Bloody hell, what a crap opening to 2012. Arsenal and all their flaws on show for all to see in a horrible second half that ended in a predictable manner. We went a goal up, some bad decisions went against us for the third game in a row, our possession dropped to 30%, then our lead disappeared.
I tweeted before the game that I felt his was a match we’d win from the bench. I couldn’t believe that Arsene would field Van Persie who clearly looked jaded against QPR from the start and I personally thought he might start with someone like AOC (not even on the bench), give Chamakh a run out and then if things were looking tight at 60 minutes, bring on the big guns to take them a part in the last half an hour.
Instead, Arsene started near enough the same team as the last game, we didn’t take a two goal lead and it all fell apart in the second half as the team fatigued.
The game started off relatively well. Rambo, after a dodgy opening 5 minutes regained some composure to fire off a shot at the Fulham goal. Gervinho had his first miss of the game when he volleyed wide of the post from a corner.
Fulham weren’t there to be spectators of our football showmanship, they’d come to play and they were knocking the ball about nicely. Zamora went close with a low pile driver Chesney did well to hold onto.
Down the other end, the first contreversey of the game occured when Gervinho raced into the box with the ball, he cut across Senderos and was clipped over. The ref ignored the challenge. Was it because he suffered a momentary black out? Did he think it was too early for a penalty? Either way it was a terrible decision. You certainly didn’t need a replay to tell you that. One thing you can be sure about, if Big Phil had done that in an Arsenal shirt, we’d have been one nil down.
Riise was having a great time out wide, he got the better of JD fizzing a low cross just a touch too far from Bobby Z.
Gervinho was getting in plenty of decent positions but he seemed to have a bit of a brain freeze when it came to the crucial moments. He can iron that out over time, that doesn’t help this team right now though.
Koscielny opened the scoring, Ramsey smashed a shot at goal, it hit a Fulham player and came out to Gervinho, he passed back to Ramsey who picked out Koscielny unmarked in the box for him to head in superbly. Moments later, we nearly scored again. Fulham and their keeper getting the better of the penalty box table tennis.
Ruiz was causing problems for us, his ball retention was superb, he took it around 3 of our players and nearly placed a shot low into the bottom corner. Song had to perform some heroics to keep him out with a last ditch sliding tackle. Some might have called it a two footed lunge…
Our best chance before the whistle came when Coquelin pulled off a fancy bit of skill out wide, his cross found Robin but the Dutchmans shot was well saved by Stockdale. The young keeper was having an excellent game.
The second half got underway and it was immediately clear which team wanted the game more. Fulham’s Ruiz fired a decent shot at our goal almost straight after the whistle. Coquelin showed his ‘tremendous leap’ ability to beat Zamora to a header in the box. We were falling to pieces.
In a rare venture into the Fulham half, Robin was bundled over by Senderos and one of his Fulham friends, once again, the ref ignored the pleas of the Arsenal players.
Theo Walcott, currently negotiating a contract that Arsenal are stalling on, was having a shocker. Does this remind you of this time last year when all of a sudden Nasri stopped playing well and didn’t sign on? I hope not… Regardless, his was totally annonymous and for a man requesting £85k a week, that is totally unacceptable. He was taken off for Rosicky at around the time we saw Fulham were taking 66% of the posession.
Senderos and then Ruiz both had headers that glanced marginally wide. Phil’s was after a stupid flap from Chezzer. I had visions of the De Gea flap before the Blackburn goal.
JD was sent off in what would be the turning point in the game. He clung onto the shirt of Zamora who dropped to the ground. After picking up a yellow earlier in the game, the ref had no option but to send him off. Wenger threw on Squillaci and from then, you kind of knew what was coming.
My keeping vision became a reality, Chezzer came out of his box way further than he should of, he palmed the ball as far as Senderos who headed it back across goal where Sidwell was on hand to nod home. Terrible keeping from the young Pole. Really disappointing he felt the need to come for that, especially after cocking up a similar cross 15 minutes earlier.
We’d totally lost control by this point. We couldn’t keep posession, there was no shape to the side and everyone looked totally knackered.
The final nail in the coffin came when Fulham launched a final ball into the box, Squillaci headed it across goal in a dire clearance, Koscielny couldn’t get across quick enough to stop Zamora smashing a volley home.
I think the conclusion from the last 3 games is that we’re really struggling to create and score goals. Our squad has done a pretty decent job clawing itself back up the table and the medical team have done a very good job keeping them fit. One thing they can’t do is cure fatigue. One thing the manager can’t do is make the back ups good enough to throw in for all the important game we’ve got coming up.
Robin shouldn’t have played today and I’d say Gervinho or Theo should have sat on the bench. Theo based on his nothing performance, but Gervinho has hardly been a revelation the last few games. Who do you bring in though? There is no one in the side who can come close to what Robin is offering and there is a big concern that AOC might not be able to cope with the pressure. In the main, that’s mostly got to be on the managers head.
Rosicky has never been a game changer, even 3 years ago we were all wondering what his purpose was in the side. Nowadays, he positively impotent. Sure he passes the ball well, but what was he doing for the first goal? Take a look. He’s hanging around in the box doing nothing.
As for the defence, it’s totally crippled. All I can do is feel for them. JD is not a right back, he never has been, never will be. It was obvious he was going to get sent off at some point, his clumsy challenges have been a fixture for weeks. The only positive I can take from today is that it’s clear we need some help, the negative is that unless Wenger can clear away some deadwood, he can’t buy anyone.
Tactically, I thought Wenger had a nightmare today. He should have rested key players today and tried to win from the bench. As he didn’t, we tired as the game went, Fulham kicked on a gear and all we had to answer them three thirty plus veterans. We didn’t have another gear. Where was Oxo-Chamberlain? Where was Park Chu-Young? I was told yesterday the problem isn’t a lack of ability, it’s a lack of chances to bed him in. Not sure what the point of buying him was of that is the case…
What disapointed the most though was the total lack of balls we showed in the second half. We were second to every ball, weaker in the tackle and totally bereft of any desire. I thought we’d seen the back of the hapless Arsenal, but we certainly didn’t come out fighting like Fulham did. For me, there’s no excuse for that.
We now have a couple of weeks to recuperate and rekindle some form(assuming Leeds is for the kids). I’d make sure we’ve got something else to bring to the table for our next game other than the same line up that has struggled against 3 very average teams. 4th place isn’t a guarantee this season and if I was the manager, I’d seriously consider delisting players as an option if we can’t shift on overpaid foreigners who are taking up valuable squad placed.
Chezzer – Made some good saves early on but let himself down badly in the second half with two wild flaps at balls into the box. 5
Coquelin – I thought he had a sterling game, any midget who can out jump Zamora gets the thumbs up from me. He did show naivity at time, but overall, he did well. 7
Koscielny – He had a fairly good game at the back considering how busy he was. Lost Zamora at the end which was disappointing, but who’d anticipate Squillaci would head back towards goal… oh wait… anyone who has ever watched him. 7
Mertesacker – Caught out a few times and for me, shoud really have been using his height better for the corners at the end. 5
JD – Had a good first half, but started to fall away in the second. He made two clumsy challenges and was sent off. He’s been an accident watiting to happen for a while, but then again, he’s not a mobile full back. He’s not built for it. 4
Arteta – I thought he looked tired today. He didn’t impose himself on the game like he normally does, nor did he lead with any authority. 5
Song – I thought he had a poor game, he totally slinked into the background in the second half and looked very lazy. 4.5
Ramsey – Created our first goal with a great cross but gave the ball away far too often. He’s played a lot of games this year and also looks in need of a rest. Faded badly with the game, hardly noticed him in the second half. 5.5
Robin – Looked totally in the red zone. Hardly moved all game, no spark whatsoever. It was a big mistake to start him even if he did escape injury. 5
Theo – Useless all game. Totally annonymous. If his head is in the contract clouds, drop him until he comes to his senses. We hold the power, he has a championship in the summer that lots of big clubs will be paying attention to. He won’t get into that squad if he’s not playing. 3
Gervinho – Found himself in some great positions in the first half and was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty. His erratic decision making and his poor final ball left most feeling incredibly frustrated. He has to improve if we’re to kick on when he’s back. 5
Benny – The team was in a pretty bad way when he came on, not sure what he could contribute. 5
Rosicky – Same as Benny except he should have been tracking someone from the corner that lead to the goal. 4
Squillaci – You know things are desperate if you’re thinking of bringing this man on… his poor clearance led to the losing goal. A terrible decision to throw him on or even put him in the squad. 3
Written on an iPhone, apologies for typos