This paragraph from the match preview on Arsenal.com aptly captures my sentiments.
Arsenal’s season is only 180 minutes old but it has created enough oscillating emotion to fill the first month or so. An everything-went-wrong 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa was followed by a could-not-have-gone-better 3-0 win at Fenerbahce.
But football at this level is as much about consistency as anything else. One result really doesn’t mean much and the team has to string together a run of form before fans are satisfied and the perception about Arsenal’s chances this season takes a more positive outlook.
The Gunners have another away game today and that provides an opportunity to build on the good work in Istanbul.
Fulham have made a number of interesting acquisitions from their point of view. We’ll have to wait and see how soon Martin Jol is able to integrate all their players into a smoothly functioning unit. At the moment I do not know what to expect from Fulham. Having said that, the Villa game should serve as a reminder that any team can prove to be a hurdle in this league if your level drops.
The Cottagers could be as rudderless and sluggish as Fenerbahce or they might be as resilient and resourceful as Villa were. The Gunners will have assume they’ll be up against a strong team. Martin Jol sets his team up to play football and most of their players are capable of passing the ball around. The Gunners will have to be very careful and cohesive with their pressing and their off-the-ball shape or the hosts will stretch them before finding a way through as they did last season.
The Cottagers played 10 passes in their own half before quickly breaking forward down the right after Arsenal’s pressing cohesiveness broke down.
With players like Taraabt and Berbatov, they also have a fair amount of trickery in the attacking areas. Even their set-piece threat cannot be discounted. Matters will only get tougher for Arsenal with a makeshift backline in place.
As with Villa last week, if I were a Fulham player or fan right now I’d strongly believe something can be taken from this game. The Wilshere-Ramsey partnership will not mature into a dominant, game-controlling force in a matter of days. They did well against Fenerbahce but a lot of it was down to the opponent’s weaknesses as well. Taarabt and Berbatov, Ruiz too if he plays, are extremely wily mobile players who can cause all sorts of problems if gaps appear in front of the centre back pairing. Once again, just like the Villa game, I’ll be surprised if Fulham don’t score in this one.
Can Arsenal get two or more goals to win? Jol has added some physicality and defensive-mindedness to his squad with acquisitions like Parker and Boateng. Last year it seemed they didn’t seem to have the right balance but if things go according to the Dutchman’s plans it should be a lot better this year.
The biggest attacking avenue for the Gunners could be down their right flank if the youngster Briggs starts at left back. Walcott could again become Arsenal’s key attacking weapon but in this game I’d expect someone like Parker or Sidwell dropping deeper and wider to provide cover, particularly if Taarabt stays higher up the pitch.
The central areas in front of the Fulham penalty box could get very congested if Cazorla moves inside and their central defenders are excellent at defending crosses. Breaking through is going to be a challenge for the Gunners and there could be periods of frustration that will have to be dealt with patiently and with tactical maturity. Sometimes in such instances, younger players with an attacking mindset have a tendency of trying too hard and they lose touch with their defensive responsibilities/positioning. Fulham have the quality to punish such errors.
While I did say Arsenal are likely to concede in this game, the best possible scoreline for the Gunners also seems to be a 0-1 win, something they achieved last season. The midfield will have to be exceptional for that to happen but that is also the area of the pitch where Wenger has his best players. If they can’t deliver, would it be fair to expect more from others?
There is a need for rotating some players but I don’t know if the manager has enough choices. After a long trip in Europe we’ve often heard the “players lacked sharpness” line of defence for a disappointing performance. It will only add to the vitriol amongst fans if we hear it again after this game. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
Szczesny – Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, Gibbs – Ramsey, Rosicky, Wilshere – Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla.
Podolski could be drafted in to give one of the midfielders a break. I doubt Monreal is ready for a start right now. There really don’t seem to be any other genuine alternatives for rotation, which is also a concern because any further injuries (Murphy’s Law) could really leave the side struggling.
Playing a low risk conservative game with patience, and taking the big chance when it comes, seems like the best strategy for the Gunners.Follow @goonerdesi