Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham match report: We go top! A deserved win!

December 4, 2010

Another shaky performance as we come out with three points this time. We go top of the league and it doesn’t matter how we got there. What matters is we have to stay there.

The game had elements similar to what we have seen in the past few matches. Complete domination by us in the start, we score the goals but miss a lot more that should literally finish the game.  We then succumb to I don’t know what and concede goals. Then we look panicked and forget what we are supposed to do as the game opens up and it is for anyone’s to take.

The start as usual was very bright by us as we dominated Fulham. Arshavin was clearly on fire as he set up some beautiful balls and himself got chances to score. Arshavin had an early Volley saved by Schwarzer when we got a free kick. Rosicky had an opening to shoot but he chose to pass the ball to Chamakh and the chance was lost. Arshavin was involved in this move also.  Nasri then went just wide on a through ball from Arshavin. The breakthrough was not far behind though. Arshavin again picked up Nasri with a wonderful ball and he sidestepped two challenges before smashing the ball past Schwarzer. It was a goal to watch. Simply amazing as we got our early goal.

We didn’t stop there and Arshavin again picked up Chamakh with a great lobbed ball. Chamakh should have gone for goal but he chose to pass the ball back and the chance was spurred. Arshavin a few minutes later himself had a shot that was saved by Schwarzer. Nasri then made a brilliant run down the right and he squared the ball. Somehow Fulham kept the ball out of goal as the score remained one nil. Song then went wide with an open header from an excellent cross by Sagna.

By now not even 30 minutes had passed and we had created half a dozen chances of which three should have been scored on at least. As it was we were leading by a goal only. Then the moment of madness occurred at the back as Squillaci collided with Koscielny and Dempsey got the ball. He passed it to Kamara who made no mistake to put it past Fabianski as the score leveled up. Koscielny was stretchered off due to injury from the collision as Djourou came on for him.

The final 15 minutes of the first half were equally contested. We went flat after conceding the goal and started doing uncharacteristic mistakes. We were too casual with the ball. Our defence was opened up far too many times which weren’t good to see.

Near the end Chamakh headed the ball straight to Schwarzer. Fulham went close to taking lead themselves but Fabianski brilliantly denied Kamara in a one-on-one. We went into the break with the scores leveled.

The second half start was uncharacteristic by us. No one was holding onto the ball for long as Fulham were pressing nicely. However, slowly we started getting into good positions. Rosicky had a first time shot on goal that went just wide when Song found him on the edge of the area. Arshavin, similar to Nasri, did brilliantly to open up space for himself and had a shot that was again stopped by Schwarzer. These chances raised the tempo of the game as Fulham also looked dangerous on the break. They got a couple of half chances as we survived the pressure.

Van Persie was brought on by Wenger in place of Wilshere. Arshavin and Van Persie combined to set up Nasri.  He wriggled past challenges, the keeper and slotted home from the by line. Simply an amazing goal.

Fulham, however, were not to be stopped as they pushed for the equalizer. Etuhu had a shot that went just wide of the post. Chamakh at the other end had a chance to kill the game when Clichy found him with a cross. Chamakh although shot the ball over. Fabianski did his part near the end as he saved Gera’s shot that was heading towards goal. Near the end we did enough to keep Fulham from scoring as we ended the match with the three points secured.

Well one thing is confirmed from the match; we love to live dangerously and never go for the easy kill. These last few games have been really tense. However the spirit that the team is showing is worth the mention. We could have easily lost today had we not held our nerves. Although, we need to do it more convincingly. We could have easily finished the game in the first half had we taken our chances. We also could have easily conceded a couple after the scores got leveled. We survived the pressure and that was good to see. Let’s carry on with this on to the next games with more improvement.

Arsenal vs Fulham preview: Home win and going top + Starting lineup

December 4, 2010

After qualifying for the Carling Cup semi-final, we are back to Premier League. Today we face Fulham at our home for the first game of December. Having lost the previous two matches at home, we have to produce a win today as we would go top again (Depends on Chelsea’s result against Everton as Man Utd’s game has been postponed).

With no changes to the casualty list, the squad for tomorrow is the same as it was available against Villa.

Based on this, starting eleven that I would like to see is

Probable XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.

With another good performance by Szczesny in the Carling Cup, the situation of our keepers is certainly stable at the moment. Fabianski is also responding well and therefore he is going to start in goal tomorrow as Szczesny needs more games to wrestle the No.1 spot. The same goes for the centre backs. All are almost on the same level so it’s a question of who Arsene picks. I would go with Djourou and Koscielny as they both looked comfortable in the Wigan game although the opposition didn’t trouble us much. Djourou is improving with every match and he offers us more aerially than the other two so for me he must start. On the flanks Sagna to come back to his place and Gibbs to start on the left side. Gibbs had a good game against Wigan and he offers us more going forward. Although at the back he is similar to Clichy but more games will certainly improve his performances.

In the middle I would go with the same three players that started against Villa. Rosicky and Song were rested so they are going to feature tomorrow. The doubt is just of Wilshere’s start as he also played the Wigan game. Wenger might even surprise us and start with Van Persie again in the same role as he started against Wigan. The question is that will Wenger risk him by starting with him two games in a row?

Upfront Chamakh to return to the starting eleven after his rest. Chamakh is doing great and it will be interesting to see if Van Persie starts behind him. He should be partnered by Nasri and Arshavin as both of them were great against Villa and they also were rested during midweek.

The team is pretty much similar to the starting eleven against Villa and hopefully they will perform in the same way with improvement in the defensive department.

Fulham’s season isn’t going well as it should have been with plenty of drawn games. They are a good team and on their day can cause upsets. They are coming into this match on the back of a few injuries to key players. Still they have enough quality to give us a hard time.

We would have to be at our best as we have to start winning games at home. We have to stick to the basics and play our game. Defensively our whole team has to step up a gear. The midfield has to remain close to the defenders when under attack to challenge the second balls as there will be plenty of high balls into our area. The forwards have to combine well with the midfielders to press them effectively so that they can’t play their game. The midfield will need to keep balance as they will be the key in maintaining possession.

I am expecting us to win this but again no score predictions. It will be great if we can score an early goal or two and then go on to keep a clean sheet.

With the all important Champions League game against Partizan coming up, let’s hope none of our players get injured.

p.s. I hope the match isn’t called off due to bad weather.

Wenger on Almunia’s setback, Fabregas’ return, new keeper and Schwarzer’s deal extension

December 4, 2010

Speaking ahead of the match against Fulham, Arsene Wenger in his pre-match press conference gave his update on the squad. Everyone is available for tomorrow except Almunia. Almunia, he said, has suffered a setback in training and is out. The other injured players are still not back including Diaby, Vermaelen and Fabregas.

“The team news is that we have everybody available and not Almunia who had a little setback in training yesterday and is out of it. But apart from that, of course Fabregas, Vermaelen, Diaby are out.”

About Fabregas he said that it is still two weeks at the most before he can return. The initial sign for Fabregas are good but Wenger is unsure if he will be available for the Man Utd game. 

“The first signs [for Fabregas] look quite good. I still think two weeks. I don’t know [whether he will be available for the Manchester United game].”

On Vermaelen he said that he is with a protective boot on and it will have to wait before it can be confirmed if it helps and how early he can be back.

“At the moment [Vermaelen] is in a boot and we have to wait until he comes out of that to see if he has a reaction.”

Wenger also made it clear that there will be no new player or keeper coming in January unless injury forced him. When asked about a new keeper in January, Wenger responded that he has already come out on that. He said that they are not on the market for any player. The current keepers are all performing. Fabianski, he said, has shown quality in the last couple of months and that he has the ability. Szczesny also has done well in his appearances. As for Almunia he said that injury won’t keep him out for long and he will return soon.  

“No, I came out already on that.

That [Almunia’s injury] will not be for a long time, we have Szczesny coming up very quickly and we have Fabianski who has proven in the last two months that he has the quality.

At the moment we are not on the market.”

When asked about Schwarzer’s deal extension he said that he is pleased for him. He said that the deal doesn’t bother him as he has his own squad to focus on. He also said that he can understand the decision made by Schwarzer as a two year deal at his age is good and that it shows the club values him. On the interest of Arsenal he said that it is history and he would like it to remain discreet.

 “I can understand that decision. At his age a two-year contract is a great deal for him and it shows great confidence of the club for him. I don’t have a problem with that.
It is important that we focus on our players and the squad we have. I am pleased for him [Schwarzer] that he got an extension to his contract but all the rest is history that has to be a little bit discreet.”