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Fulham 2 Arsenal 2

The last game of a season that has felt increasingly like a grinding chore, but we were determined for our spirits not to be dampened. In fact, they were to be drenched. We met at the Boathouse on Putney Bridge Quay at 12noon; leaving us plenty of time to douse our gullets with sweet, live giving booze. In spite of the sporadic downpours, the pub was well stocked with the Gooner family. It was a pleasure to be able to speak with some of you. After several pints of bitter, we made the walk through a blustery Putney and into the salubrious surrounds of Bishops Park before making our way into the Putney End, which was already well voiced. London away matches probably provide the most raucous atmospheres due to the increased possibility of a pre match visit to a pub. Red Action have run boat trips to Craven Cottage for the last four or five seasons which I think adds that little bit more voice to Fulham away.

There are fewer finer places for pre match osmosis than Fulham and Putney. Add to that that the Putney End at Fulham is hollow and therefore reverberates voluminously under stamping feet and you usually find quite the racket can be caused. The supporters were already in fine voice before the match started, with a new Samir Nasri chant being aired to the tune of Depeche Mode`s 'Can`t Get Enough.` A less than complimentary, yet admittedly quite amusing rendition of, "It`s Denilson`s leaving party, take Eboue and Diaby" got plenty of support. During the match a quite amusing chorus of "your statue is sh*t, your statue is sh******t, it should`ve been Jedward, your statue is sh*t."

Whilst the supporters were determined to enjoy themselves, the players rather went through the motions. Which you`ve really come to expect from this team over the last two months. Plans for next season were perhaps in the winds, with Almunia, Rosicky and Bendtner not able to secure a place on the bench ahead of either Jens Lehmann or Ignasi Miquel. Meanwhile, Chamakh lined up beside van Persie in a 4-4-2 formation. You rather had the feeling that the game was something of a laboratory for 2011-12.

Both teams played the game with something of a "do we have to?" air; it took nearly 20 minutes for the first chance of note to be created. Bacary Sagna arrowed in a right wing cross to his opposite flank man Kieran Gibbs, whose low header bought a smart save out of Schwarzer. An ironic chant of "Let`s pretend we`ve won the league" was aired, but taken up with more vigour than at Stoke. With comedy, it`s all in the timing. As the chant went up, Murphy slipped Zamora in down the right channel with Kieran Gibbs AWOL, Zamora motored to the by line and cut the ball back for Steve Sidwell to score a simple tap in. "That`s why we`re Champions!" came the withering reply. In conjunction with this, every Fulham corner was greeted with an ironic chant of "We defended a corner." Surely, hearing that has to embarrass the players and coaching staff into action on the training ground?

But within three minutes, Arsenal`s leading torch man had the side he has carried for the last four months back into the game. Diaby won the ball back off of Danny Murphy in the Fulham half, exchanged passes with Chamakh, before slipping a clever pass into van Persie, who composed himself before clipping the ball past the hopelessly inept Mark Schwarzer. The Cottagers had time to mount the only incident of significant interest for the remainder of the half. Djourou`s clearance struck Danny Murphy in the Arsenal area, Murphy bumbled and smuggled his way around Szczesny, but with the ball trickling over the line, Thomas Vermaelen stormed back with a deliciously executed goal line tackle a yard from his own goal line. "Thomas Vermaelen, we`ve missed him all year" came the chant from the Putney End. Quite.

The second half was even more drab and dreary than the first. Samir Nasri`s free kick from the edge of the area forced a save from Schwarzer, but Fulham, who were only slightly more arsed than Arsenal, reassumed the lead when Jesus-a-like Jonathan Greening made a beeline for the by-line, cut a cross back to Bobby Zamora, who rose above Vermaelen to head into the roof of the net. With news of City`s two goal lead at Bolton and the pre match beer beginning to wear off, the atmosphere became diluted, then slightly poisonous. Arsenal Ladies were deservedly recognised with a chant of their own, but as the game limped towards conclusion, a venomous chorus of "spend some f*****g money!" reverberated around West London. For the second time in a week, the supporters were uprising against the club as the players ambled around, looking about as creatively inspired as an old man`s todger. Me and mine tried to lighten the mood with a rendition of "My summer holiday, is Rubin Kazan." It didn`t take, people weren`t laughing anymore.

The Gunners were given a glimmer when Schwarzer spilled van Persie`s low, slow cross hilariously into the path of Chamakh; who outdid the hapless Antipodean`s incompetence by fumbling the ball wide. An, ahem, "enthusiastic" two footed lunge by Zoltan Gera on Vermaelen earned the Hungarian a red card, but still Arsenal toiled unconvincingly. Arshavin cut on from the right and fired just wide. But Arsenal got their, somewhat meaningless, reprieve in the 89th minute. Chamakh set Walcott racing down the right; he showed Hughes a clean pair of heels before cantering into the area. His poor low shot was fumbled comically into the net by Schwarzer. It was a fitting goal given the quality of the match.

As the final whistle sounded, most players sheepishly breezed past the Putney End towards the tunnel, not wishing to make eye contact with the supporters who had called them out on their effort. Wilshere, Szczesny and Vermaelen came over. Of course Eboue did his, "oooh, I`m gonna wait five minutes, go over alone and secure another hilarious reception." But nobody really took the bait; people have tired of the cult of Eboue since the Liverpool penalty fiasco. We bought the curtain down on another campaign with a good, steady drinking session in Parson`s Green. We already know Bendtner, Denilson, Almunia and Rosicky are pretty much certainly out of the door, it`s hard to see a way back for Carlos Vela too. You sense there will be a big churn of squad players this summer. Wenger has spoken to French television today forecasting his busiest ever summer. You`ve the feeling it`s necessary.

Thanks very much to all of you for reading this season. I`ve had the good fortune to meet with a few of you over the course of the campaign and it`s been a pleasure. Of course I`ll be back doing the same roving reporting next season; but in the meantime there will be a lot of material from me over the next few weeks. Player of the Season, season reviews, player ratings and all that old jazz. I`m not terribly sad to see the back of 2010-11, but I`ve still enjoyed it. I always do. If nothing else, it`s been emotional.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 20.DJOUROU, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS (27.Eboue `64), 16.RAMSEY (14.Walcott `64), 19.WILSHERE, 2.DIABY (23.Arshavin `64), 8.NASRI, 29.CHAMAKH, 10.v.PERSIE©. Unused: 13.Lehmann, 15.Denilson, 18.Squillaci, 48.Miquel.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

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

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday May 23 2011

Time: 4:35PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Thanks for taking the time & effort to write, I wouldn't be surprised if you really couldn't be arsed to write this to be honest. Looking forward to some assessments over the next week or two. The last couple of months really have been indefensible, even from the most rosey of tinters.
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23/05/2011 17:00:00

That's the difference between the players and the fans SW, every game matters to us, not so much to them. Cracking write up LD, sounds like the Gooners were in fine form. Shame about the result ... but in honesty, it was a better result than I was expecting. This is the first season ever wheere I'm glad to go into the summer break. The next few months should be pretty exciting.
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23/05/2011 17:14:00

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your stuff this year, LD, much appreciated by us all as I'm sure you're already aware. I'd like Nick to stay but that's looking unlikely. I agree we could see our busiest summer yet, which is strange because despite recent failings, we are genuinely not that far away (anyone who can beat Barcelona is a good side in my book). I can see the four you mentioned on their bike, but I'd like Vela to stay and I think he will. We can't get rid of him and Bendtner because when RvP inevitably picks up a 'knock,' leaving him on the sidelines for 3 months, we'll have Chamakh and that's it, which is worrying, particularly if 4-4-2 is going to make an appearance next season. Can't see him buying another striker either. I'm sure Clichy and Nasri will sign on and Cesc depends simply on Farca coughing up the euros. Which they won't. Not a respectable amount anyway. I'm not one for shouting 'throw money at the problem' but I really would love to see one 'marquee' signing, in any position, so long as it improves the team. And we could well get it this summer. Going to be interesting. Here's to yet another rollercoaster of, albeit predictable, emotions. UTA.
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23/05/2011 17:35:00

Arsenal scored the same number of points as Wigan Athletic in the later half of the season. Hope you don't get relegated next year!
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23/05/2011 17:37:00

Nice work Tim. Everything as I remember it *cough*. No Timothy Taylor in the Bricklayers any more. Still some good ale though. See you again next season.
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23/05/2011 19:48:00

Thanks for all the great write ups during the season Tim and all the perceptive comments and insights not too mention your trashing of various trolls as they arrive displaying their envy. It will be a busy summer, the whole dynamic of this squad has been blown apart since the Birmingham game, and where I thought that maybe two additions would have really spiced things up, it would seem that some of the players now do not really believe in the manager's philosophy and unfortunately it is now almost a case of starting over again. It may take several seasons to build up again,and we will have to be ready for it.
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23/05/2011 22:11:00

Great job again, this year, LD. Very underwhelming end to a season that had so many twists and turns. I wonder if Arsenal shall ever have a better chance to get the title and one other trophy, as we did this season. So close to great things we were......
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23/05/2011 23:58:00

Excellent match reports LD. Full of humour, angst and sheer exasperation while keeping a sense of balance and perspective most of us find impossible to attain. Hope you regain the enthusiasm and vigour to do it all over again next season.
Wyn Mills
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24/05/2011 00:58:00

The chants were amusing, one of the things that made this report worth reading. Not too many gooners share your amusement at the miserable performances of late.
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24/05/2011 04:41:00

LD, thanks for the season of write up, each is a little piece of art, insightful and amusing, and an essential part of my arsenal experience. The "can't be arse(d)"nal team certainly showed up yesterday, but some of the inherent problems were still clearly on show. The teams unwillingness to take the initiative worries me, and the last 11 games have shown a team more worried about losing than winning. We do still play better when behind, but upon drawing level, lack the impetus to finish the job. This will be Wenger's biggest problem over summer, and no amount of money will fix it. I would personally be sad to lose Bendtner, certainly over and above Denilson and Rosicky. Whilst the latter two have had their moments, neither have really threatened to be game winners. Bendtner has, and his ability to impact a game will be a loss. But, he strikes me as a man unlikely to be happy as an impact sub, and maybe has that attitude that many people level at our youngsters, a lack of awareness that they are not yet at the grade, and an unwillingness to train and work to get to that level. For all of his attributes, and I am just hypothesising here, but a failure to improve and adapt will be his biggest hindrance. Will be an interesting summer, and I look forward to reading the season in review. Thanks again LD
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24/05/2011 07:54:00

Thanks for all the write-ups LD, thoroughy enjoyable. Strange but I hardly ever go to press write-ups of Arsenal games anymore and I always used to. Reading Arseblogger today and his view that Cesc is likely to go, is anyone else quite concerned about the number of players set to leave at the same time and the instability this could cause? It would appear that genuine candidates for the exit are Denilson, Bendtner, Eboue, Clichy, Rosicky, Almunia, Arshavin and Fabregas. That's an awful lot. When Arsene says we have a strong base, I reckon he means the following players: Sagna, TV5, Djourou, Kos, Wilshere, Ramsey, Song, Nasri, RvP, Chamakh, Theo and Cesc. I even think he'll keep Diaby. Is sure gonna be an interesting Summer.
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24/05/2011 10:11:00

Cheers all. The summer certainly will be interesting and the manager's recent comments about his busiest summer in a while are quite revealing. I read a fabulous letter on F365 yesterday that said Wenger this summer could be akin to the Simpsons episode when Homer becomes coach of Bart's football team. "Almunia- you're cut. Denilson- cut. Eboue- cut. Bendtner- I like your hustle. That's why it was so hard to cut you. Vela, Rosicky and Diaby- all cut. The rest of you, congratulations, you made the squad. Except for Clichy, Squillaci and Emmanuel Thomas- you guys are all cut."
Little Dutch
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24/05/2011 10:32:00

For a minute there LD I thought you were building up to say that you weren’t going to be doing write-ups any more. That would be unthinkable! Thanks for the work done this season and I’m looking forward to reading your articles during the summer. As far as Arsenal changes go, I think the system needs correcting more than the players. If you ply your trade in front of a defence like ours then you will become despondent and your creative juices will dry up. I’m fairly sure that Keystone Kops defending has led to a defeatist attitude in our players. There must be a certain amount of ridicule levelled at our players particularly after a season like this and all they want to do is to run away and hide. Wenger has to bring in changes that give the club a sense of defensive respect so that there is a solid foundation upon which the creative players such as Arshavin, Fabregas, Wilshere, RvP and Nasri can perform. If we’re not firing on all cylinders then at least we can hold on to what we’ve got. I hope Wenger doesn’t get too caught up in the transfer market (unless of course he feels that this current crop of players cannot be rejuvenated) and focus on strategy and adaptability. The next season will be a defining one for him.
Sir Henry
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24/05/2011 15:14:00

I am not sure we will as much transfer action as we anticipate... Sure some will leave and i expect maybe 3 to 4 shiny new players but i doubt they will be of the caliber we need, more Koscielny than Bergkamp. My gut feeling is we will still be shy of a player or 2 next season because Arsene dont want to kill a young player...
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24/05/2011 15:54:00

What a season. Personally I think it will be a mistake to let Bendtner go. RvP is undoubtedly one of the best forwards in the world, unfortunately he is made out of wet cardboard and having someone that can put the ball in the net in his absence or even, banish the thought, rotate with him to avoid injury would be a positive. Anyway, I've never doubted Wenger on anything until these last two months. He looks like he hasn't a clue how to fix what is wrong and his comments about other coaches not having anything to teach him worry me. The absence of silverware isn't the end of the world, but watching his experiment fail and the team move backwards is unacceptable. If it continues along the same path it really will be time to move him into the boardroom or give him a gold watch and thank him for the wonderful changes he brought to the club and the PL.
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24/05/2011 21:29:00

loose fabregas and bendtner this summer and we're roast next season.
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25/05/2011 15:27:00

Partly disagree McGooner, Bendtner started 3 league games this season and Fab 22. Bendtner's loss is sustainable, losing Fab will be tough on us.
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26/05/2011 09:10:00

I would like to see our points per game when Cesc has started and when he has not. I believe there will be a marked difference in those two values. Cesc is indispensable I believe.
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26/05/2011 14:06:00


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