Monday, November 12, 2012

Arsenal 3 Fulham 3

It was an entertaining game for neutral football fans' point of view, but the result was very disappointing for Arsenal fans' perspective. Even more disappointingly, this was the second time this week we have failed to build on a 2-0 lead. Also, with Arsenal squandering a glorious chance to win at the death, it was just like deja vu. This game was only more trilling as neither team would ever settle for a draw at any stage of the game.

The starting line-up had just one change to Arsene Wenger's side who faced Schalke on Tuesday night. Jack Wilshire was replaced by Francis Coquelin due to suspension. It looked that Andre Santos, our back-up left-back, was finally dropped to the bench on a permanet basis, as Vermaelen once again started as left-back.

One minute's silence to mark the Remembrance weekend was observed at Las Mimosas bar, as well. It appeared to be a good day for Gooners as Giroud headed home from Walcott's corner in the 11th minute and the lead was doubled by Podolski's tap-in 12 minutes later. Apparently, this was the first time Arsenal had scored within the opening 30 minutes of a Premier League match this season, which partly explains how difficult it has been to be a Gooner especially this season. It was a dream start to the game. Although it is nice to see goal-scoring responsibilities are shared across the board, these two strikers were exactly the players whom we wanted to rack up goals.

However, the dream didn't last long. Fulham equalised ten minutes from the break and took a lead for the first time in this game 25 minutes into the second half. But Fulham's lead didn't last long either as Giroud found the net again just two minutes after Berbetov's penalty. With the last kick of the game, Arsenal were given a penalty for Reither's handball. All our hopes were riding on Arteta's penalty kick. What an ending to the exciting game it would have been if the vice-captain had converted it. But it wasn't be.

After the match, we were scratching our head, wondering why our solid defence at the start of the season is now so vulnerable. The stats show we have conceded more goals in our last four games than we did in the thirteen games prior to them. That's an alarming fact. Now our urgent issue is defence rather than goal scoring. Situations change quickly in football within a short space of time.

The result sickened us obviously, but it does not warrant a knee-jerk reaction. There are positives to take from this game. Firstly, Olivier Giroud had his best game in his short time as an Arsenal player. He had to prove that he is a worthy player for the much-desired position, now even Podolski has made himself clear that he wants to play a central striking role. We were quite sure that the France striker would become an important player for us one day, and this game confirmed our belief. Both his holding-up play and link-up play are good. He imposes physical pressure and aerial threats to his opponents, while he clears corners with his head to evade opponents' threats. His work rate is admirable. Previously he was not getting enough service, but now other players, such as Theo and Sagna, have started to play on the Frenchman's strength, delivering good crosses for him. He is a type of centre forwards we haven't had in recent years. It's interesting to see how Arsenal's game will develop, now the Frenchman is in form after scoring four goals in the last four games. Hopefully, he will continue his good run of form after the international break.

Another positive was urgency and intensity the team showed in the last 20 minutes. We expressed our concern about Vermaelen's quality as a leader in the last post. Since he was made captain upon the departure of RVP, his performance has been far below his standards. Some suspect that responsibility as captain may be too much for him. The Belgian is not a vocal leader by his admission, but he led the team in their intense fight to claw back a victory by example, thrusting forward. The same purpose and desire were seen in Theo and Giroud's performance, as well.

We have a massive north London derby next weekend. But before that, here comes another international break. How pointless these midweek international friendlies are. Players don't have enough time to prepare or gel together and results are irrelevant. The only good thing for Arsenal is that Jenkinson's call-up to the England senior squad. This should be a confidence boost for the ex-Finland U-21 player. Also, it will provide him valuable playing time, which has been limited since Bacary Sagna's return to the first-team. Considering the fact that we lost our momentum after the last international break and still haven't rediscovered it, this mini international break worries us. There is likely to little time to sort out our defence before weekend. Let's just hope all our players will come back in good shape.

Player ratings

Mannone: 6
He should have come forward for the cornder that led to Fulham's first goal and could have done better to prevent Kacaniklic's header from going in, but he made some good stops as well.

Sagna: 6
He always made himself available down on the right flank. Had a difficult time defensively, though.

Mertesacker: 6
Not at his best.

Koscielny: 7
Made a few crucial tackles.

Vermaelen: 6
Went forward more often than in the game against Schalke.

Cazorla: 7
He linked up well with his team-mates on attack, but he hasn't been as influential as at the start of the season. Perhaps the number of games he has played for his club and country has started taking its toll. If he gets a call-up for Spain's friendly match presumably to be played in Panama, it may be a good idea that he starts from the bench against Tottenham. Thank God, Arteta is not a Spain international. Fortunately, Rosicky started training last week and if all goes well, he could be in contention against Tottenham. Rosicky, Wishere and Areta don't look a bad midfield. Cazoral could do with a breather, especially ahead of a crucial Champions League match against Montpellier next Wednesday.

Arteta: 7
Mixed display by a usually consistent performer. Set up a goal for Podolski by a clever run. Then robbed possession by Ruiz in the own box, he gave away a penalty. It seems to have been the Arsenal entire team's recent tendency to try to do too much with the ball when they are in possession around the edge of their own box. His penalty kick was saved by Schwarzer to deny Arsenal's last-grasp chance to grab a win. Some fans question the Arsenal players' confidence, assuming that nobody else stepped up to take the penalty. However, Wenger's post-match interview suggested otherwise. Cazorla wanted to take the penalty, but since Arteta was a designated first-choice penalty taker, the responsibility fell on the vice captain. We felt that Giroud should have been given a chance as he was on a hat-trick, but Giroud's post-match reaction also confirmed that Wenger's penalty list gave Arteta priority. Giroud also stated that Arteta really wanted to score to make amends for giving away a penalty. So Arteta's taking of the penalty was not the indication of the Arsenal players' negative mindset after all.

Coquelin: 6
Failed to take a chance to show how he can make a difference to Arsenal's midfield. Replaced by Ramsey in the 55th minute.

Walcott: 8
Looked dangerous all the time. Had a good game. Provided assists for Giroud's both goals. His free-kick was awful, though. Wenger revealed after the match that the England winger sustained a buttock muscle problem and the boss considered replacing him at half time, but decided to leave him on. The gamble seemed to have paid off as far as this game is concerned. He provided another assist for Giroud in the second half with a pin-point cross before substituted by the Ox in the 84th minute. Hope his injury is not too bad and he will be fit to play this weekend. He proved that he deserves a starting place.

Podolski: 7
Glad to see him on the scoresheet again. He really needed that goal. On the other hand, his defensive display left something to be desired, giving away a pointless foul in a dangerous place.

Giroud: 8
Our and Arsenal fans' Man of the Match, not only because he scored two goals, but also because his desire and determination to do well for his Club were outstanding.


Ramsey: 6
Replaced Coquelin in the 55th minute, presumably in order to step up Arsenal's attacking play, but was little improvement on Coquelin. Although he was involved in attacking move, he gave away silly free-kicks and was lucky to stay on the pitch.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: 7
Came off the bench to replace Podolski to play on the left-wing in the 77th minute and eventually moved to the right-wing after the introduction of Andrey Arshavin. Lively. Got involved in attack and showed his strength and agility. It was great news prior to this match that he passed late fitness tests. He has been one of Arsenal injury mysteries as he had been on the injury list for two weeks since he reportedly had a 60:40 chance to play against QPR. Hopefully, he will be fully fit against Tottenham now he has been left out of the England squad for the midweek friendly.

Arshavin: 7
Made a difference after the 84th-minute introduction into the middle of Arsenal's frenetic attack.

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