Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Samir Nasri take a bow. Whaddaplaya!

I normally don’t go hyper over one player after a game but this match belongs to Nasri. More on this in the course of the write-up.

Top of the League. And a goal that deserves to be first. I almost had three heart attacks in this game but I’m loving it!

I felt in the build up to this weekend that Chelsea had more chances of dropping points at home than Arsenal had against Fulham. Clairvoyant, eh! 😉

Yesterday I was talking about the need for the midfield to dominate this game. If they could get it to the forward players we will create plenty of chances. In the first half hour they did just that. Song, Wilshere, and Rosicky all had good touches and brought Arshavin into play pretty frequently. The Russian was very close to his best and created a hatful of chances in the opening 30 minutes.

The first one fell to Arshavin when Squillaci got a head to a set-piece and the ball fell to the Russian who was unmarked around the six yard box. He had to take the volley first time and Schwarzer did a good job of closing him down.

The second chance came within minutes when Clichy did excellent work on the left and played it through to Arshavin. AA23’s backheel, or was it a dummy, allowed the ball to roll to Chamakh on the edge of the box. The Moroccan held it up and laid it into the path of the onrushing Rosicky. I guess it was lack of confidence, not having scored in 34 games, that forced Little Mozart into playing it back towards Chamakh who wasn’t expecting it.

Soon after Arshavin again collected the ball just inside the Fulham half and got a chance to turn and run at the defence. Nasri made a beautiful diagonal run and the Russian magician found him with an inch perfect pass. The Frenchman could only toe-poke it wide.

By this time we knew Arsenal were in the mood and this was going to be an exciting game. So far it had been all Arshavin and there was more to come from him.

Before the 15 minutes were up the Russian was at it again pouncing on a poor touch by Hughes and running at the defence. He lost his balance as he reached the edge of the box but had enough composure to find another perfectly timed run by Nasri.

The Frenchman was within 10 yards of goal but Hangeland was sliding in to make the block. Nasri knew it and beat him with a dummy. Then he took Hughes out with another dummy and created a couple of yards for himself before blasting it past the hapless Schwarzer. The intelligence, awareness, composure and technique of the Frenchman were exceptional.

Arsenal could have run away with the game before the half hour mark. After the goal Chamakh was clean through having been picked out by another pinpoint ball dinked by Arshavin. Unbelievably, the Moroccan turned his back on goal and looked for a midfield run. He did find Wilshere but even the youngster was not prepared to shoot and the chance was squandered.

Rosicky created another gilt edged chance this time for Song. Songinho tried a side-foot volley but put it just wide of the post with Schwarzer stranded.

Just as the half hour mark arrived, Squillaci and Koscielny went for the same ball. Koscielny picked up a knock but tried to stay on his feet. Song went to ground in a dangerous area but Dempsey had the composure to keep the ball. By then Koscielny had collapsed and Kamara was free. The American played him in and the striker slotted it past Fabianski. I’m not completely convinced that Kamara was onside but never got to see the replay from the side. Seemingly out of nowhere the visitors were back in the game.

The old cliché ‘goals change games’ came true. Fulham developed a sense they could compete and Arsenal could see the spectres of recent disasters looming.

In the final 15 minutes of the half, Fulham pressed Arsenal much higher up and with greater organization and desire. The Arsenal midfield failed to bring the ball out as consistently and comfortably as before and the chances dried up. The visitors were in the ascendancy while Arsenal were uncertain and lacked confidence.

It could have changed just before half time when Sagna delivered a fantastic cross that landed bang on the head of Chamakh. His header was powerful but straight at Schwarzer.

I’m sure half time was an anxious period for many of us. Surely Arsene had to do something, say something to get the players back to how the game started.

Fulham did well at the start of the second half. They continued their pressing game and made it difficult for our midfield. The only real chance I can recall was the one where Arshavin got his shot away after seeing off a couple of challenges. The Fulham Keeper was up to the task.

Just after the hour mark Arsene introduced RvP for Rosicky. I was a bit surprised by this because we were losing the battle in midfield and bringing on a striker, who is still finding his feet after recovering from injury, for a midfielder didn’t make that much sense.

For the next fifteen minutes or so this fear was justified as Fulham created more chances, albeit most were cross and hope types, than Arsenal. In the 74th minute we saw Theo come on for Wilshere. This substitution did the trick even though Theo had nothing to do with the goal.

Nasri moved into midfield and was involved in a big contender for goal of the season. I think it started with Clichy controlling a loose ball. He played it square to the Frenchman on the halfway line. Nasri moved a few yards forward before finding an unmarked Arshavin in an inside right position. Arshavin played it forward to RvP who was on the shoulder of the last defender. The Dutchman came inside on his left foot and prepared to shoot. Instead of pulling the trigger he found the run of Nasri who’d bursted forward.

With two or three touches, exceptional close control, and some phenomenal body movement Nasri beat two defenders and the keeper but it seemed he’d over done it as the ball was moving away from goal and to a very narrow angle. Somehow he managed to swivel and strike it in. I couldn’t believe Nasri had scored. Not only did he find the net he had the intelligence to kick it higher knowing the defender was sliding back to cover the line.

I’m not a fan of commentators but this time he wasn’t exaggerating when he said ‘Nasri showed the feet of an Angel’ and that this was “a goal that deserves to win any game’.

After the goal I was screaming for Wenger to take Arshavin off and bring Denilson on. Only after the game was over did I realize that we’d used up our substitutions. Djourou had come on for Koscielny after that clash of heads in the first half.

Al l credit to the players for concentrating up till the end and denying Fulham any clear opportunities.

Individual Performances

Fabianski: excellent. Caught well, punched when needed, made a couple of top class saves.

Sagna: his usual brilliant self. Didn’t allow the Fulham attack much room on the right. moved well on the wings, put in a couple of fantastic crosses.

Squillaci: unusually shaky in this game. got in the way of Sagna once and then went for a ball that Koscielny had covered. Knocked his partner out and that led to the goal.

Koscielny: was looking solid and doing his part but was only on the pitch for the period that Arsenal were dominating.

Djourou: played for an hour when Arsenal were not dominating as we’d expect. Won a number of headers. Looked composed on the ball. Good understanding with Squillaci after a few shaky moments initially.

Clichy: Another superb performance. Worked tireless, made good interceptions, showed amazing composure when the team was under pressure, didn’t allow too many crosses from the left although not as good as Sagna in that regard but Clichy didn’t have Song to support him.

On the whole the back five were not as good as I’d have liked even though the fullbacks and the keeper were excellent. The centre backs didn’t have a very good understanding in the first half and ‘one trick’ Fulham were able to ask some questions. Did much better in the second half even when the midfield struggled to support them.

Song: Not as good as he usually is. Went to ground unnecessarily. Wasn’t close enough to the defence in the middle half hour of the game. Very good effort in terms of work rate and desire to defend. Misplaced a few passes.

Rosicky: Did the job of bringing Arshavin into play. Should have taken more responsibility once Fulham were on the up. Needs to be more confident in the final third.

Wilshere: did well in physical challenges in the first half. did a good job of supporting the defence but also went missing on occasions. Passing was good except on one or two occasions.

The midfield should have done more once Fulham got the goal. There were patches in the game when Arsenal were just hoofing the ball up and the midfield was stuck in between, not helping the attack or the defence.

Nasri: I guess he must be the unanimous choice for MotM. I just loved is technique, speed on the pitch, speed of thought, calmness of mind, willingness to take charge, and the ability to make a difference when it was most needed. He did have a few loose moments but I don’t want to dwell on it.

Chamakh: Excellent in all aspects bar one. Perhaps the most important one – when clean through he must score. It’s a tricky balance and he’ll learn because he showed he can shoot on the turn late in the second half. Loved the fact that he was covering the left flank in the final 10 minutes when Arshavin was out of gas.

Arshavin: on another day he’d have been MotM. Exceptional in the first half hour. Good in the second 30. Lost steam in the final stretch. Certainly much better than he was a few weeks back. Looks a lot more confident and is getting his tricks right.

Subs: Van Persie didn’t get into the game as much as I would have liked but he got the vital assist. Walcott didn’t really know what to do.


46 Responses to Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. golds73 says:

    What a high tempo match! The tension towards the end was really unbearable!

    Two awesome goals from Super Samir. He looked to be struggling late on. Hope he’s okay.

    Djourou impressed me today. He won most of the headers and most of his defensive headers found an Arsenal player. Hope Koscielny’s injury is not too serious.

    • desigunner says:

      yeah I too was worried about Nasri, he seemed to be holding his knees. Hopefully it’s nothing more than fatigue.

  2. Arun says:

    So happy and satisfied with the win.. though some shaky moments in the game.. came out as winners..

    Loving Arsha’s game.. Looks like the winter has brought the best out of him.. With the worldcup bid success, he was in a party mood.. Only the goals were missing to underline his performance

    Nasri… Astonishing goals.. Best player in the premier league at the moment.. Thank God he is playing for Arsenal. His magic moments won us the game. No doubts about that…

    Very impressed with Djourou especially on his aerial ability..

    When RVP is there, i feel confident that we would create a chance any moment. When he is on the pitch, i don think we need a plan B.. (I know thats a little too much of a confidence)

    • desigunner says:

      I can relate to your point about RvP. With him there is always a chance of something out of nothing, especially around the penalty box. Also we are much better on set-pieces when RvP plays.

  3. GoonerEris says:

    Djourou had a blinder, in my opinion. Fabianski showed some nerves at times but still made important saves and punched well. A masterclass from Nasri and he must be the best player in the EPL now, surely. Great to see the league table today.

    • desigunner says:

      Djourou might as well become first choice once he proves his fitness. I thought Fabianski was a bit nervous because a number of times the ball was played back to him when the opposition strikers were charging at him. One mistake and he would have been crucified.

  4. Joe says:

    Not going to try and analyse this match today.

    I’m gonna just sit back and revel in the beauty of Nasri’s goals.

  5. indigooner says:

    I hope amidst all the hype about Nasri and going top we don’t forget the weaknesses that continue to plague our team…
    Dominating but not scoring, players reluctant to shoot, losing our focus once the other team starts getting into the game, etc.
    I feel Song’s transformation to Songinho is hurting our defensive shape and I don’t understand what has happened to Walcott. His touch & awareness was atrocious and he showed a shocking lack of work rate at a time when we could have done more defensive effort from the team.

  6. boozy says:

    RVP should be starting.

  7. Harry says:

    Nasri is a sublime talent who is truly world class, just think he should be in the centre all time… His deftness, awareness amazing, he has an ability to take a ball, stroll forward and then kick up two gears, ghost past players and create chance after chance…. His close control is unrivalled…..If he stays fit he can lead us to the title……

    My only grumble today is the poor support we have at home, truly shocking, some of them so called fans do not deserve to watch players like Nasri…..So negative and lack lustre at times……We need to get behind the lads and sing them to victory, rather than just sing when we are winning……….

    • desigunner says:

      I think on the flank Nasri gets more chances to run in behind and across the face of goal. Centrally he would have to move the ball faster and won’t get to dribble so much. Not saying he can’t play centrally, but that we have others who can do the job in the middle and what Nasri does from the flank is special.

      Agree with you about the support. Even when the team was dominating there wasn’t much of an atmosphere and then there far far too many groans when the players needed a lift.

  8. Aussie Jack says:

    Was imprssed by Arshavin, I`d like to see more of this kind of effort, let`s hope he just as effective against Chelsea. No need to make comments about Nasri, he just gets better.
    When I had my first trial with Fulham, a million years ago, all I did was run up and down the touch line, never got near a ball which reminds me of Walcott. He just runs in a straight line until he runs out of runway, does he have ball skills?

    • desigunner says:

      I have a feeling Theo wasn’t sure whether to go all out while attacking or to hold back. And the players in front of him weren’t really making any runs. Having Arshavin and RvP on the pitch meant Walcott had to play on the right as neither would have been able to defend on the flank as well as Walcott. In such games playing Theo centrally would be an excellent option but we didn’t have that on Saturday.

  9. HexyDre says:

    “Walcott didn’t really know what to do.”
    We (myself and some other gooners) re-opened the debate about Theo’s ‘football brain’ of recent…but that is not the issue right now.
    Great win! Great to be on top at the moment, hope it stays that way till the end of the season. We need to improve on our defensive play.

    • desigunner says:

      I believe that debate will go on for another couple of years. At 23 we will know what Theo can and cannot do and how big a football brain he has.

  10. T2T says:

    OK, I admit it – I’m an Arsenal fan through and through…

    If the rest of the season’s games are like this, great! As long as we win playing entertaining football, I’m happy. We cannot complain when we win, even when not playing at the top of our abilities.

    I enjoy seeing Arsenal at the summit 🙂

  11. pman says:

    is not bad if arsene sign one or two players by january but if he does not sign any it will not be an excuss. all a team need to win a league are team work and individual match winners plus a little bit of luck.. manure had ronaldo in 2007, roney in 08 and chelski in 09. arsenal could run away title if arshavin can just stand up to it and samir keeping the form..super nasri, pls keep it up

  12. ARSENAL LEGEND says:

    Only reason we won because…..That DENILSON did not play…….

    What will it take to wake you all up?

    That DENILSON is the weakest link……..Lets export him to Qater……

    • santori says:

      Not quite yet, he’s still youngish and he’s tidy enough to shut out the opposition when next to Song.

      BUT when Vermaelen is back in, Wenger should try Koscielny as a back up alternative to Song.

      Kos is quick, reads the game well and has very decent ball control, where as in Cback, he struggles slightly because of his slight frame.

      • santori says:

        and I note one Emmanuel Frimpong will be gunning for Denilson’s spot come next season and with much reason.

      • HexyDre says:

        Good one, I’ve thought about Koscielny playing as a defensive midfielder if the need arises. Like you pointed out he has all the qualities to make a good.

      • Arun says:

        Laurent was signed based on the stat that he topped the No. of interceptions made chart in French league.. Which is great indication of how much of game reader he is.
        So he has not all but the most essential quality to play there..
        He is also quick and good with ball in the air/on ground..
        barring one thru ball to Walcott against Newcastle, I not convinced he can start off an attack..
        Above all, I dont see Wenger using him in that role, when we don have enough back up for CBs

  13. cjuillet says:

    great analysis-so enjoyed game

  14. Goon says:

    Great result. Chamakh and rosicky need to learn to shoot. Esp. Chamakh who wants to get 20 goals this season.

  15. Tim says:

    Nervy, but in the end a great result capped by two of the best goals we will see all season.

    Nasri, obviously, was fantastic today, but it’s good to see Arshavin really hitting form. Both today and last week at Villa he worked hard and showed real hunger. As others stumble around us, we have key players hitting top form. And van Persie’s role in the winner was sublime – great control to trap Arshavin’s bullet pass, and a superb, caressed lay-off for Nasri. Brilliant stuff!

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2010/12/04/nasri-a-class-above-as-arsenal-go-top/

  16. santori says:

    I must have had the exact 3 same (near) heart attacks as you. 😛

    Elated with the result but some same old habits seem to linger namely :

    1) Over elebboratation. Someone must tell Chamakh to shoot. Take a chance, doesn’t matter if he misses,but have a go.

    2)Can’t shut shop. Those last 10+ minutes were bad for the old nerves. Midfield has to do more to close the show. I found myself shouting for a sub too but yes realise that we had made 3 already.

    Nasri was sublime. Fabregas who? I tell you what, he is going to ask questions of El Capitan.

    Yet again good to see Andrei putting in a good shift with excellent vision but yes, he seems a little short legged.

    Djourou. Impressed with him. He really has stepped up to the plate. Good shift.

    Kos seems to be Mr Bad Luck. He doesn’t seem to play 2-3 games without either getting carded, knocked or (now) knocked out by a teammate! Poor bloke.

    Walcott. Frustrating because he could have helped provide the extra outlet for the closing 10 minutes but he has yet again fallen back to his bad habits. Completely clueless.

    The other thing to mention is that we now have plenty of options, particularly with playing the man in the hole. That could be RVP, Nasri, Andrei, Fabregas.

    Only problem for me is out RW where without Nasri we are left with either of Eboue or Walcott neither of which can quite put to gear at the moment.

    Great result today. I am going to rather enjoy MOTD tonight (no doubt Hansen will skip through and blame Fulham for being not good enough) 😀

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting point about Koscielny. Really seems unlucky. But I have faith in his abilities.

      Upon reflection it seems to me that we struggled a bit towards the end because we had Walcott, Arshavin, RvP and Chamakh on the pitch and Nasri was tiring. That meant back five and Song had to do a lot of work. Not a bad effort considering these points?

  17. JP says:

    Pleased overall with the performance. Nasri was great and the team played well. I think the goal was freakish in that Kos was out on his feet. Wish him well. Djourou is playing great. I was critical saying that he should start but I read that Wenger doesn’t want to overplay him as he is coming off a long layoff. Rosicky needs a goal and Chamack needs to shoot. He is too nice looking for the extra pass. Great fight well done team.

  18. Sachit says:

    Fabianski cannot clear a football. It just goes straight up in the air. -_-
    So, I would say he had a mixed game. I remember the missed punch as well.

    Its pretty obvious too that when Fab plays, Arsenal becomes too one dimensional unless ofcourse, Fab is at his beastly best of getting everyone into play himself. A few games without him have given Arshavin and Nasri more responsibility and I think both are excellent at the moment.

    Oh, and I love your posts dude.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks 🙂

      I thought the missed punch was important because it rushed the opponent into a lame header. Re his clearances – could it be that he was trying to avoid hitting the onrushing attackers and was taking the safe option of kicking it high?

  19. aravindvr says:

    Squillaci had a very bad day at office…was giving up after Fulham players seems to beat him.
    Djourou was outstanding with his headers which saved us from conceding in the second half…So did Sagna and Clichy were tremendous.
    Our Centre Midfield never controlled the game and it added to Squillacis troubles.Wenger could have brought on Denilson at the start of second half.

    Anyway class of Nasri was evident and felt too good for Fulham.
    When Chamakh becomes a little more selfish player, we ll start winning these games with ease.

  20. lee says:

    Samir Messi! Lionel Nasri!
    Samir Nasri is Arsenal’s Lionel Messi!

  21. Ajinkya says:

    Our full backs played extremely well. Clichy did exceptionally well. He was the one who was heading out all free kicks, despite his small physique, was really determined and used his pace constructively. He also stole the ball a couple of times. Sagna on the opposite flank was jumping like mad and putting balls away, superb. Djourou did really well, even though he came on in the unstable part of the game. In fact he was too much for the two guys up front, Davies and Kamara. Sqillaci, agreed, was shaky.
    Still you want to be better. We need just ONE more center back. We are then complete.
    And, Song needs to do well. We have seen many brilliant performances from this guy, he was nowhere near his best.
    We will only get better when RvP regains his full capacity, though very sad, Vermaelen, may not return soon.
    Overall, it was spurs game replay after fulham scored, but we displayed character and won.

    • AnonymousGun says:

      Did you see Clichy’s charging toward Schwatzer from half way line in 2nd half.. i was like.. LOL it will be hilarious if MS screwed up.

  22. critic says:

    clichy’s positioning in 1st half was woeful, he was the sole responsible for kamara’s goal, in my opinion…2nd half he was much calmer.

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