We’re only happy when it rains – We’re only happy when it gets complicated! 😉
I was not very confident for our encounter with Jol’s Fulham today. I believed a combination of our fatigue from playing/travelling midweek and Fulham’s good start, as well as an ‘in-your-faces’ approach to the game by them, could prove too much for us. I was hoping for a win but counted on a draw.
My biggest concern were the lack of defensive midfield skills and formational indiscipline, as was so apparent against Villa last weekend. But I did not need to worry, as I had somewhat forgotten that Arsenal play more compact and disciplined in away fixtures compared to our home games, with defence and midfield moving up and down the pitch as a well-drilled double-unit, leaving very little space between the lines. This meant Fulham were given very little chance to penetrate the centre of our midfield and pounce on our potential frailties there.
It also helped that we played with three in midfield, where Fulham tried to play in a more traditional 4-4-1-1 formation; as a result, the Cottagers were often outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and outsmarted by our boys today. It was clear that Arsenal are a team and Fulham are a collection of individual players who still need to get used to each other.
Arsenal started with the right tempo and clearly had the bit between the teeth. After ten minutes, Rosicky produced a fine ball over the Fulham defence to Theo; the Englishman did not hesitate for a moment and shot towards goal from within the box, but Stockdale was equally responsive and made a decent save. Arsenal then put a lot of pressure on Fulham with a number of Walcott corner kicks in quick succession, and it was really good to see that we were a real threat from these set-pieces.
It was also good to see that Szczesny was successful in finding OG on a number of occasions, but unfortunately the Frenchman’s headers did not end up near a fellow Arsenal player in most instances.
We were playing well and dominating early proceedings, but it still needed a bit of fortune to get the ball past the inspired Stockdale. Ramsey tried a shot from well outside the box but OG was in the way, despite him trying to make himself sparse. The Welshman’s drive hit Giroud’s leg, which fortuitously led to the Frenchman assisting himself. He pounced on his gift like a tiger and lifted the ball over the goalie with both style and composure: 1-0 to the good guys!
As can be expected, this early adversity gave Fulham new impetus to have a real go at Arsenal in this game, and we lost a bit of our initial concentration and intensity of play. However, Szczesny was focussed and decisive when he had to be and made two fine, instinctive saves from efforts by Taarabt and Duff in quick succession.
Good link up play by OG then led to a decent shot with the outside of his foot by Santi from outside the box, but it was not hard or precise enough to trouble Stockdale. At this stage, Cazorla was still looking a bit rusty, and he gave away a dangerous free-kick just outside our box. Our wall was poor but somehow we got away with it as Riise’s ball is smothered in the wall, and a relieved Szczesny can make an easy save.
During the second part of the first half, Arsenal start to look a bit tired and Fulham find more and more a way through the centre of our midfield. Luckily, Taarabt is desperate to shoot himself from outside the box on a number of occasions when there were better options for him, and all his efforts are wasted or dealt with by our Pole in goal.
Ramsey picks up an unnecessary yellow card which put him in a precarious position for the rest of the game. Luckily, the team played some fine counter football and especially Theo showed great composure and drive at this stage of the game, although his ball to Gibbs, after a run to the Fulham box all the way from midfield, was the wrong option.
Cazorla also started to find his feet and composure in the latter part of the first half. He was more and more enjoying his free role, and when he found himself not far outside the Fulham box with the ball, he had the vision to place a precise ball into Theo’s path. The Englishman takes an instant shot which is parried by Stockdale, albeit towards the outside of the Fulham box. Podolski is at the right place and the right time – after he started the attack in the first place with his ball to Santi – and shoots the ball high and precise into the Cottagers’ net: 2-0! And the fans sang with all their heart: ‘He scores when he wants’ 🙂
The goal was reminiscent of a Bergkamp goal more than a decade ago:
Fulham came out with renewed desire and impetus – Jol is good at pep-talk – hoping to score an early goal in the second half, as to get the crowd behind them and start an onslaught on the tired legs and minds of our Gunners. But it is all quite toothless and Jol’s substitutions also do not have much impact, at least initially.
We start to look quite tired after sixty minutes, but once again our attackers come to the rescue. OG collects a ball brilliantly from defence at the half way line with three fine touches. Once again, Theo is there to collect his pass and drive forward towards the Fulham box. Theo plays the ball to Santi who takes it to the by-line, after which he lays it back to the onrushing Podolski. The German is allowed to take a first touch which enables him to trigger his brilliant left cannon of a foot for a well placed, and yet very hard, shot into the keeper’s left corner: 3-0 to the yellow and blues, and game well and truly over! 😀
The fans go crazy and serenade the likes of OG, Ramsey and Podolski with great passion: you can sense the happiness of the away support all the way into our living rooms. As John Lennon sang: Happiness is a warm Gun(ner). 🙂
Fulham do not give up entirely, and despite some very fine positioning and reading of the game by both BFG and Sagna throughout the game, they get caught out for once by a bit of magic from Berbaflop. The naturally blasé Bulgarian received the ball with his back to the goal near the by-line; he takes a touch, turns and shoots/passes towards goal – all in one, smooth move. BFG is too slow to react and Szczesny is only able to get his hands to it, but he parries it across his goal line, where Bent is very grateful to slot the easiest of chances into the net: 1-3.
Bent, apparently a big Arsenal supporter, has now scored against the mighty Red and White with five different clubs. I wonder how he feels about this unenviable record?! 😕
Fulham tried to push for a second goal after that but Arsenal brought on Jack and Nacho to firm up our midfield and defence. There were even further chances for us to score a fourth goal, but especially Theo lacked the killer-instinct of The Pod to take full advantage of his own hard work as well as the opportunities that came his way.
- The Pod announced himself onto the new season with two goals of the highest quality.
- Giroud, Rosicky and Theo worked very hard, and often unselfishly, for the team today, and especially the Englishman showed a different side to his game against Fulham.
- Santi grew into the game and together with Ramsey he was real class today: both produced a master class in modern midfield football play and made the likes of Sidwell and the former Spud-Smurf look very ordinary.
- When Arsenal play away, we are more compact and disciplined in our defensive duties, and as a result, we appear to be less dependent on having a strong DM in our line-up. However, it remains to be seen whether this is the case against the stronger, and more settled teams.
- Sagna impressed once again at CB and it looks like he and the BFG could form a very fine partnership if need be.
- The FB’s, Jenks and Gibbs, played with good discipline and were full of energy and enthusiasm throughout the game.
- Today’s game was ample evidence that we have a number of attackers who can score and produce assists, which makes it hard for the opposition to eliminate our attacking threats. This could become a real strength again this season.
- The team already has good fitness levels, the players find each other relatively easily at this stage of the season, and there is a really good togetherness in the team.
- More players are required to add strength in depth.
- The team would still benefit from a quality attacker: especially a winger who can also play in the middle, or a nr.10 who can also play on the wing, would be very welcome.
A good game to watch, some pride restored and some real pluses to take from today.
Written by: TotalArsenal.
If you would like to be made aware of new posts coming out, you can sign up for email alerts. See right side of blog and enter your details in ‘Follow blog via email’.