Another disjointed display, which typified a very lacklustre few weeks for the Gunners, ended in a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage. Arsenal went behind twice, but goals from two of this season’s stars – RvP and Walcott – gave the Gunners a point.
Although not enough to put City under any pressure for third place (their victory leaves them 3 points ahead of Arsenal, level with Chelsea on 71), the draw does mean that Arsenal don’t finish this campaign with three loses on the trot. What a demoralising end to the season that would’ve been.
As it was, Gooners have really struggled to watch the team over the last few months. Apart from a superb performance against Man Utd, Arsenal have been lacking attacking ideas. But more than that, defensive lapses in concentration and some very unlucky decisions have left Arsenal languishing in fourth place, having been fighting for the title in March (and still in April).
Today, Arsenal actually looked better than they had done in recent weeks. Instead of starting like they did against Villa (possibly the most inane first 20 minutes by Arsenal in the last few years), Arsenal were brighter and sharper. Djourou and Sagna did make some poor defensive choices, which meant that Fulham had a few chances to run at our defence in the first 20 minutes.
The best early chance came from Nasri, who had started the game brilliantly. He had made some fantastic runs and was controlling Arsenal’s moves whenever we attacked. A floated cross was glided into Nasri, who was in acres of space. He had time to control it but chose to take the header, which was weak and flew straight into Schwarzer’s arms.
However, it wasn’t long until Fulham caught our defence unawares. Gibbs had moved far too central, leaving Zamora with plenty of room out wide. When he received the ball, he ran straight towards goal before cutting the ball back to Sidwell for a simple side-footed finish.
Only three minutes later, and Diaby made a lovely one-two before playing a first-time ball into RVP’s path. The Dutchman took a touch and finished the ball with aplomb.
The first half petered out, but the second half started with much more pace. Arsenal looked threatening, with our best chance coming from a Nasri free kick which took a great save out of Schwarzer.
Unfortunately, as Arsenal were piling on the pressure, Fulham scored their second. Poor defending by Sagna allowed Greening to cross, and Zamora rose above everyone to head home.
A late flurry from the Gunners, including a positive substitution from Wenger (Eboue, Walcott and Arshavin came on – plenty of speed), meant that Arsenal had chances to draw level. A brilliant run from Theo gifted him with an opening, and he placed the ball in the far corner to score his 13th of the season.
Szczesny 6 Could have done better for both goals, especially the first. Didn’t seem to have great communication with the defence from set plays…as if we didn’t already know that…
Sagna 5.5 Quite a quiet game from Bacary, but he gave the ball away far too many times. Also let Greening get a cross in for the second, which really shouldn’t have happened.
Vermaelen 7 Looked relatively solid, but possibly at fault for not out-jumping Zamora for the second. However, Bobby is a decent header of the ball, so you can’t place all the blame on our defender.
Djourou 4.5 Another poor game from Johan. Generally looked over-awed by the pace and strength of Fulham’s strikers. Gave the ball away too many times and didn’t win many tackles. He’s had a good season, but has fallen away in recent weeks.
Gibbs 5.5 A lack of game time can’t have helped Gibbs, but his recent performances have been lacking sharpness. He should’ve been far more aware for the first goal.
Diaby 7 Very hit and miss as usual, but did brilliantly for the first goal.
Wilshere 7 Kept the team ticking but was relatively quiet.
Ramsey 6 Like Wilshere, he didn’t get too involved. Stuck on the right and couldn’t impose himself.
Nasri 7 Started the game well but wasn’t up to his high performance levels from earlier in the season. Made some great runs.
RVP 7.5 MOTM Took his goal well and kept coming deep and opening up the defence.
Chamakh 6.5 Held up the ball well, but did miss some good chances.
Walcott 7 Brought some much needed pace, and his goal was brilliant.
Eboue 6 Brought little to the game, but made one or two good runs.
Arshavin 6.5 Had a couple self-made chances which he should have done better from.
Five points from our last 6 games places us 18th in the Premier League form table. Far from the form of champions; it is more like the form of a side threatened by relegation. So, does it matter what happens tomorrow? We are guaranteed champions league football, so who cares about finishing 3rd as opposed to 4th? I hope that this is not the mentality that the players have. It does matter. It is almost irrelevant in terms of our success this year. But it is highly relevant in terms of our pride as a football club. We, as fans, need to see the desire to win, even if there is nothing to play for. We need to see that the players want to win, even if all is lost. This is the mentality that is lacking from the squad. When things don’t go our way, it often seems like the players cannot respond and lack the hunger and desire to drive the team back into contention. We have seen this countless times this season. I also want to see my team go out on a high. We have endured yet another frustrating end to the season, so a win on the last day of the season will help remind us of the positives.
Bear in mind that Arsenal could win this game but still come 4th. Man City play Bolton at the Reebok, having recently won the FA Cup and defeated Stoke 3-0 on Tuesday, which propelled them into third place.
Fulham still have 7th place to fight for, which would equal their best ever Premier League position (under Roy Hodgson). They could also qualify for the Europa League through the Respect Fair Play rankings. Let’s hope that if Arsenal do come fourth, they won’t be playing Fulham in Europe next season! Finishing in fourth place would mean that Arsenal would have to win a tricky qualifier to make it to the group stages, or we could face a season in the Europa League.
Arsenal and Fulham have played 48 games against each other. Arsenal have won 34 times, Fulham 7 and there have been 7 draws.
Samir Nasri has scored just twice in the league since the two sides met in December.
If RVP scores, he will equal the record number of league goals scored since 1st January (18 goals, record held by Henry and Ronaldo).
Almost a third (30%) of Fulham’s goals have come from headers, the highest proportion in the league. Arsenal have conceded over half their goals from set pieces, and over a quarter of their goals from headers.
Arsenal have only won 19 league matches this season. In the last 13 seasons, Arsenal have only failed to win 20 games once, in 2006/07.
Arsenal’s away form isn’t terrible - 8 wins, 6 draws and 4 defeats. It was the best away form in the league up until a few weeks ago.
Arsenal – DDLWLL (18th in the Premier League form table)
Fulham – LDWWLW (6th in the Premier League form table)
Fabregas has been ruled out as he has suffered another setback with his injury. Nasri, Clichy and Diaby all face late fitness tests while Djourou is a major doubt. Koscielny should return following his absence last week against Villa.
1-2 victory for Arsenal
At the risk of sounding optimistic, I reckon Arsenal will nick the win. Three defeats in a row would be something of a meltdown. Although Arsenal’s season has staggered to an undesirable halt, I don’t feel that the doom and gloom surrounding the club is necessary. However, the relationship between the fans and the club/manager/players seems to be at an all-time low. We need to see some great away support and plenty of effort from the players. It is possible that Wenger will start some of his squad players, like Bendtner and Rosicky, but this seems unlikely as I doubt he will want to suffer backlash should we fail to win.
Tomorrow Arsenal host 8th placed Sunderland in a must win game. With Utd having dropped points to Chelsea on Monday, we have the chance to reduce the gap to a single point. We responded well to the heartbreak at Wembley with a 5-0 drubbing of Leyton Orient on Wednesday, but this is a much bigger challenge and will test our ‘mental strength’. Furthermore, most of the players who played on Wednesday did not actually feature last Sunday. Tomorrow, we are likely to see the return of Koscielny and Szczesny who are most probably still hurting from their blunder. We will hopefully see that they are mature enough to put this behind them and rediscover their fine form prior to the final.
Arsenal – WWWDWW
Sunderland – DWLLLL
Arsenal currently sit top of the premier league form table. After a flying start to the season (by their standards) Sunderland are currently rock bottom. This is the biggest gap between two teams. This is perhaps the best time to face an out of form team given our current morale and injury problems. In my opinion, the premier league presents the best opportunity for silverware this season. This year has been different to all others because the gap between the top teams and the chasing pack has been reduced significantly due to lower extreme spending by the big guns. Even the ‘big four’ phenomenon, which monopolised the premier league, has all but vanished. Admittedly, Chelsea have broken the bank (despite their lucrative funds) with their capture of Torres.
- Sunderland have no won away to the Gunners since 1983.
- Arsenal have the highest number of different goal scorers in the league (15) whereas Sunderland currently have the fewest providers (7).
- There were more passes in Arsenal’s game against Leyton Orient (1254) than in the Barcelona match (1114).
- Fabregas has a pass completion rate of 81%. This is surprisingly low for our sensational captain. Even Yaya Toure has a superior passing rate (86%). It is a shame that Kolo is unable to pass tests in the way that his brother passes the ball.
- Sunderland are unbeaten in London this season. They managed a magnificent 3-0 win against the champions, who were in rich vain of form at the time. They have also taken a point from Craven Cottage and White Heart Lane.
Many will remember Bent’s last-gasp goal which gave Sunderland a point at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season. Unfortunately for Steve Bruce‘s side, Aston Villa nicked their top goalscorer, who had scored 11 goals for the club before he left in January. Without the English striker, Sunderland’s goals have dried up, although Gyan is still a major threat.
–Sagna–Squillaci–Djourou — Clichy–
Ramsey to return?
After months of waiting, there is a possibility that Arsenal fans will get to see Ramsey take to the field on Saturday. His long rehabilitation process, including two loan spells, has led Wenger to believe that he will not suffer the same mental setbacks as Eduardo. We are looking forward to his return!
Manager of the Month
Wenger has been crowned February Manager of the Month. Arsenal won 5 out of 8 games, drawing two and losing one. The stand-out performance was obviously the 2-1 win over Barcelona. The unlikely loss came in the final, and Arsenal continued to play great football throughout the month, even in the 4-4 draw to Newcastle, when the Gunners were exquisite in the first half.