Sunday, 5 December 2010

Arsenal Beat Fulham 2-1 To Take The Lead In The Premier League.

At the start of the weekend Arsenal were in third place in the Premier League, but they find themselves sitting on top of the table today. A mixture of Arsenal's win over Fulham, Chelsea's draw at home to Everton and the "Manure" trip to Blackpool getting cancelled due to the weather meant that Arsenal took over at the summit. With a trip to "Manure" to come for Arsenal next week, they will keep that lead with a win. It should make for a very good game as "Manure" have the best home record in the league, and Arsenal have the best away record.

Back to yesterday's proceedings, and Arsenal's 2-1 victory Fulham. The team chosen to start the game was the same one that started the 4-2 win away to Aston Villa last week. Tomas Rosicky was named as captain yet again in the absence of Cesc Fabregas due to injury. It meant that there was still no starting place in the team for Robin Van Persie, but I'm sure he will start on Wednesday night against Partizan Belgrade.

With Arsenal's recent poor home form in mind it was essential that they started well, and they did just that. It looked like just a matter of time before Arsenal scored, as they made chance after chance, and the opening goal did come in the 14th minute. The very lively Andrey Arshavin played Samir Nasri in, and he left two defenders sliding past him before he shot into the top corner with his left foot from eight yards out. His footwork to beat those defenders was quite magnificent, and he made me extra happy as I had installed him as captain of my fantasy team.

As is the way with Arsenal though, the second goal that would ease the nerves slightly just wouldn't come. Fulham offered very little at that stage, but they were looking to get players in behind the Arsenal defence as it pushed out. There was one lucky offside call in Arsenal's favour before Fulham got an equaliser with their first effort on target.

Laurent Koscielny was facing the ball as he headed it clear, but a retreating Sebastien Squillaci ran straight into him and caught him in the face. It left Koscielny dazed, and as the play developed Diomansy Kamara was left unmarked by him to run on to a pass and slot past the helpless Lukasz Fabianski to make it 1-1.

Koscielny needed treatment, and he played no further part in the game, as he was replaced by Johan Djourou. As the move developed he was wandering in a clearly dazed state, but the referee played on. Arsene Wenger wasn't too happy about it, but if Koscielny had gone down then perhaps the referee might have stopped the game. It all happened very quickly, and I don't think there was too much the referee could do about it.

After that goal Arsenal lost their way a little, and it looked like Fulham might be the team to score before half time. The news at half  was that Chelsea, Man City and The Spuds were all winning, and it made it even more important that Arsenal got a win themselves. Unfortunately that lack of belief after the Fulham goal continued in the second half, and it looked like Arsenal would need a moment of class to get them the points. Fulham continued to press, and it the one point Arsenal held was looking very unsafe at that stage.

In the 63rd minute RVP replaced Rosicky, and Arsenal picked things up just a little. It was his lay off to a running Nasri that brought about Arsenal's second goal in the 75th minute. He weighted the ball perfectly on the edge of the box, and Nasri ran on and rounded two defenders and the keeper. As he went around the keeper he was pushed very wide, but he spun 180 degrees to turn onto his right foot and clip the ball into the net.

After that  it was a matter of holding out for Arsenal, as Fulham pressed for an equaliser, and despite a few hairy moments they managed to get the much needed win. With the news that both Chelsea and The Spuds had let in late equalisers, it meant that Arsenal sat proudly on top of the table. In second place are their next league opponents, as "Manure" are one point behind with a game in hand, but a victory away to them in eight days time would increase that lead to four points.

The experts continue to doubt Arsenal's chances, as the claim their lack of a top class keeper, and a weak defence are the biggest obstacles to them winning the league. The manager confirmed after the game that Johan Djourou is still being played in every second game because of the injury that kept him out for a year, but if both he and Thomas Vermaelen can be played in the team together, I think it will go a long way to sorting out the defensive problems.

The goalkeeping situation is a different matter as Fabianski is still doing well, but his mistakes are beginning to reappear. Thankfully they are not causing Arsenal to concede goals, but if they do that could see Wojceich Szczesny get a chance, and that's something I would relish. Manuel Almunia has injured his elbow again, and I would be surprised to see him play for the first team again this season.

For the moment Arsenal can move on to their vital Champions League group H game on Wednesday night, safe in the knowledge that they are on tp of the league. It's a must win game for them, and I'll preview it closer to the game. There are a few Premier League games today and tomorrow, before I can review the standings in my fantasy league, but I should be able to do it on Tuesday.

Here's the highlights from yesterday's win.

That's it for today

See You Tomorrow. 

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