Arsenal 1 – 1 Fulham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

This wasn’t the kind of game that I wanted to watch at midnight after an immensely enjoyable day with friends and their families who are visiting us for the holidays. And I get no joy in typing this report at quarter past two in the night but writing can also be cathartic at times and that’s just what I am hoping to achieve.

Arsenal blowing away points, while on a good run, in a game that’s there for the taking isn’t at all surprising anymore. Wenger gave the usual “explanation” of “lacking sharpness” citing the midweek battle with Dortmund. It’s a fair explanation but one that isn’t easy to accept when given every few weeks over the course of a few years.

I can understand Wenger’s point. This game should have been won 1-0 despite the tiredness. But the first half was just so soporific. Fulham weren’t really well organized and Arsenal were able to play the ball between the lines with relative ease. But the final pass or the attempted finish were just too lethargic.

I also felt the Gunners made a crucial tactical mistake. In the first half, Djourou rarely, if ever, ventured forward from his temporary right-back role. That in itself was not a problem as the swiss defender isn’t a regular and cannot be expected to run the flank as Sagna or Jenkinson do. But his reluctance to move forward meant Walcott stayed wide all through the game. This left the Gunners a man short in central areas on occasion. Ramsey tried hard but that effort forced errors at vital moments.

It might have been sensible to occasionally shift one of the midfielders, most likely Ramsey, towards the wide areas to free Theo to move inside. Djourou should have tucked in with Mertesacker and Vermaelen could then have moved into midfield alongside Song with Arteta pushing forward to cover areas that Ramsey was getting into. It would have put two relatively slower players in the centre of defence but a more compact attack would have scored against a crowded but rather static Fulham defence that wasn’t able to stop the Gunners from getting in behind as well as some others have.

I don’t want to go over too many events from the game. Arshavin was off-side when he scored early on. That set the pattern for the game. Arsenal were able to find plenty of space around the visitors’ penalty box but either the run, pass, or the finish wasn’t very good. When everything did fall into place, like the intricate move in the 7th minute, Schwarzer made a good save.

After the first 10 minutes the game was tighter but I believe that was more down to Arsenal dropping into second gear rather than a massive improvement from Martin Jol’s side.

It was good to see Fulham trying to build from the back with only the sporadic long ball. Zamora was very strong and prevented Vermaelen from making his usual tackles/interceptions. The visitors were able to get a number of snapshots in all through the half, with Dembele offering the biggest threat.

The second half was similar although it seemed Djourou was given instructions to push up when possible. Arsenal did have a good spell just before the hour mark. Ramsey should have won a foul when Hangeland barged into the Welshman on the edge of the box. Rambo’s sprawling figure inadvertently blocked a pass meant for RvP. The Dutchman then did well to create space for a shot that was cleared off the line a minute or two later.

Vermaelen’s own goal was inexplicable but not entirely surprising. Arsenal defending is not well structured and leads to more freak goals than any other team I have seen. In this particular case a good ball over the top from Murphy found the run of Riise. The Norwegian didn’t really control it well and there was no apparent danger when Vermaelen attempted a clearance that turned into a well placed shot into his own goal. I have no idea what the Belgian was trying. It should have been a routine kick away with the outside of his boot or his right foot. He probably tried to hit the ball away from the goal instead of knocking it for a throw on the right. By mistiming that kick, Vermaelen ended up side-footing it away from Szczesny.

Arsene brought on Gervinho and Diaby in place of Ramsey and Mertesacker. The Gunners played the rest of the game at a tempo that could have put them 2 or 3 up in the first half. But it was desperation stuff against a team that had visibly grown in confidence and were defending deeper and better.

Djourou forced a big save from a corner. Chamakh then came on for Arshavin.

Vermaelen put one in at the right end in the 82nd minute. The assist came from a peach of a cross by Theo who was just superb all through the game.

Arsenal kept searching for the winner but it wasn’t to be.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Made a couple of decent saves. Was a bit hesitant once or twice. Probably never expected the shot from Vermaelen so can’t blame him for the goal.

Djourou: Was strong in the air, made some excellent tackles, very strong defensive game.

Mertesacker: Made a good block, was reading the game well, can’t really fault his effort.

Vermaelen: Showed that just about anyone can make mistakes at the back and look daft. Took his chance well at the other end. Had a fascinating battle with Zamora throughout the game.

Santos: Very, very strong and skillful in individual battles. Got into very exciting positions in attack but the final ball/decision was unusually poor.

It was another sloppy goal to concede but once again it’s hard to blame the back five. I thought Fulham were allowed to get into dangerous positions more frequently than one would want to see. There were patches in the game when the team just slowed down and the pressing without the ball became dismal. The goal came during one such spell.

Song: Excellent tackling with an odd foul thrown in. Was also moving the ball well and got into advanced areas late in the game. Wasn’t able to find the final pass in this game but that’s  not his primary role.

Arteta: Wasn’t as effective as he usually is and sprayed a few passed uncharacteristically wide. But still created a few chances, for instance the one that was cleared off the line. Another decent defensive shift.

Ramsey: Apart from a few quality passes and his effort/movement, the Welshman disappointed with his decision making in the final third and the quality of his finishing and passing. The miss after Walcott’s scintillating run was just terrible.

The midfield was good but I thought they weren’t finding the attacking players well enough. Too many balls were being played down the middle to Van Persie even when he had four players around him. They must develop a better understanding with the likes of Arshavin.

Walcott: Outstanding in an otherwise mediocre team effort. Played a number of dangerous passes/crosses. Ran at the defender constantly and was the only one who could have produced the final ball. Deserves the MotM.

RvP: Movement and effort was top notch. Did well while receiving the ball in deeper areas and was constantly looking to create room for the wide players and supply the killer ball. Shooting was below par by his standards apart from the one effort that was cleared off the line.

Arshavin: Had one or two moments when he looked lively and likely to create but the final ball was poor. Didn’t get on the ball often enough. Needs a better understanding with RvP and the midfield.

Subs: Diaby looked strong on the ball but didn’t really know what to do with it in the final third. Gervinho produced an incisive cameo that led to a number of half-chances. Chamakh chased the ball well and showed some good turns but his passing was rusty.

Wenger: His explanation was valid but it’s an all too familiar storyline. Has to get a lot more out of the team. If the manager keeps playing the same starting line-up he cannot really blame fatigue. Squad depth is an issue that has to be addressed.

It’s 20 past 3 now so I will publish this article without giving it a once-over. Apologies for the tired effort but will you really blame me for emulating the team I dearly love.


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

  1. Tim says:

    For once, I think Wenger’s excuse was valid. Fulham are a tough team defensively, and we lacked zip all over the field, with Arshavin’s lackadaisical effort only making matters worse. It’s a clear sign that, while the starting XI is looking pretty solid, we still need more strength in depth in the January window, especially with Gervinho (but thankfully not Song) off to the Africa Cup of Nations.

    Definitely a disappointment, but every side has the odd blip like this during a season – United drew inexplicably at home to WBA at a similar point last season – so it’s not cause to go to panic stations just yet, as some are already doing.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/11/26/arsenal-lose-tempo-rhythm-and-two-points-in-draw-with-fulham/

  2. Prolonta says:

    Good one as usual. Gervinho’s short spell in the match emphasizes his importance in our style of play. His ability to take on players and skip past them given a short range of space is one quality I admire most in him. Though most times his final decision breaks my heart. Hopefully he’ll improve that aspect of his game soon enough. Walcott has shown tremendous improvement wit his team play, crosses and final deliveries in recent weeks. Ramsey’s display during the game shows he can’t produce a top level performance on a long stretch. I would like to see Benayoun or Rosicky replace him in coming weeks. I think he needs to rest for a while. Overall, it was disappointing but not disastrous. Now lets look forward for the city game

    • santori says:

      Absolutely right.

      As I mentioned before, Gervinho is at very least equally as effective as Walcott.

      Ramsey has his moments when he gets sloppy, but his vision is excellent. The only alternative to him at the moment would eb Arsharvin (or maybe Arteta, with Diaby back now) in that forward role

      Benayoun would/should have been a reasonable alternative in a game against the likes of Fulham.

      Wenger did not play the right options in the crucial 50-65 min period.

  3. Austin says:

    Did anyone see the look on walcott face while heading to the tunnel after the first half break,look exhausted and pitiful.i would love wenger to get competent back up players cause these guyz are human.realistically
    dembele,saldado,marco reus and vertoghen would add squad depth and they wont be expensive

  4. meditation says:

    walcott was the only one who seemed assured. I think the champions league game took its toll. I love vermaellens fight but he is not the best defender. Maybe thats why he plays leftback for his national side. konscielny and per is more balanced. I have been worried about verms play since he has come back. He tries to challenge for every ball and gets exposed. loses a lot of headers or even if he wins them because there not commanding headers we become imbalanced. He is not tall enough for the aerial battles and he gets too tight leaving the chance to be turned or gives too many dangerous freekicks away. I think he was part of arsenals old problem. He is getting better but should he be playing week in week out? Arsene doing best for team or players? Its obvious it he should have swapped gervinho for arshavin but after arsenes comments midweek he avoided hurting him.please. Arshavin is abrahimavichs puppet . He looks like he was on p e s’s ,now he is not. Just my opinion. Back to vermaelen. Is it a surprise a manager(jol) identified him as the weaker point in the team today and not mertasacker. Mertesacker plays chess with his play while vermaelan is a reactive player. The difference between a winger mentality and a centre midfield mentality. Another reason why he doesnt press when players are about to shoot. Konscielny ran from rightback last week against norwich to try and block a shot that should have been the centrals defenders job. Good game though from a tired team

  5. AbachaGhana says:

    Hi Desi, gud work as usual, i fail to understand why people like you and wenger who have followed arsenal 4 long cant stil see that ous players get seriously affected by fatigue.. Our team B could have matched fulham without fatigue with the likes of YB30 for arteta, diaby 4 rambo, OXO Park are all quality enough to win strugling fulham than fatigue players that shuld be rested for the city game.. Now tel me are u going to play the teamB that you had no belief in against fulham to play city or you wil play ur exhausted teamA against good city team to prevent trashing @ home.. Up to u and wenger.. Gud luck

  6. para says:

    “”Our team B could have matched fulham without fatigue with the likes of YB30 for arteta, diaby 4 rambo, OXO Park are all quality enough to win strugling fulham than fatigue players that shuld be rested for the city game.. Now tel me are u going to play the teamB that you had no belief in against fulham to play city or you wil play ur exhausted teamA against good city team””

    I ask exactly the same question.

  7. Tee Song says:

    Probably having decided to rest the starters from the next two midweek games, I think Wenger gambled and lost by not “freshening” the squad. The question one has to ask is whether the understanding and cohesiveness of a consistent group of starters playing at 80% to 90% due to fatigue is better than their respective replacements. I have to say I was a little surprised that Ramsey started. He was visibly tired in the first half and pretty much running on fumes when he was substituted. His pass completion rate went from 84% to 60% after halftime. Still, the gamble might have payed off as despite playing in 2nd gear, we carved out four great chances at nil-nil–Ramsey’s skied effort, Arshavin’s goal called back for a very tight offsides, Mert’s free header from a corner, and RvP’s shot cleared off the line (2nd league game in a row one of our strikers beats the keeper only to have a miraculous clearance by a defender).

    As for giving up a freak goal I think you’re being a little remiss in not pointing out Mike Dean’s considerable assistance. Arteta was fouled when dispossessed of the ball and since he was on the ground and the closest player to Murphy, there was no pressure on the resultant pass. And TV5 was being pulled back by Zamora (who was allowed to do this all game) which contributed to his miskick.

    At the end of the day, this was definitely two points dropped. If the squad players are unable to make a positive contribution when called upon, we’ll see more points dropped in similar fashion. I hate to admit this but this is area where Sir Alex is quite a bit better than Arsene. He seems to get results when he rotates his team before and after big games.

    • Tee Song says:

      Five great chances actually. Ramsey forced a really good save from Schwarzer after a great little pass from RvP.

      • santori says:

        Had we put in the kind of pressure that we did during the last 15 minutes of the game, Fulham would have cracked.

        The dissapointing thing is that we could have had Wenger changed things around earlier. This is a perrenial area of his coaching where he isn’t quite as good.

  8. Long Island Gunner says:

    “Sir Alex is quite a bit better than Arsene. He seems to get results when he rotates his team before and after big games.”

    The first thing you have to do to get results is actually rotate your squad. In a period with 4 games in 11 days and Fulham at home being in the middle of that why are we not seeing Coquelin, Park, Frimpong, Ox-Chamb, benayoun and Chamakh – all of them starting in a 4-4-1-1 playing high tempo and high pressure and committing to a clean sheet for 55 – 65 minutes. Then add RVP, Theo / Gerv, Arteta / Song as appropriate to win the match / see out the win.

    It seems that I have more confidence in some of those players than AW and I am a died-in-the-wool AKB from the late 90’s.

    • santori says:

      Some rotation is good but wholesale rotation may backfire.

      Remember that familiarity is also an impportant attribute with players.

      I thought it was reasonable to give Arsharvin a go (and protect Koscielny for Djourou who did well)

      But where Wenger miscalculated IMO was in midfield. We needed another pair of fresh legs and I would have started Diaby (rested Arteta who looks like he is feeling the effects)

      At very least, he should have enforced his substitutions way earlier thereby buying us 10 whole extra minutes of added pressure on the Fulham backline.

  9. DC Gunz says:

    By now it should be clear that Wenger defends his players when they under-perform. His excuse for them may be genuine, it may be that he wants to shield them from some criticism, or both.

    The tie is certainly disappointing, but the own goal was freakish, Schwarzer made a couple of top drawer saves plus there was the clearance off the line, so I don’t feel all that bad about it. Results like these are inevitable even for the bigger spending, frankly better clubs (in terms of talent and depth. No team is truly better than the Arsenal). Best of all, we have more than half the season to continue playing good football.

    I’m always a fan of your posts. Since I rarely comment just want to take this opportunity to let you know that you do great work on Arsenal.

  10. JJ Pittman says:

    There were two miracle off the line clearances by their defenders and countless near-misses by our guys. We dominated the game and it just shows how important it is to put the ball in the net! Agree with all those who question why we didn’t use more reserves in the starting lineup. And now: the Careless Cup v. $hity. Will the first team still be fatigued or will we be hammered?

  11. John says:

    Very tired midfield afer Dortmund Song Areata and Ramsey looked wreaked after 15 minutes in hindsight they should not have started I would like liken to see fresh legs in Oxlade and Diaby.

    One major problem I had was Arshivan performance I’m f**king sick the death of this tosser. He is being paid every week, he had been rested yet puts ins a shocker yesterday??? . His attidue is one fo the worest Ive seen he’s his work ethic is disgracefully this only drag down team morale working with someone like that.

    I will be delighted when he moves on in January he has been a very bad buy imo.

    Lastly RIP Gary Speed if Ashivan had 1% of his desire, heart and work ethic he would be a better player god bless you Gary.

    • santori says:

      I don’t think Arsharvin is lazy more than he lacks confidence.

      OTOH, I do think he has lost pace and it is consequently more difficult for him to play out wide (particularly with his stature).

      IMO, he will be more effective tucked in behind a striker.

      That would entail the midfield would have to be able to play a sort of 4-4-2.

      Against the likes of Fulham, we shouldn’t have a problem if we have the right pairing in the middle.

      Song/Diaby should be able to hold and provide momentum forward if Arsharvin was played behind RVP. Just an idea.

  12. Waleed says:

    Wenger would have been criticized for rotating too had we failed to win.
    Of course now that we’ve drawn people will say he should’ve rested players for the Fulham game and played a strong side against City. In hindsight Wenger would probably say the same.

    But Fulham are a good team and you need your best team out there against them in the league. And not just in terms of individual quality but rather how the team plays together. If one particular team is on a good run you don’t want to chop and change too much.

    Arteta, Ramsey, and Song might have been rested had Rosicky or diaby been fit to start. They weren’t.

    And playing midweek CL games and playing on the weekend is something we have to do, and the same players need to be able to do it.

    Arsene’s plan I think was always to play this team against Fulham, try to get a win, and then rest them for the City game.
    And they will be rested for the City game now.

    It doesn’t mean he doesn’t trust the reserve players, but again if a team is doing well you don’t want to chop and change too much.

    I remember last season after the 3-1 win against Chelsea, Wenger HAD to rotate because we played Wigan in two days, yet he was roundly criticized for changing 9 players. Even when he had no option but to do it.

    I am 100% sure that those who are now criticizing him for not rotating would have criticized him for rotating too much if we had gotten the same result.

    It is the usual thing of criticizing decisions in hindsight. And its stupid.

    • santori says:

      He doesn’t need to rotate the entire squad.

      But the midfield was (understandably) flat and he should have put in a fresh pair of legs (Diaby)

      AND he needs to enforce substitutions earlier. He threw away 10 minutes of pressure we could have exerted on Fulham by waiting whilst our midfield ran out of steam.

      • Waleed says:

        The substitutions were fine. What threw our gameplan off completely was Vermaelen’s own goal.
        After that he reacted brilliantly.

        The players were a bit tired but we were in complete control. All that was needed was a couple of fresh legs around the 60 minute mark and we would’ve won it had it stayed at 0-0.

        And then we wouldn’t be having this debate.

  13. Waleed says:

    Anyway, tactically what is really hurting us is a lack of a proper right back. We need someone shuttling up and down that side and add width.
    Right now the problem is that we aren’t able to build a lot of attacks down that side simply because Djourou/Koscielny cannot make those forward runs as often as Sagna/Jenkinson would.

    This makes us more predictable. It makes it more difficult for us to stretch the opposition defence. And it makes Theo less of a goal threat because now he has to stay out wide to offer the width, unable to come inside and run the channels.

    Defensively it has the negative effect of the opposition left winger staying high up, as he doesn’t have to track the fullback. Fulham’s dempsey stayed high up and so Fulham always had a passing option up the pitch which helped them keep possession and build from the back.
    It is a crucial duty our fullbacks perform of pushing the opposition wingers back and thus making it harder for them to counter attack.

    So our attack will continue to struggle a bit until Sagna and Jenkinson are back.

    • santori says:

      The RB did his job. That was not the problem.

      The thing that hurt us most was our midfield. It flagged after the half allowing Fulham to come forward.

      This was understandable given the exersion over midweek but it could also have been remidied, particularly as we now have the likes of Diaby, Benayoun.

      • Waleed says:

        You missed the point. The RB did a good job defensively, but we miss the shuttling runs of Sagna and Jenkinson on that side.

        Yes the midfield was a problem, no one can argue against that, but I don’t think starting Diaby or Benayoun was the answer either.

  14. santori says:

    We could have had 10 minutes extra to win this game.

    Wenger is a brilliant manager but as I have mentioned time and again, tactically, he can be a little short.

    The team was carrying a number of tired legs particularly in midfield and not surprisingly following the Dortmund game.

    Our tempo flagged around the 50th minute with Arteta and Ramsey in particular tsarting to tire/get sloppy/static. Fulhman were beginning to dominate the midfield and there was a palpable feeling that a mistake at the back would come around the corner.

    Yet instead of enforcing a timely substition or two early on, Wenger dallied and we paid the price with the own goal.

    Gervinho and Diaby should have come on 50 mins+ for Arsharvin and Arteta IMO. That we waited made us foreit away 10 minutes of useful pressure we could have exerted in the Fulham backline.

    We threw this one away and the opportunity to close the gap above us (bearing in mind City, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool)

    In fact, I thought we should have started with Diaby in midfield at least next to Song in place of the tired Arteta. Benayoun should have also been played IMO at least for one half.

    I’m not sure what the gaffer’s rotation policy is but he has got to start getting it right or we will reap the benefits of fatique sooner than later.

    On to the Carling Cup. Will be interesting to see what City put out (Depends on their confidence I suppose and the fact they are even more starved than we are for success/cups). If they put out a strong second team (which they can), I suspect we’ll have to at least match them with a first team lineup at the back.

    We’re still within reach of the teams above us so I think we are in due course for Top 4 position by Xmas. But what a wasted opportunity alas.

    • Waleed says:

      I don’t see how Fulham were on top. It was pretty much deadlocked at 0-0 with Arsenal having the majority of the possession and Fulham not looking threatening at all.

      The only chance they got was from a foul on Arteta that Mike Dean didn’t call.

      That was an isolated incident and at no point was our defence under pressure.

  15. santori says:

    BTW, I know you prob don’t mean to but you keep singling out Djourou as if it was entirely his fault that the team wasn’t performing up to par.

    Djourou had an excellent game I thought.

    Had he ventured forward exposing the area behind him, he would have been faulted for being too adventurous. Had he stayed back, he would have (as you are) been faulted for not giving enough to the attack. It’s a bit of a catch 22 for him which he can’t win.

    I thought he stuck to his job well and did it right, particularly as he is playing in an unfamiliar position.

    • Waleed says:

      Djourou did very well what he was asked to do. Can’t fault him one bit. But our game does require that the fullback make forward runs.

      Our attack has suffered a bit because of this. But it has had a defensive side effect too.

      Dempsey didn’t have anyone to track, so he was able to stay up and give Fulham more options. Part of the reason our fullbacks drive forward is to push the wingers back. Djourou, for all his great work, can’t do that as an RB.

  16. xx says:

    A lost chance to move up the ladder. The manager made a number of critical mistakes in his selection and substitution:

    Mistake # 1: Playing Arshavin in place of Gervinho. A tired Gervinho is 50% better than Arshavin. Arshavin belongs to the past and should never play for the team again. Without Gervinho the team lacked the three prong attack that creates space for VanPerse.
    Mistake # 2: Not making the substititution straight after half-time.
    Mistake #3: Not accelerating the game by replacing Arshavin and Ramsey with Gervinho and Rocisky or Benayoun. The game was flat and needed someone to accelerate the place, Gervinho, Rocisky and Benayoun would have done that.
    Mistake # 4: Diaby and Chasmakh I am sure are good blokes, but they do not belong in the team. Next time the manager should go for Frimpong or Coquelen in place of Diaby, who should join Fabregas, Denilison, Bendtner and other perenial young players that destroyed us over the past 4 years, out the door.

    Arsene Wenger was timid in his team selection and substitution and is kicking himself.
    By the way, why chamaberlain not playing ahead of Chamakh and Arshavin??

    • Waleed says:

      Maybe Gervinho needed a rest?
      We did not need to make any substitutions at half time.
      Rosicky was injured. And we did make substitutions. Unfortunately the goal came at hte wrong moment.

      And Diaby showed some real class when he came on. Did really well for the most part although you could see he was a bit rusty.
      So you don’t realy know what you’re talking about.

      And without Chamakh Vermaelen would not have scored that header.

      Also, these “mistakes” are only that because you now have the benefit of hind sight.

      The fact is, every decision the manager makes has risk involved. Sometimes things go wrong.

      And sometimes things happen that you don’t expect.

      In my opinion Wenger made absolutely the right decisions and we were unlucky not to win. But that happens. Now we pick ourselves up and try to win the next game.

  17. Raghugovind says:

    I have one criticism that I have against Le Boss is that he does not reshuffle as much as he should and he sticks to his starting 11 most of the time. For eg he could have played coequelin instead of Arteta who was visibly tired in this game .

  18. Kushagra India says:

    Desi on another note Chesney said in the Times that after the manure loss training is done separately for attacking and defending your thoughts on that…

  19. Peggy says:

    If you are going for most excellent contents like myself, only pay a visit this website everyday because it offers quality contents, thanks

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