's aerial weakness plus an inexperienced keeper persuaded him to get crosses into the box- which isn't usually Fulham's style. The surprise was that it was Zamora running the channels and Johnson getting the headers when you'd expect it to be the other way around.
Little Dutch
When people, fans and pundits alike, look back at our unbeaten season they don't focus on the poor games, the almost losses ( man u and Pompey come to mind) instead they focus on the result. Should we win anything this season we will be doing the same again. One nil results are just as important as thrashing teams.
DBerg
Nice work, LD. Shame we didn't get to have a natter, but I had a full afternoon of food and drink mapped out. Hope to bump into you again soon.
FatOldDave
Football is so confusing at time, We got 3pts when we didn't really deserve them, yet none in a game where we totally played the other team off the pitch ( Man utd)!
hackneyval
To be honest, I think a scrappy, uncomfortable win was the best thing we could possibly have wished for at this stage of the season. We've had superb victories, and good performances in defeat, but haven't had a really fortuitous win yet (we always looked likely in the Celtic game). I think it's good for our players to know that our level of performance always needs to improve, and that through defensive grit we can always get results. It will be a very good experience to draw upon as the season goes on. I'm glad Mannone proved me wrong yesterday. I've seen him many times for the reserves, and he's never looked very good to me, so I'm still not getting carried away, but he showed yesterday that he has talent, and according to Arsene he's always demanding self-improvement, so he may yet prove to be genuine Arsenal quality, but I don't like the way the media are already suggesting he's better than Almunia. It's a fickle game.
ArsenalRob
AR, Mannone has proved nithing to nobody.
Tom14
1 - 0 to the arsenal! I'll take this all season long
TeamSpirit
helo peeps quite a while...
TeamSpirit
I know that Tom. Despite his heroics yesterday, I still don't really rate him in the long-term, but many will think he's proven himself to be 'the next Buffon'.
ArsenalRob
Dun agree wid yu on Rosicky there. He has looked as sharp n mobile as he has ever been. His movement n sharpness on da pitch has been top notch. He has also gone in for tackles widout any fear n da finishing is still there. I get ur point though bout him looking good in a deeper role, his passing has looked sharp n whenever on da ball, he's looked like he can open up da defence wid a killer pass. Overall im very happy wid his comeback n wid games under his belt, he will only get better. So tim just cuz yu lost da bet wid ur mate of tommy never playing for us again, dun be too harsh on him n give him credit where its due :-D
luckys_10
I agree luckys_10, Rosicky was one of our best players against Standard Liege. I've been very impressed with him since his return, certainly looks a lot more lively than Arshavin in recent matches.
bowiecokemirror
I don't feel I've been harsh on Rosicky at all. I made him MOTM against Citeh and Liege. He has been quite excellent since he came back, but it's clear he'll be only be able to do cameos for a while yet. I think a guy who has several tendon grafts on his hamstring is going to lose a yard of pace- that's a lot more work than Owen ever had on his hamstrings and he's lost the ability to run! I think asking Rosicky to get up and down the wing as a wide attacker for 70+ minutes on a weekly basis ain't gonna happen and the mark of an intelligent player is to adapt. Pires adapted, van Nistelrooy adapted, Owen never did. I'd back Tomas to do so by slotting into that deeper position where his creativity can be of use.
Little Dutch
we really do need to tinker this 4-3-3 formation and get arshavin in a position where he is comfortable because with him on the wind he's doing 60% less damage to the opposition than he was last season
gunner24
I think Arshavin has to adapt to the formation not vice versa. The system works for the team and AA will have to work harder to fit into it. Catering to the whims of individuals is a fools errand in a football team (the only time I recall Wenger doing it was in the last two years of Henry's Arsenal career-and that was a mistake). If it don't fit Arshavin and it works for the team- tough *****. This isn't a holiday camp for egos to sell shirts, this is a team.
Little Dutch
The problem is Arshavin's fitness. He's admitted, Wenger acknowledged that he has poor fitness levels and therefore will deteriorate in performance levels after 40 minutes. I think the left is the best position for him at Arsenal because he's mainly a counter attacking player and almost individualistic in his choices. I think Wenger could think about moving him at the tip of the front three a la Messi at Barcelona to freshen things up even though he doesn't quite have the skill set to play there long term.
The Brain
No i agree but you cant let such a impact player go to waste its like when alex ferguson put rooney on the wing last season he was pretty poor but look at the difference he has had on united up frount this season, or when rafa put gerrard on the wings, or when essien plays on the wings for chelsea the list goes on. But you cannot deny that when they all moved to their preffered positions they played better.
gunner24
How is Arshavin allowed to "go to waste" on the left of a 433? It is the positiuon he plays for Russia and most of his time at Zenit. He needs to adapt to the Arsenal team and hopefully, without the clown Diaby, he will be able to do so. He links well with Denilson and Nasri, so either of those, or indeed Rosicky, covering the left ahead of Diaby would improve him.
Tom14
Diaby??
anonymous
Allan Hansen said that you need to be able to win when you play badly. Well, we did that against Fulham, we didn’t play particularly well but we got three points. Then he said on MOTD that When Man U., Liverpool or Chelsea play badly and win, they don’t concede as many chances as Arsenal. Isn’t that all part of “not playing well”? This man’s got a real problem with us and with the highlights not being shown until virtually the end, it seems like the BBC has as well. Jeez!
Sir Henry
That comment from Hansen was rubbish anyway. man U played well against Burnley and lost and that happens many many times a season for every team, and vice verca, Arsenal won a lot of games they deserved to lose last year.
Tom14
Diaby solid? ...come on ...seriously? If not for Mannone there would have been 2 goals that would have been down to him losing his man. He must be one of the highest ball losers in the premier league? Honestly anyone who still has faith in Diaby is blind. How consistantly bad must be play and constantly lose the ball before people realise how terrible he is? Denislon would have done 100x better job in that posistion. I know everyone was average but Diaby is crap, every game.
FuiKaka
Fui, very reluctantly, Ive gradually come over to your view re Diaby. He was truly awful on Saturday -- it's a joke to watch how easily opponents (even physically lightweight ones) can muscle him off the ball - he's big and tall, yet he makes Denilson look like Mike Tyson when it comes to getting the ball off him. Pity Denilson is still out for several more weeks, I feel more confident with Song & Denilson in midfield than Song & Diaby. And I was sick and tired of hearing the Fulham fans chanting the "same old Arsenal" song every single time one of our players fell to the ground. It's like Arsenal players are not supposed to fall on the ground anymore, regardless if they've been kicked and shoved all over the place.
jaelle
I hate that too jaelle, I actually don't understand why we arsenal supporters can't turn that around on other teams. How hard could it be to just start singing, "same old Fulham" whenever one of them goes to ground? well I know it would be hard to start at the Grove, but the traveling should be able to, they usually do a really good job.
TPowell
To be fair Jaelle, we've been getting that for any incident since the Sheff Unt FA cup thing (maybe before but I can't remember)! It's an easy, un-imaginative chant that fans know gets up our nose! I wouldn't mind Ramsey given a run in the team. He's done well coming off the bench so far this season.
navydave
yeah, I know, navy (I lived in London at the time of the SheffU game, I well remember how much that chant was sung afterward). But we go thru periods where it's sung more often than not and right now we're getting it a LOT -- obviously because of the whole Eduardo flap.
jaelle
am i the only one to think there is some kind of camaraderie missing between Arshavin and his team mates.. i have seen him plough a lone furrow for a fairly long time in the match and the ball always goes over to bendtner on the right side leaving Arshavin frustrated... it is as if Cesc and co are not so keen on someone new hogging the limelight... i hope it is just a conspiracy theory to support this brilliant footballer
arseneknows
I think too many are pandering to Arshavin's ego. He's just generally an enigmatic player and not a particularly industrious one. It's how he operates. You don't exactly see him screaming for the ball only to be ignored, often he's not looking for it at all. Now, Henry towards Reyes- that was an obvious bullying scenario from someone who was supposed to be captain. But nobody calls Henry out on that because he's untouchable in most people's eyes, same as Arshavin at the moment. Football fans have become incredibly player-centric over the last ten years.
Little Dutch
Player-centric as opposed to what? Club-centric? C'mon...certain players over Arsenal have been untouchable since i can remember!
shewore
Maybe it has always been like that, maybe it's just because I grew up in the Graham years when the only players that provided any excitement to fans were sold instantly. But I blame the "player on the back of the shirt" thing that's risen up over the last ten years. Idolatory behaviour has spread to more than just the odd Charlie George or Ian Wright. With every man and his dog playing fantasy football (if I hear one more dick next to me at a game punctuate Arsenal conceding a goal with- "it's ok, he's in my fantasy team" I'll swing for 'em) and 50 year old men rushing to get 19 WILSHERE on their shirts it seems more stark nowadays. I guess I can't understand it, you choose to support a club, so why does it matter how many pretty goals van Persie scores or how many stepovers Arshavin executes whilst ARSENAL are averaging three goals a game and more? Maybe I'm old before my time?
Little Dutch
LD, you're a young guy with an "old football soul" -- a highly commendable package, imo. :-D Guys like you prove that shallowness and brainlessness has nothing at all to do with age.
jaelle
I'll take that as a compliment all day long! However, at 25 I really shouldn't be browsing CAMRA leaflets, that is just pure "old fartedness" before my time.
Little Dutch
I say, steady on there LD. I've been studying CAMRA leaflets for over 35 years!
FatOldDave
Yeah but 25 years ago you were in your 60s........
Little Dutch
Well, at 25 I was browsing thru old movie magazines from the 20s and 30s from the US and Brazil.... old-fartedness, whatever, have always loved old publications like that. When visiting my father's small hometown (interior of Sao Paulo) when I was 19 I discovered among his belongings (some of which the family had thankfully preserved after he died) some old magazines from the 30s-50s about Brazilian football, plus his diary. I barely slept and ate for days going thru that stuff. I'll never forget one of his entries from 1957: "went to see the game with ____ Santos today -- they had this little black kid, very small, didn't do much. But he almost scored a beautiful goal against us....we need someone like that, doesn't need to do very much except score." That's paraphrasing from memory, I've also deleted my father's obscenities about Santos. :-) My father supported Corinthians and yes, I'm not making this up, he was talking about Pele. Tho I didn't realize it until much later. Sorry, don't know how I got onto all that.
jaelle
My mum's first husband played against Pele when he did his National Service in the late 50s, still got the photos and all. Another family chesnut would be that my Grandad was chairman of Wycombe Wanderers in the 50s when they were in the South Midlands League (I think two divisions below what would be the Blue Square Premier now). This is obviously where I get it from! Big generation gaps in the family. Not sure where the ale drinking came from though?
Little Dutch
Thats just generally being a male isn't it LD? ...This has got to be the farthest we've ever wonered off topic, but that's an awesome story jaelle. Pele is the truest hero too the game we all love so much!
FuiKaka
Diaby was terrible. Always losing possession. Maybe Walcott will have learnt something when he returns....
Omogusii
"My mum's first husband played against Pele when he did his National Service in the late 50s, still got the photos and all." -- wow! Fantastic!! My father's diary also had some hilarious things to say about Garrincha and the entire 1958 world cup squad. He called Garrincha a genius, an SOB and a weird looking player who unsettled opponents because his body just looked unbalanced and they couldn't figure out how he ran with the ball and protected it like he was a dancer.
jaelle
 

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