Fulham, Fitness and The Lost Art Of Defending

Whilst Ivan took care of the property viewings, Arsene had a few choice words to say about things. Ahead of the Fulham clash at tea-time on Saturday, the walking wounded diminished in number although a couple are subject to fitness tests or not quite ready for the match. Andrei Arshavin is to return whilst RvP is expected to be fit, a decision expected today. Manuel Almunia is going to be missing once more but interestingly, Wenger did not say who would replace him. Logically, you would have expected Mannone but the clean sheet in midweek appears to have put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Theo Walcott is short of match fitness but may feature from the substitute’s bench. Were that to happen, you would expect him to start against Olympiacos in midweek. Whatever the case, it will be good to see put his international knack behind him and begin his season, hopefully fired up and with a point to prove.

With that out of the way, the Bordeaux chairman Jean-Louis Triaud got both barrels with Wenger very politely but very firmly telling everyone that Triaud was talking out of his arsenal when whinging earlier in the week. Moments like this, with the unedifying comments from across the Channel, make you appreciative of the silence maintained by Arsenal during transfer negotiations. With Chamakh, Wenger unusually spoke out following Bordeaux and the player deciding to go public over the whole affair. The French club has been bitten by its greed, unlikely to receive more than 1/10th of their asking price and 1/6th of Arsenal’s reported offer if they sell in January. If the player is still at the club next summer, then they get nothing. Not surprising that there is rancour of the part Triaud as he realises the importance of the money that has slipped from his grubby fingers.

Wenger subsequently moved onto the subject of how good Arsenal is, in the Premier League at least. There is no doubt he enjoys other teams attacking displays simply because it gives Arsenal more room to play. We enjoy goals, except when it’s the Arsenal getting backache from picking the ball out of the net. Actually, you don’t see that too much since custodians these days are too busy berating all and sundry, ensuring everyone knows that the goal was not their fault.

I digress. A glut of goals is symptomatic of the lost art of defending as much as the attacking prowess of forwards. The days of a defender being purely a defender have passed, for the moment at least. Full backs are expected to be as proficient going forward to supplement attacks as they are defensively. Indeed, a fair number are rather more able going forward than they are at tackling. Arsenal is little different. Sagna bucks the trend somewhat, being solid defensively but Clichy is a lively attacking full back. Defensively he is good but not as solid as his partner. That is an observation and an honest assessment of Clichy is that he is still in the top three left backs in the country at the moment.

However, to win the title requires balance, something missing from Arsenal for a couple of seasons. The introduction of Vermaelen has rectified that, positively influencing Gallas. The Belgian’s contribution is recognised but his solidity in the tackle is being matched by Gallas rediscovering his form. No doubt part of that was his personal dispute with Toure and other issues that have dogged him over the past few seasons. Criticism of the Frenchman has certainly diminished this season which is no bad thing.

Let’s hope it continues at Craven Cottage. ’til Tomorrow.

71 thoughts on “Fulham, Fitness and The Lost Art Of Defending

  1. Frank says:

    Sorry, yes of course I see the context now. It was about WG being dogged, by Kolo, allegedly. Context is everything isn’t it?

  2. Poliziano says:

    That particular C4 does seem a bit gay (for want of a better word), but not as gay as Gallas’s chrome-plated Mercedes.

  3. alphie says:

    somebody take a pick at the startin mid and strikers since its obvious the back four are all first choice

  4. arsenalkabisa says:

    At Alphie

    Am torn between

    Eboue Cesc Song

    Bendtner RVP Arshavin


    Arshavin Cesc Song

    Bendtner RVP Edwardo

  5. arsenehollis says:

    Keeping Chamakh for the season and getting no money may well have been a superb decision.

    They are defending champions. If they keep their best player and repeat as league winners it will have been a very astute move.

    Better to win a league title than to have 7 million in the bank that you will only need to go out and spend on another striker who you hope can help you win the league.

  6. Frank says:

    …there again if you fail to win the league because the player a key player, is disillusioned?

  7. els says:

    Is denilson out?

    My first choice midfield if all players where fit would always be…

    Denilson – Cesc – Song

    A front three from…

    RvP, Arshavin, Bendtner, Eduardo, Eboue, Ross and with Walcott and Vela now looking to be back in the mix it’s an embarrasment of riches.

    I personaly would use

    RvP – Eduardo – Arshavin

  8. Kitchen Sink says:

    Arshavin seems rested and re leaved, he says him and the Boss have been talking about how the pre season training “killed him” and that he felt burnt out during the games he started, which he claims is why he performed better when he came on as a substitute..

    From their brief moments in pre season it was quite clear that Rosicky and Arshavin were linking on a higher plane, ad Eduardo to the mix and a few others and I’m confident this team is about to display a ground breaking brand of football to begin a dominant reign in English and World club football.


  9. FunGunner says:

    That’s a fair point, Arsenehollis, provided the player is still motivated. Do you think we’ll get him anyway? I can’t guess what Wenger’s thinking – Chamakh is different to anyone we have, but on the other hand we would then have SIX strikers, if you include Theo.

    @ YW
    I agree generally with your views about defending, but I wonder if Vermaelen is a good example. He seems to me he’s the same type of cultured, ball-playing defender as Gallas, but better in the air and more aggressive. The Verminator is just as adept going forward – and as likely as Gallas to pop up in the opposition penalty area. Wouldn’t you say?

  10. Kitchen Sink says:


    Although Chamakh is certainly a very good player Bordeaux’s best player goes to Yoann Gourcuff, from his presence and contribution in last seasons campaign Chamakh began to blossom..

  11. FunGunner says:

    @ kitchensink

    Wenger must wake up with a headache and massive smile on his face most mornings…

    Stop sniggering, Frank.

  12. LimparAssist says:

    Well said Kitchen Sink. Arshavin’s interviews are priceless aren’t they.

    My pick would be…

    – – – – – – – – Don Vito – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – Song – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – Rosicky – – Fabregas – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Van Persie- – – – – – – – – – -Arshavin
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – -Eduardo – – – – – – – – –

    How incredible does that look?

    Bendtner could well start in place of Eduardo, or in place of RVP if he’s not passed fit.

    There is also an argument for Wowcheque to take the gloves.

    I’m very excited it must be said. Wish I was on that boat trip.

  13. gooner2 says:


    Is denilson out?

    for me denilson is rubbish same goes with song,diaby,eboue,blunderous,silvester.
    and i think sivester is a clown and not fit enough to play for arsenal.and same goes with the rest of the players that i have mentioned above and which offcourse they are not good enough for arsenal technical high technical football game and wenger needs to sort them out quickly.

  14. Kingsalami says:

    Of the 6 mid and forward places, RVP, Shava and Cesc are shoe ins, then perm 3 of the following 10:


    You are quite right els, we finally do have an embarrasment of riches, all have a right to be included, none are obvious exclusions, How Arsene is going to keep that lot happy, especially with Nas due back soon, Lord only knows.

  15. gooner2 says:


    their is something called rotation, and i know you are wondering thinking how will wenger cope with this individuals, and the answer is simple coz the more we rotate our players the more we get out of their performances.

  16. boomer says:

    in a 433 i would prefer nasri fab4 and song, with a top 3 of arshy rosicky and rvp and our usual back 4, i am not over excited by any of our goalkeepers but 1st choice at this stage would be almunia. there are a few genuinly world class players in that little line up i think, which also leaves a few guinly world class players on the bench. i dont believe we had so many world class players in the team for a while now, since the unbeatables

  17. Truly AFC says:

    It seems Arsene is finally realising the advise of Jens Lehmann that Almunia is not a No.1 quality GK. So many blunders since he became the No.1. This season is even worse.

    When asked about our GK against Fulham this Saturday he said ‘Almunia is still down with chest infection?’ He went on to say that ‘normally it should be Manonne but we still have 48 hours.’

    Arsene is seriously considering Szczesny, describing him as a very able and quality GK. I think Szczesny is a natural GK for us, better than Almunia, Fabianski and Manonne. Whether it will be right at 19 is another matter but he’s better than the rest of the pack.

    Almunia alone has been costing us at least 10 points a season. How a GK who never kept for a La Liga team and was a reserve in the lower league in Spain managed to become No.1 with us leaking goals every season is really strange.

    Arsene should send him packing back to Spain.

  18. boomer says:

    slowly our best players are coming back to fitness, a good performance tomorrow, 3 points lots of goals and then settle back for sunday suppliment ha

  19. els says:

    Almunia is our best keeper since Seaman though eh!!!

  20. Ateeb says:

    And Howard’s words should be sent packing back up his a***.

  21. alphie says:

    at arsenal kabisa. wouldnt u start rosicky but i prefer ur first option

  22. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Front six tomorrow ;

    Song Cesc Diaby

    Bendtner RVP Eduardo

  23. Truly AFC says:

    We can’t win anything with Almunia. Remember the CL finals when he let in two cheap near post goals?

    Remember 4:4 with the Spurs. Remember Ronaldo’s 41 yards free kick? We keep Almunia at our own peril.

    Almunia has been the weak link in the defence since Lehmann.

  24. desigunner says:

    YW, I know some people may not like this but I think Gallas is still making more mistakes than Clichy is. Unfortunately for Clichy, people have attributed some goals directly to his mistakes which has raised some concerns over him/his form.

    If you think about it, the areas in which Clichy lost the ball or made a mistake were quite a distance away from goal. Many players in all teams make these kinds of mistakes but in all the top teams someone or the other covers for that mistake. If he had made a mistake in the box or given away a penalty you could fault him but right now Clichy isn’t doing too bad. Especially considering the defensive support he is getting from those in front of him. Wasn’t he much better when playing with Rosicky or Hleb on the left?

    Gallas is not quick enough for the high line that we play. That is the reason the goalkeepers have to come out. If you look closely at the United penalty, part of the blame goes to WG for not being quick enough/ not sliding and clearing the ball before it got behind him. With Gallas we also always have panic in the air.

    To be clear, this is no attempt to slate WG. I think he is one of the best and I believe even the best have some weaknesses. But we have to acknowledge those weaknesses.

    I have read about Clichy and his form on too many blogs and I have not seen anyone acknowledge mistakes made by Gallas. Hence the rant. Sorry for that 🙂 (But I do hope all the objective fans here will see the point)

  25. nolaboyd says:

    Would the Almunia doomers please STFU? Really, just watch the games from last season again. The fact that you think naming three errors (one of which was as a surprise sub after a red card) actually proves anything shows you just love grinding that axe. I can name errors like that for Cech, Buffon, Reina, and don’t even start on VanderSar.

    He has not started well, but he has shown himself to be a top flight keeper over the last two years. He has kept us in games we had no business being in, especially in the champs league.

  26. Yogi's Warrior says:


    I would have said Vermaelen is concentrating on his defensive duties. More important though is the confidence he has given Gallas. They may go forward but TV has already shown a terrific turn of pace in recovering, ie Celtic away.


  27. ArsenalArseneArshavin says:

    I can count the errors that Almunia has made this season so far. Against Pompey where that ex spurs clovn scored. Against United for the penalty. Against City for the first goal and bellamy’s goal. He seems to hesitate when trying to jump to catch the ball. But I would not put a teenager in goal instead of him.

  28. Frank says:

    I don’t think that the team will be the least bit craven tomorrow. As for the cottage part….couldn’t possibly comment.


  29. Poliziano says:

    The Cottage might be a good place for Howard to get his words packed back up his arse.

  30. adc says:

    lets not go ga ga about our defensive pairing..we still gift silly goals regularly…

  31. Kingsalami says:

    Nolaboyd: I dont like to slag off our players, even when Eboue was playing badly, I thought he had just lost all confidence and was played out of position, but Aluminia I just don’t get.
    He does not inspire any confidence, I am amazed Arsene has let it go for so long to the point where I am not sure about the truth behind his current virus.
    If we had a decent, proven back up keeper he would be out and unless there is a very distinct and swift improvement, he could be staring down the barrel of a gun come Janaury.

  32. gunnerluc says:

    my team for saturday game.

    Sagna Gallas Verminator Clichy
    Cesc Rosicky (or Ramsey)
    RVP Dudu or Bendtner Arshavin

    As for the Almunia debate, I agree that he is not the best GK in the world but like some other commented, Cech, Van der Sar, Reina all make mistake like him. More importantly, which available GK would you buy instead as I think that GK is the hardest position to find a decent player that his club will let go!

  33. axis says:

    Almunia was going through a great run of form when Shay Given became available…that’s why we passed on him and it’s too bad we did. Almunia seems to suffer from indecision issues. He starts to let the ball go then last second decides to go after it…(the penalty, the first ManC goal, etc.)

    I’d rather he was decisive and made errors rather than the hesitant catches…maybe I just don’t like the guy.

  34. The Binocular says:

    I don’t think the days of a defender being purely a defender are gone.

    Mourinho for example did not ask his full backs at Chelsea to venture forward excessively.

    for cricket fans

  35. axis says:

    It just dawned on me that gonner2’s comments are actually real comments. Lol…I had assumed they were gag comments from riley8…lol

  36. Kitchen Sink says:

    that maybe true The Binocular but times do change if you look at Mourinho’s back 4 in Inter Maicon and Chivu are constantly providing for the attack taking free kicks making assists with central defenders the providing the obvious aerial attack..

  37. Andy B says:

    Yeah Gooner 2…feck off…and if you have a season ticket, sell it.

  38. Andy B says:

    Home time in 15 and counting and only 25 hours till kick off – woot!

  39. California Gooner says:

    Truly AFC, I do remember the semi-final. In the first game we could have been down 5-0 if Almunia hadn’t been so good. In fact, he was pretty awesome all season long. The goal against Ronaldo might have been a mistake, but the ball was also swerving — a makable save perhaps, but only perhaps. That is not to say he Almunia is great. He seems to lack a natural intensity, so he will always perform better when he has something to prove. Hopefully he can find that intensity again and regain his form which has been pretty poor this season.

    Of our other keepers, I definitely like Sczenzy. I did not get to see the CC match, but in the preseason he seemed to have a presence about him. Fabianski, on the other hand, has always only scared me… even before his big mistake charging out of the box in the Chelsea FA Cup game. Manone, on the other hand, look rather nervy, although in fairness having your defense let you down so badly in your first five minutes as a top-level player cannot help.

  40. Kingsalami says:

    Missing out on Given for a paultry 8 million is an unmitigated disaster

  41. California Gooner says:

    Kingsalami, an unmitigated disaster? Calm yourself down. First of all, he might be better than Almunia… but might not. So it’s not a disaster. Second, Sczenzy might just come in and turn out to be truly great. Wouldn’t that mitigate anything?

  42. Sixtay says:

    All this talk of great keepers seems awfully unfounded. van der Sar (fulham), Cech (Rennes) were not good goalie b4 their moves. It goes to show that a keeper may be made to look great or poor all by his back 5 (DM included). Is it just me or did arsenal concede a tad too many candidates for goal of the season last year? Great Keepers make GREAT SAVES!! Almunia’s no great though!

  43. FunGunner says:

    @ YW

    Then maybe it’s just a question of emphasis. Vermy is carrying out his defensive duties in exemplary fashion, but (like WG) he is contributing significantly to the attack – and not just by heading in corners and free kicks. That’s why I would say that he is an example of the attacking defender rather than the defending defender. If you get my drift. The better balance in our new CB pairing is more to do with better understanding between these two individuals – based on the fact that they like each other and agree on their respective status, ie that Gallas is the senior partner.

  44. Ole Gunner says:

    I like hearing how Given is better than Almunia. If he’s such a great keeper, why has he ended up at Man City. Considering Shellsey went and bought Turnbull, why did they not grab Given with both hands?

    The goals I’ve seen Given concede this season, if conceded by Almunia would see the bandwagoners saying he’s a crap keeper. Notably RVP’s goal, Fletcher’s first goal. It wasn’t world class goalkeeping for sure.

  45. Bragging Rights Ltd says:

    I’m still trying to get my head round the idea that van der Sar and Cech weren’t good goalies before they came to the premiership.

  46. Gunner4Ever says:

    I didn’t like the crowd singing
    Thomas Vermaelen….Click Click Click.
    I think this is RVP’s

    We should try to find something else for TV. I know it’s difficult but we should.
    Almunia is a good keeper and they all have their ups & downs. If we label every player who’s out of form crap…there won’t be any one left.

  47. Sixtay says:


    How much had you heard of Cech before Chelsea. And van der Sar was being outplayed by the likes of Sorensen, Freidel while at fulham. All I’m saying is even with the best of goalies, a poor defense will still cause him to look second rate. On the flip side, keepers like Valdes are crap but continue on without flak cause barca doesn’t seem to need a good goalkeeper. O well! same applies for the arsenal it seems. Up Gunners!

  48. Gunner4Ever says:

    I was thinking something like this:

    Once there was a man in there
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    Hundred thousand people there
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    All those people gathered there
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    To see him rumble and score there
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    Came a man called Thomas
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    With him came the superstar
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    All those people came from far
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    To see him rumble and score there
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

    The lightning struck twice that night,
    There was great excitement everywhere
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air
    – Verrr -Maelen in Z Air

  49. Ole Gunner says:

    Eduardo RVP Arshavin

    Diaby Song Cesc

    Clichy Verm Gallas Bac


    Bench: Bendtner, Mannone, Vela, Rosicky, Senderos, Walcott, Eboue

  50. Arsenal the great says:

    California Gooner

    Almunia has always been an average GK. He was decent last year but not great. He saves the normal shots but not the exceptional ones that Lehmann and Seaman used to pull off. Fabianski, Manonne are all average GKs as well.

    The real talented GK we have now is Szczesny and if only Arsene will discount his age and give him his chance then we can solve the GK problem that has been with us since Lehmann left.

    Almunia can never be a winner for us; he’s so inconsistent and average to be an Arsenal No.1 GK. We had great GKs before, Peter Jennings, Seaman, Lehmann (he saved our brushes several times and won us trophies) and now Almunia?

    The Spanish national team don’t even look at him so why us?

    We need a better GK to be successful.

  51. Arsenal the great says:

    My suggested selection for the Fulham game:


    Sagna Gallas TV Clichy

    Cesc Song Diaby

    Rosicky RVP Arshavin



    3:0 for the Arsenal

  52. Dupsffokcuf says:

    Howard, the change of your ID does not change your style of writing.

  53. els says:

    wtf is up with the Almunia hate all of a sudden. He hasn’t even played recently??? The guy was a fucking rock last season and started off this season pretty good too. Right we’ll here no more of it. Ah ah ah no more I said.

  54. Luke says:

    Given’s strength is shot stopping. Not so good at coming out for crosses. He’s made to look good because the Man City defence is crap.

  55. max_gunner says:

    I had a chest infection last year. It took only a week to recover from it fully. So we knoW what really happened. Al is dropped the same way jens was.

  56. Tommy Gunner says:

    Almunia desreves to be dropped.He made mistakes v Pompey,Man Utd and Man City.That cost us goals

    What is the point in having back up keepers if they are not given a chance if the first choice keeper keeps fucking up

    since Almunia has been out of the team we have won all our games

  57. Passenal says:

    max_gunner – you were very lucky. I’ve had chest infections, which have lasted more than 2 weeks and left me feeling very weak, so you can’t judge everyone by the same standard as we are all different.

  58. Luke says:

    Is the referee who added 3 mins stoppage time in 1H and 5 mins stoppage time in 2H in our game v Fulham the same referee who refereed the Man Utd v Man City game? Could this referee be trying to act consistently in adding so much stoppage time? I thought it was a bit excessive.

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