Theo scored a great equaliser in the dying moments
Fulham 2-2 Arsenal
Sidwell (25 mins), Zamora (56 mins) – RvP (28 mins), Walcott (89 mins)
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.
The end of the season does not mean the end of any news from the team at Straight Talking Gooners. We will keep you up to date over the summer with all the transfer news from the club and any pre-season games.
Starting tomorrow afternoon (after the Fulham game) you will be able to vote on who you think has been our player of the season. Voting will be open for roughly 48 hours, after which we will counting down the top 5 most voted for players, eventually revealing who you have picked as your Player of the Season.
The nominees are (in no particular order):
Robin van Persie
Some players deserve the award more than others, but I feel that all of these players have contributed highly to Arsenal’s performance this season. If anybody thinks there is another player who should be considered for the “Straight Talking Gooners Player of the Season” accolade then please leave a comment and remember to give your reasons as to why the player deserves to be on the list.
Also please feel free to “like” our facebook page or follow us on Twitter so that we can keep you up to date with all the latest news.
Fulham vs Arsenal
Sunday 22nd May, 1600 KO
Referee: Martin Atkinson
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.
Arsenal won 2-1 at home earlier this season, with Nasri grabbing both goals. However, this time around, both Samir and Arsenal are in relatively poor form.
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.
Todays game at the Emirates has been called off due to dangerous conditions for pedestrians and drivers and many tube closures. Only two of todays Premier League matches have survived the wintery weather. Sunderland will still host Bolton (who will be only 2 points behind Chelsea if they win), and Blackburn are still on against bottom of the table West Ham.
Todays postponed matches:
Arsenal vs Stoke
Birmingham vs Newcastle
Wigan vs Aston Villa
Liverpool vs Fulham
Has 11 goals this season after his brace against Fulham
Two sensational goals from our magical Frenchman secured the three points for the Gooners and put us top of the table. Both of Nasri’s goals took full advantage of his great close control as he waltzed into the box, evading Fulham’s challenges, before blasting the ball into the net.
Arsenal started the game very strongly, with Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky at the heart of everything. Five minutes in, Schwarzer made an excellent point blank save from our little Russian. A few minutes later, Andrey put Samir Nasri through on goal with a delightful through ball, but our number 8 could only push the ball wide of the post. But he made amends soon after. Arshavin was the instigator once again, making a powerful run from midfield and pushing the ball to Nasri when it looked like the Russian had lost control. Nasri stepped inside one challenge, dummied the second before smashing the ball high into the net.
The next 15 minutes continued in the same vain with a glut of great opportunities to score, the best one falling to Song who managed to side foot a volley wide of the goal. At the time, I said that we may live to regret the missed chances as Fulham were beginning to pass the ball around themselves. They were also sneaking the ball behind our defence, which was playing a very high line (not entirely sure why – it was clear that Fulham were trying to beat the offside trap from about 20 minutes in, we should’ve been flexible enough to change our tactics for a deeper defensive line). Kamara was called offside when through on goal, although really he was just on. But only minutes later, he got his reward for his tireless running. Our central defenders had an absolute disaster, head-butting each other in the face, leaving Koscielny dazed. The ball fell to Dempsey, who played a clever ball through the Koscielny-shaped whole in our defence, leaving Kamara to slide the ball past Fabianski.
It felt like Spurs all over again. After some periods of beautiful football, a stupid and unnecessary mistake led to an inferior team being able to get back into the game.
The first half ended to boos from the Gooner faithful, which I thought was rather distasteful. The second half began with the fans really getting behind the team, with lots of cheering to egg the team on. Everyone knew we were the better side in the first 45 minutes, except for the scoreboard.
We pressed hard for half an hour, but to no avail. It took another piece of magic from our superb Frenchman to get the winning goal. Nasri played it to Arshavin who slid the ball to RVP. Van Persie dropped his shoulder and moved towards the centre of the box and it looked as if he was going to shoot. Instead, he tapped the ball to Nasri, who danced into the box and rounded the keeper. It looked like he had gone too far wide and that he would be unable to score despite having taken the keeper out of the game (much like he did against Villa and Wigan). But Samir did a wonderful pirouette and managed to squeeze the ball into the net.
Arsenal suffered some pressure towards the end of the game. Wenger brought on Theo, probably hoping that he would help to end the match with his pace. He managed to get down the line, past the whole Fulham team, but failed to do anything with the ball on three or four occasions, most embarrassingly running the ball off the pitch on one occasion.
With Chelsea and Tottenham drawing, and the Man Utd game being postponed, it was a good weekend to be a Gooner. And an even better weekend to be Samir Nasri.
Fabianski – 7 Made some good saves but flapped at a few crosses.
Clichy – 7.5 Defensively sound and attacked well.
Squillaci – 6 Not very solid, at fault for the goal after his miscommunication with Koscielny.
Koscielny – 5.5 Looked out of his depth and was taken off after his injury.
Sagna – 7 Kept Fulham’s wingers relatively quiet.
Rosicky – 7.5 Effective in the first half, not so much in the second half.
Song – 7 Inconsistent. His passing was poor, but defensive heading was good. Should’ve scored when the score was at 1-0.
Wilshere – 7.5 Had a good first half, passing was excellent. Faded in the second half.
Nasri – 9 MOTM Brilliant.
Arshavin – 8 Lively and direct – another good performance, but also faded towards the end of the game.
Chamakh – 7 Had a few chances on goal but didn’t take them. Held the ball up quite well.
Djourou – 7.5 An improvement on Koscielny, looked strong.
RVP – 7 Not great, but not too bad either. Needs to have more of an impact on the game.
Walcott – 6 Great speed and control, rubbish end product. Needs to start some matches.
TOP OF THE LEAGUE!
Arsenal will take on Fulham tomorrow at the Emirates, with the team looking to recover from their poor home form in the league. Despite the three home defeats to West Brom, Spurs and Newcastle, our strong away form means that we still sit only being two points off the top of the table. After tomorrow, the next league match is against Man Utd, who currently top the table. A strong performance and all three points against Fulham is essential before a game of such magnitude.
Since losing Roy Hodgson, Fulham have certainly lost their previously well-organised and tactically strong approach. Currently sitting 17th in the league with 15 points from 15 games is testament to that fact. But we should take care, as their top goalscorer, Clint Dempsey, has made an impressive start to the season with five goals.
We cannot be complacent, like we were against West Ham. Arsenal need to play free-flowing, attacking football from start to finish. The first goal will be key.
The stats don’t look to be in Fulhams favour. Arsenal have never lost at home to Fulham in any competition, and Fulham have not had a single away win in their last 25 matches.
Rosicky may start instead of RVP. Djourou may start ahead of Koscielny, due to Johan’s recent good form. It’s hard to say. All will be revealed tomorrow!
Score Prediction: 4-0