Sunday, 27 November 2011

Arsenal Leave It Late To Save A Point Against Fulham

Arsenal went into yesterday's Premier League game at home to Fulham knowing they needed a win to keep pace with both Spurs and Chelsea, and gain some ground on Newcastle and Manchester United. At home to a Fulham team who struggle on the road they were clear favourites, but their midweek Champions League excursions seemed to have taken a lot out of the team physically. In the end they came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw, and it has to be seen as a point saved in my opinion.

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the team that beat Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night to win their Champions League group. Johan Djourou came in at right back for Laurent Koscielny and Andrey Arshavin filled in for Gervinho on the left side of Arsenal's attack.

I thought Arsenal started brightly and had a couple of chances early on, but it soon became clear they weren't going to have things all their own way. Fulham tried to keep things as tight as possible, and put pressure on the Arsenal players in possession. When Fulham did manage to come forward they kept possession well, and Bobby Zamora proved to be a handful for the Arsenal defence.

It was scoreless at half time and Arsenal probably had the best chances to score, but Wojciech Szczesny had to be on his toes on a couple of occasions in the Arsenal goal. Arsenal looked like they needed some fresh impetus in the team, but the same 11 players took the field for the second half. If Arsenal were going to make the breakthrough the most likely man to do so seemed to be Theo Walcott.

I hoped Arsenal would pick up the pace in the second half, but try as they might the players didn't seem to have enough in the tank to put Fulham to the sword. Fulham grew with confidence as the half progressed, and they were the ones to make the breakthrough in the 65th minute. The goal was a little unfortunate for Arsenal, as Thomas Vermaelen put it into his own net.

Wenger made two substitutions almost immediately, as Abu Diaby and Gervinho came on for Per Meretesacker and Aaron Ramsey. They picked the pace up almost immediately, as they went in search of an equaliser. The equaliser eventually came with eight minutes left when Vermaelen got on the end of a great cross by Walcott to head home.

I wasn't at all surprised that Vermaelen was the man to score, as he looked determined to make up for putting the ball into his own net. The own goal was entirely his fault, as Arsenal made too many mistakes in the move that built up to it. The player who played the ball into the Arsenal box was put under no pressure at all, and when it fell to Vermaelen his attempt to clear his lines ended in disaster.

Arsenal never really looked likely to score a winner, but at least they managed to take something from a game which looked almost lost. In similar situations last season Arsenal were unable to undo their bad work when they lost to West Brom and Newcastle at home. A point might not be what Arsenal needed on the day, but it's infinitely superior to no points at all.

The damage a defeat might have done to team confidence is hard to judge, but thankfully the unbeaten run can continue. The next two league games are away to Wigan and at home to Everton, and they're both games that Arsenal can and should win. Six points from those games will leave Arsenal in a very good situation as they head to Manchester City a week before Christmas.

Arsenal's next game is at home to City on Tuesday night in the Carling Cup, and there will probably be wholesale changes for that game. Usually Wenger makes 11 changes from the team which play at the weekend for Carling Cup games, but I can't see where he can get enough defenders to filla back four. I'm sure he will find a team that will be competitive, but City have such a huge squad that it will be a tough game for Arsenal's second string.

The next week should give a few players a chance to recharge their batteries, and hopefully be at their very best to face Wigan next Saturday. Arsenal have six Premier League games in December, but only one of them will be shown live on TV in this part of the world. Thankfully I will get to see one of the other ones in person when I travel to the Emirates for the Everton game on December 10th.

Yesterday's game may have been a little disappointing, but in the greater scheme of things it was only a minor setback. As long as the team can bounce back and start winning games it will have done no harm at all.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights of yesterday's game.

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See You Tomorrow.

Finally for today I cannot go without expressing my sadness at the passing of Gary Speed who was not only a great player in his day but also a true gentleman who always had time for others.I don't know what else I can say, but my thoughts are with his family and friends.

1 comment:

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