Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fulham 0 Arsenal 1

We were so disappointed with our team's performance it felt like a defeat after the game. However, a win is a win and it turned out to be an even more important win after Sunday's results for our top-four-finish rivals. We were not happy with the team's display, but delighted to take all the three points from this game.

Wenger made two changes to the side who started in a midweek draw with Everton. Monreal replaced Gibbs, who played two games in four days and was taken off at the end of normal time on Tuesday night due to fatigue. Tomas Rosicky came in for Jack Wilshere. Wenger defended his decision by stating that Jack needed a rest, but it was a right decision as Jack had not been as sharp as we hoped him to be in the last couple of games. Fabianski was still nursing his rib injury, so Wojciech continued in goal.

One of the talking points prior to the match was whether Wenger would continue fielding Giroud up front despite the French striker's wastefulness in the Everton game. The boss decided to stick to that option.

The key moment of the game came in the 12th minute, when Sidwell was sent off for his lunge at Mikel Arteta. We couldn't believe our luck. Fulham always give us a hard game, especially at Craven Cottage but everybody at Las Mimosas bar thought this afternoon would be a walk in the park for a change, so much so that Tony went on to place a bet for a 3-0 win in favour of Arsenal.

But the Gunners didn't make most of their numerical advantage. If anything, they played much better when they were playing against 11 men. We started the game on front foot with Walcott's shot on goal and Koscielny's header both flagged offside. After Fulham were reduced to 10 men, they didn't give us much space and we struggled to break down their defence.

We were all frustrated. We should have been able to tear apart a 10-men team. Thanks to the lapse in their concentration, the combination of our centre-backs found the back of the net in 2 minutes from break.

Second-half was even worse. The Gunners were sloppy and their passing was not fluid. Maybe the exertion in midweek took its toll. In fact, Everton suffered more than us from the aftermath of the clash as they lost their Man of the Match on Tuesday, Phil Jagielka, to injury and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of the Light on the same day.

We managed to weather tremendous pressure from our opponents and their fans towards the end of the game and grabbed a narrow win. It wasn't an easy-on-the-eye display from the Gunners, but the result is all that matters at this time of the season.

Now Giroud will start serving his three-match ban following his appeal for the red card rejected. It is a blow as it limits our strike option. On the other hand, those critics of the French striker would say it is a blessing in disguise. This could speed up Wenger's project with Podoski or lead to another chance for Walcott to play up front. In anycase, losing Giroud for the next three games will force the boss to change the current system, which was not working against Fulham.

We have a whole week to regroup ourselves and prepare for the next match. Hopefully, we will play much better than in this game.

On the positive side, we kept another clean sheet for the second game running. In fact, we only conceded three goals in the last 7 games. The central defensive partnership looked solid, even producing a goal. Per and the Kosh seemed to have developed good understanding between them.

The crucial win moved us back to third place. After Chelsea's draw and Tottenham's win (which was a big blow), we are now a point above Chelsea and two points ahead of Spurs, but both of them have a game in hand. We hope to think that Manchester United's securing the top spot on Monday will help us next Sunday. Before the weekend, the next match had been deemed as a write-off by many Arsenal fans, but Tottenham's shock defeat of Man City changed the landscape. Now we need to get something out of this game. The race for Champions League spots goes on.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 7
Produced some very good saves.

Sagna: 7
Solid defensively, but didn't offer very much going forward. Seems unable to cross the ball.

Mertesacker: 8
Scored the only goal of the game. Solid defensively. Arsenal fans' Man of the Match.

Koscielny: 8
Provided an assist. Solid apart from the unfortunate slip, which nearly gave us a heart attack. 

Monreal: 5
He was beaten every time Fulham attacked on that flank. Robbed by Emmanuelson, whose shot nearly caught out Szczesny at near post.

Ramsey: 7
Missed a sitter in stoppage time, but he covered the entire pitch and worked hard as usual.

Arteta: 7
Made 5 tackles, 4 interceptions and 113 passes with a 92% passing success rate. Seems to be pundits' Man of the Match. 

Rosicky: 6
Some good play, but had little impact on the game.

Cazorla: 7
Got involved in attacking moves.

Walcott: 6
Started brightly, but didn't do very much afterwards. Caught offside three times. His free-kick contributed to the goal, though.

Giroud: 5
Unlucky not to score after being fed by Cazorla. His shot hit the post and bounced off. Sent off in stoppage time in an unnecessary challenge. The Daily Mail compared him with Berbatov, who was a star of the reverse fixture this season and Wenger was grilled by the media with a question why he didn't sign the Bulgarian striker. In every aspect of the game, from attitude to finishing, Giroud came on top of Berbatov. 


Wilshere: 7
71st-minute substitute for Rosicky. Looked a little bit sharper than recent games. Delivered a great pass to Ramsey, who dragged it wide.

Podolski: 6
71st-minute substitute for Walcott. Made little impact.

Vermaelen: 6

Injury-time substitute for Cazorla. He was brought on in order to prop up the defence and see out the win in the wake of the sending-off of Giroud.


Andre Mariner: 5
After sending Sidwell off, which was a correct decision, he seemed to have been always looking for chances to even things out. Ramsey and Arteta received yellow cards for their challenges, while similar fouls by Enoh and Emmanuelson escaped punishment. Giroud's tackle probably came in the right time for the ref. The red card was harsh. Giroud went for the ball, but his left foot went over the ball because his supporting right foot slipped. It was a foul, but should have been a yellow card at most.

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