Fulham Preview: No Messing Around From Arsenal By The River

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Arsenal make the short trip to Craven Cottage for a key match in the run-in. A hackneyed cliche it might be but this is a must-win match. They all are at this stage of the season but with come the final whistle, Tottenham will have two games in hand and the gap has to be five points to ensure the pressure moves back to them tomorrow. To find themselves just two points in arrears passes them a significant advantage, no matter who those matches are against.

Fulham have not been the most welcome of guests or hospitable hosts in recent seasons, Arsenal haven’t registered a win over them since December 201o or won in West London since September 2009. Whilst they were overwhelmed in the midweek derby, Fulham seem unlikely to allow Arsenal to just turn up and win; the mental strength shown in the recent mini-revival in form needs to be displayed once more, which is more relevant than poor recent history.

Arsène goes into the game knowing whether the midweek niggles are healed. Key to that will be Tomas Rosicky, whose nimble movements and speed of thought have been missed in the home games against Norwich and Everton. If fit, he gives the manager the type of selection headache he will like to have. Aaron Ramsey has been immense recently and as close to undroppable as anyone at the moment. It marks a remarkable turnaround in opinion of him and he was a way to go with some people still, but the Welshman has silenced a lot of his critics. With Mikel Arteta, he has provided the defence with protection that was missing earlier in the season. I suspect Jack Wilshere may find himself on the bench if the Czech recovers for today.

Up front, Olivier Giroud is dividing opinion with a clamour for Lukas Podolski to take the central striking role. The opportunity for this exists this afternoon should ArsΓ¨ne decide on more counter-attacking style, or perhaps Theo Walcott leading the line instead. The latter is an option if the manager has a fully fit midfield to choose from. Giroud could consider himself unlucky not to have scored more against Norwich but missed two presentable chances against Everton. Having an average of one goal every three games, a shame that final opportunity didn’t manifest. But that is not his strength to the side, the French international is one of the hardest working strikers in the English game, closing players down and running his opponents hard during games. That affords colleagues the space to exploit for others. We were spoiled with van Persie in having a thirty goals a season striker in the League but let’s not forget, we only saw that last season; the rest was supposition as he was rarely fit enough to last that long. So rare, that was the only time he managed more than thirty Premier League games for Arsenal. They are different types of forwards and as a first season in the English game goes, Giroud has not done badly at all.

I would personally not include Walcott today either, at least from the start. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has done well as an impact sub, certainly adding a bit of impetus upon introduction. This afternoon, I think his overall work-rate might be better suited to the occasion than Walcott’s speed on the break. Indeed, the latter would be a potent weapon for the last half an hour.

The line-up I would like is:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere (Rosicky), Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Cazorlaa

If Arsenal can bring the intensity of the performances against Norwich (the last twenty minutes) and Everton (the last seventy minutes), they should be confident of achieving victory. The efforts expended in those and the wins in Germany, Wales and the West Midlands were achieved by hard work. It would be naive to expect anything less to bring about victory today; Fulham will have been stung by their defeat to Chelsea and no doubt, redouble their efforts to restore pride. Simply because they have reached the mythical safety level of 40 points does not mean they will automatically take it easy in the remaining games. Add into that the personal nature of the meeting with Wenger, Martin Jol will be motivating his players with a little more edge than normal.

But Arsenal have enough quality to win and with right application, will do so. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

261 thoughts on “Fulham Preview: No Messing Around From Arsenal By The River

  1. WOW we like to make it hard don’t we? Well played Fulham though. 3 points is what was needed and that is what we got. Just a pity we will lose Giroud for 3 games.

  2. Wow, that was really horrible. At least we got the three points. Agree that Fulham were spirited, but that was mainly because we let them be.

  3. atlest Giroud is out for a couple of matches now, will give us a forced change. maybe that will change the dynamics of the team.

    Actually we got no striker now. (theo and poldi dont count according to AW)

  4. Phew…we made that unnecessarily hard for ourselves…terrible performance frankly but I will take 1-0 away at Fulham any day of the week…

    5 points clear..over to you Spurs…

  5. Giroud might well still play against Manure. On appeal that one could be rescinded. Definitely rolled over the top of the ball.

  6. RunebreaKer

    Sorry mate i don’t agree, we were doing that the whole game, and yes we should keep possession and control the game but to absolutely abandon any attacking intent is ridiculous. We passed from side to side and backwards as well almost all game as well, whether that is something the manager said or a lack of creativity from the players, there is a problem and we have seen that too often this team.

    I think we are moving away from being a creative team to a more control based team and i think it’s a shame.

    I agree we should keep the ball in the dying minutes maybe at 85 or something but not from the first minute to the last.

  7. Great result, poor game in the attacking sense from Arsenal. The ball distribution seemed slow, in part I’m sure due to the turf but the team just lacked real quality in the final third again. Was the Giroud sending off harsh? He clipped the top of the ball and went over but it was still high.

    Can someone explain to me how possession though lateral passing seems like a great footballing idea? So little penetration, so disappointing.

    BUT, good result in the end. Mert was my MoTM, thought Ramsey’s engine was once again very impressive.

  8. oh well United is the shitties team to ever win the PL too so. they play like this all the time.

  9. I think it is a real shame because we seem to have removed almost all creative risk from our game. We seem like i said to have moved to a more possession based team by sacrificing our creativity, maybe we don’t have the quality to play the creative game anymore and if Wenger has seen that and decided to change our approach then Kudos to him but he should really go and buy another creative midfielders.

    We seem scared to pass forward and one of the things that really gets me mad is we always pass with our backs to the opposition and then move back into our own half before we looked forward again.

  10. In those final minutes where Fulham are trying to chase the game, that is when you want someone fast up front. If that had been Theo and not Ramsey, it probably would have been a goal.

  11. Agreed Bill, clean sheet is always nice and the defense played pretty well. They were helped by Berbatov’s disinterest in staying onside πŸ™‚

  12. @Moe

    Creativity is something we have found a little hard to hold on to all season. The fulcrum of the side is Santi, yet his distribution has seemingly dropped as the season progressed, I have no doubt the lad is tired. There was nothing from Santi, Rosicky or Wilshere when they came on and the movement of the front men like Theo and Giroud was poor. A side playing a deep line negates Theo and it showed again this afternoon.

  13. Anirudh

    No one is complaining about how we are doing, no we are all Arsenal fans and we’re delighted that we have won so many games lately but it is the potential ability and what we could be that frustrates people, we could be so good but we always seem just that far away.

    Plus people complain today in the context of THIS game not our overall run.

  14. @Anirudh

    lol, what world do you love in that people don’t find something to moan/complain about? πŸ™‚ The result was what counted, the performance was pretty awful.

  15. In all honesty, I hope Giroud does get 3 games. I think he would benefit from a break, as would Cazorla. maybe with no hold up guy Arsenal will look at towards a 5-3-2? I personally don’t see it, I think we’ll see the same with Theo up top and Podolski and Ox out wide πŸ™‚

  16. Perfect rest of the weekend would be City, Liverpool and Villa winning.

    If Man City win tomorrow and Manure win on Monday then Manure can win the title at the Emirates. If Man City lose and Manure win then Manure win the league and we have to give them a guard of honour at the Emirates. RVP getting a guard of honour at the Emirates would be an absolute joke.

  17. @Anirudh

    lol, I take it you don’t like a 5-3-2? I actually think we have a team to play with good/great wing backs in Gibbs, Sagna and Monreal πŸ™‚

  18. @Moe

    I get that today we were quite woeful…but still the controlled minimum risk approach has been winning games compared to flash performances for no points as was the case earlier in the season..

    I just think the approach is purely based on need and hence criticism of playing style is a bit harsh IMO…

    In fact credit for AW for being able to bring about such a transition during the course of a season..

  19. @MA

    No I actually do think we should go 3 at the back and would love to see us play that way..its just that I do not see AW thinking that way πŸ˜€

  20. @Anirudh

    I get what you mean by the way, I just wish Arsene was more flexible in his tactics at times. With a man down today from the 12th minute we could have been much more positive in attack by using Theo off the shoulder of the last man and looking for Giroud knock downs. Instead we ended up with an isolated front man as we made 30 passes in getting to their end of the pitch.

  21. The result was the key aspect of the day, anything less than a win would have been very disappointing. I’d take more of these disappointing performances but 1-0 wins anytime.

  22. Nice tidy play, but utterly predictable in the final 3rd. Made really hard work of that. I would appeal the Giroud red card, I don’t even think it was a foul.

  23. @Ga

    Even if it was found that the shadowy guy on the grassy knoll was the person truly responsible. I can see the FA already say “You shall not pass!!!”

  24. @Anirudh

    But the performance today was not a controlled minimum risk approach. Our poor passing in the final third gave the ball to Fulham too often and the fact that we did that when our wing backs were pushed up the field left our defence under a lot of pressure at times.

    I can’t see that trying to play through the middle of a very congested defence every time when you have players out wide to give it to as an option is an actual strategy. To me it looks like we are not thinking very much when we have possession in the final third.

  25. Just to make it clear, I think most of us on here were simply moaning about today’s weak performance. Our overall form to get to this point has been great lately.

    Lets just hope that we can keep the momentum going without our only striker available. Say what you want about his production, but he has been the man leading the line in this impressive run of form.

    Hopefully Theo or Poldi can step up in his absence.

  26. We need to get on to the club locksmiths, he have struggled to unlock these deep lined defenses this year and it is because our skeleton keys just don’t seem to fit.

  27. @Vice

    I think his work rate is amazing, but we isolate him to much with no support from either wing. I think he’ll and we’ll be better as a unit next term, not that I would say no to another quality striker.

  28. Booooooo we won.

    I thought we were awful today but anybody expecting champagne football at this stage of the season is delusional. We’ll be ugly, functional, grinding and possession based numbingly boring if it means we can scratch out a win. However despite our possession based game we have always been poor at controlling games in the way that Swansea try to do for example, our possession is almost always used positively and when its used to kill a game we find it almost counter intuitive. Conversely if we go behind or need a goal you’ll see a role of the dice and the charge of the light brigade.

  29. MA your right Giroud does get isolated, Poldi does however get close to him and I like the way he comes inside, supoorts and plays off Giroud from the left. Theo by contrast doesn’t do that only really getting closer or going inside to shoot. I still think there is alot to come from Giroud and he does work his nuts off. I thought Theo was our worst performer today he was simply terrible I’d play the OX and Gerv before him on his current form.

  30. @BRF

    I have concerns about Giroud, his shooting could be a bit better but no one can question his work rate. He runs his arse off to get to everything he can and simply cannot ask for much more from the man being asked to get and hold up the ball. Theo performance was muted, but then I felt like that about all the creative types today. I have no doubt that players are fatigued, the result was the most important part of the day so as fans we’ll take it. I think Giroud will be better next year, but I would like a pacey option as well. I really want to see Campbell in our shirt next term, his pace would be a blessing and runs at defenses.

    Ox has made some impressive substitute appearances of late and you can see his confidence is growing. I’m always on the fence with Gerv, he has great potential but just seems to drift in and out of games a little to much for me, that said recently he has been much improved.

    I love Podolski rasping shots, he can drill a ball. Another player I think will be better for having a season under his belt πŸ™‚

    Bill and I have argued this point, but I would like to see some sub appearances (5-7) next term for young Eisfeld as well.

  31. So Manchester United next up at home, a team that will not be playing the deeper line. I can see Theo being asked to take the point if Giroud doesn’t get cleared. Many people I know seem to conclude that this game is a banker for United, but we have no being blown out by any of the teams above us this season. I can see a tight and testy game, with a single goal nicking it (hope it is not RvP’s).

  32. Funny how when you United get 3 points having played poorly they are lauded for their guile, bull headedness or desire to win. Yet an Arsenal team plays poorly but grabs 3 points the reaction is outrage, condemnation and vilification. Stuff the press and stuff the moronic footballing community that spout such nonsense.

  33. Agree MA,
    We are in ‘relegation mode’ now, only results matter.
    Performance should be judged with that in mind, but aware that individual performances should impact selection

  34. Given 2nd is not a target, I want City to absolutely spank Spuds; even if it means we end up having to honor guard the Dutch fella.

  35. Good result obviously – just more question marks over our ability to take it up a gear and finish things off. I think collectively we were pretty poor today, few shone and some really had stinkers but we just lacked that ruthlessness that in seasons past has cost us.

    I’ll take the 3 points any day, obviously – United win Championships on the backs of performances like that, just a touch worrying how we’ve played at times over the past 3 or 4 games – some good periods but perhaps a few too many bad ones.

  36. Well deserved red card for Sidwell probably the difference in the game. Very harsh card on giroud. Hopefully it will be rescinded. His production has not been ideal but we still need him up front since there is no CF

  37. @Bill i dunno, with our menthality we would probably have dominated an 11 man fulham while we are over run by an 10 man fulham. thats just how Arsenal work nowadays.

    but we won in the end and thats all that matters really.

  38. Yeah, we looked better against 11. It’s not uncommon – the side with ten men thinks “fuck it” and ups its game, and the team with the full complement suddenly feels more pressure.

    Also think Tuesday’s game was hanging over us. Had a feeling Everton were going to suffer too – that match was played at such a high tempo for so long, it was bound to affect both sides. No surprise to see them lose today.

    A couple of our players looked leggy, so it’s good we’ve got a nice rest. If Kompany got his card rescinded then it should be no problem for Giroud…I hope. He’s out of form but we don’t have an equivalent.

  39. The Fulham player’s reaction to the tackle was scandalous. There was glancing contact from the toes of Giroud’s boot with the player’s shin, and all of Giroud’s momentum had been already been absorbed by the ball. But the guy goes down in the most dramatic way. That and the crowd trying to even things out all match probably helped make up the ref’s mind.

  40. Sorry, looking at it again it was actually Giroud’s heel that made contact. Never a red, but it was an incredibly clumsy move him. Not sure what’s he’s even trying to do – drag the ball back while running at full tilt?

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