Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fulham 1 Arsenal 3

What a difference a week makes in football. Arsenal were under pressure following the disappointing  3-1 loss to Aston Villa, which was described by Arsene Wenger as an accident. The 3-0 victory in the Champions League play-off midweek still left some fans sceptical. Fulham are tough opponents we tend to struggle against. A 1-1 draw seemed to have been a consensus among pundits. However, another convincing win, which followed the win in Istanbul in less than 74 hours, has finally released the manager and team from pressure. Arsene Wenger's faith in the quality of his side was repaid once again and this time around there seemed to be very few who questioned it.

Wenger made three changes to the side who started against Fenerbahce on Wednesday night. Carl Jenkinson started at the right back, while Bacary Sagna was slotted into the centre back position in the absence of Laurant Koscielny, who missed this game through suspension and head injury. Jack Wilshere was rested, after having completed the full 90 minutes twice in five days. Podolski came in for the Englishman amid a rumour that he could be loaned to Schalke.

Jack Wilshere's omission from the midfield, which impressed on Wednesday night, seemed to have had a big impact on the team's tactics and shape. While Arsenal attacked in numbers, Ramsey looked overwhelmed by defensive duty at times. Following his early yellow card, he was always flirting with  the chance of another yellow. Perhaps midweek exertion was taking its toll on the fitness of the industrious midfielder, who covered more distance (an impressive 12,190 km) than any other player on the pitch. When Fulham had the ball, Arenal struggled to win the ball back. When Jack came on the pitch, we thought Ramsey was to be replaced. In fact, it was Rosicky. However, Jack's involvement seemed to have helped release Ramsey from some of defensive responsibility. The Welshman delivered another impressive performance, bossing the Gunners' midfield.

Olivier Giroud's goal may have needed a lucky touch as Ramsey's optimistic shot from the outside of the box took a fortuitous deflection on Giroud's foot. But the French striker was quick to seize the opportunity and there was still a job left for him to beat the keeper, which Walcott failed to do a few times in this game. Giroud clipped Stockdale to score his third goal of the season in as many games. Since the preseason, he has been on a red-hot form.

Therefore we were surprised to see Giroud replaced by Monreal. Maybe it was Wenger's intention to give a run-out to the Spanish left-back, who has just come back from injury and missed the preseason. That said, the substitution was questionable as Arsenal conceded a goal 7 minutes after his introduction. Another defender seemed to have upset the system.

Lukas Podolski was another striker under scrutiny. Arsene Wenger emphasised that the German international was often left out of the starting XI not because of his performances, but for tactical reasons. The boss also made it clear that he intended to keep him.

The win at Craven Cottage meant that Arsenal were the first club to win 100 London derbies. Given the north London club's history, the feat was no surprise. However, we found it somewhat surprising that Arsenal earned more points from derbies than any other London club last season with 19 points, considering that we lost to Chelsea home and away. The stats bode well for the big match next weekend.

The result and performance lifted the players and fans alike. If they can finish the job on Tuesday night in an equally convincing manner and we can see some positive developments in the transfer window in the week, we can all look forward to Sunday's north London derby.

Players Rating

Szczesny: 8
His breathtaking double save was crucial for Arsenal to remain in control of the game.

Jenkinson: 6
Guilty for Darren Bent's goal. He had no idea where the ex-Aston Villa striker was. On the other hand, he went forward more often to help his team's attack. His crossing improved on recent games, while he was the most successful tackler in the team, winning three tackles.

Sagna: 7
Put in another competent performance as a centre back.

Mertersacker: 7
Solid performanc. Made a crucial tackle.

Gibbs: 7
Effective going forward. Nearly scored.

Ramsey: 8
His has been in an impressive form. Established himself as a vital part of the team.

Rosicky: 7
Not as effectual in the previous two games.

Cazorla: 8
After the slow start to the season due mainly to the lack of preseason with the team, he was nearing his creative best.

Walcott: 7
Had several chances in front of goal but his finishing is very disappointing.

Podolski: 8
His two goals underlined the quality of the German international's left footed shots, "accuracy" and "power", the two words used by Aron Ramsey in his praise for Poldi.

Giroud: 8
In the build-up to Arsenal's third goal, his touch and control were excellent. Worked very hard defensively as well.


Wilshere: 7
69th-minute substitute for Rosicky. Made an immediate impact.

Monreal: 6
Replaced Giroud in the 71st minute. Made a couple of important challenges and earned a free-kick in the dangerous area.

Sanogo: 5
Disappointing debut. He looked promising against a weaker Galatasaray side in the first half of the Emirates Cup game, but he was out-muscled by Fulham defenders. He fell a long way short of his reputation as a next Drogba.

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