Fulham Preview: All Round Improvement Targetted

Fulham arrive at The Emirates today, facing an Arsenal side bouyed by their European adventures. Not that you would realise it with the negativity in the broadcast media, punditry apparently reaching its nadir. Which is why nobody should listen to stations such as Talksh*te who thrive and exist purely to create attention for themselves. Despite knowing this, you still do but hey ho. From what I have read about the comments, they have been making their print colleagues appear lucid and information. How low can you go?

It is the 83rd meeting between the two teams across all competitions, major and minor. Fulham have three victories at Arsenal, all in WW1 matches. Not a good record. Indeed they do not seem to like this part of North London at all; of the 25 senior matches, they have 3 draws with 22 defeats. Even in Arsenal’s dark days of the early to mid-60s, Fulham couldn’t win at Highbury. It is that sort of feelgood record that makes this match seem a straightforward occasion. One ripe for over-confidence. That, to me, is Arsène’s biggest test this evening.

Not that there is a hint of that from Andre Santos. In a Daily Express interview this morning, he speaks of the half-time at Stamford Bridge,

I sat down in the corner of the dressing room at half-time against Chelsea and thought about that. I focused on the fact I must be better. I thought about it and decided, ‘I have to go back and play much better’. Things have definitely got better for me since then and I am still trying to improve.

It is that sort of attitude we could have done with senior pros showing last season. It didn’t happen and it is a relief almost, to read an Arsenal player showing self-awareness without it seeming to be a soundbite. Wenger emphasised that this is the squad attitude,

I believe what turned the season around is the excellent attitude and mentality of the players. The players who came in have all shown excellent desire to do well and the right focus. That was the real turning point. I was always optimistic because every day the players wanted to improve. When you have that in the dressing room you have a chance.

He has never been slow to praise the mental attitude of previous squads but this time there seems to be more substance to it. The love-in since Dortmund has been fine and goodness knows that the squad is entitled to feel bouyant having turned the season around relatively quickly.

Santos’ comments identify a key aspect of that turnaround; desire. It is burning into their souls how quickly the club was written off as Arsenal hovered above the relegation zone after few games were played. Nobody, it seemed, believed that the squad was good enough to turn things around. Defeat this weekend for Chelsea and/or Manchester City will see them cement their positions as the Premier League’s crisis clubs. Already the heat is on Villas-Boas, especially with Abramovich’s public backing. The difference between the Chelsea manager’s Press Conferences and those of Wenger highlight the reality of both club’s philosophies. The media tried to get Arsène to put his own head on the block; Villas-Boas is being dragged there, kicking and screaming.

To end the day in the top four would require some outlandish luck but in a season of freakish results, Arsenal need to ensure that they win their matches to take full advantage. They have the personnel to do so, with more luck the small positive goal difference achieved might be larger. That is something of a concern; who scores if van Persie doesn’t? Gervinho is being targetted as that man and whilst there is an element of bad finishing, there is also bad luck. Perhaps he is trying too hard?

The equaliser at Carrow Road might have been his, an air flick of the heels allowed the ball to come through to van Persie. Ruddy saved well having been beaten whilst a late Hummels tackle denied him against Dortmund. He is not shy of shooting, perhaps not shooting early enough is the problem? Whatever the case, the manager rates his contribution,

At the moment Gervinho is a fantastic provider and he creates space for the other players because he always goes behind [the defence].  The problem with Gervinho is he is in the opposite position of Robin van Persie. He is desperate for a goal and once you are in that situation… well, you could see the other night he had the chance to score but he started to think.

That’s the answer: don’t think. Which if he is the archetypal footballer, shouldn’t be too hard and marks him out well for a broadcasting career when he retires.

So to this evening’s team. Options in defence are limited with Djourou and Squillaci the real options for change. Those two however, may be the experience saved for the visit of Manchester City in the Carling Cup. Perhaps the former for Koscielny at right back if Wenger decides he wants a strong central partnership in midweek. Ramsey in midfield might make way for Benayoun or Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arshavin must be chomping at the bit to take a place in the starting line-up. All of the Gervinho talk makes me wonder if he is being primed for a rest. Park and Chamakh may have to wait; the temptation might be there to make changes but Wenger is likely to make no more than two or three. I expect the line-up to be:

Szczesny; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Arteta, Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.

232 thoughts on “Fulham Preview: All Round Improvement Targetted

  1. william the thrillyum says:

    i agree that ramsey looked a bit off the mark. He had the desire to get himself into promising attacking positions, but a more deft touch could have led to some goals. He attempted quite a few cross field passes that went horribly awry.

  2. goonerkam says:

    avoid burnouts that is.
    @james M . not just me but many at the Emirates also felt the ball came off the defenders ARM. i think it was Brede H. but Dean would have none of it. he probably felt the intent wasnt there.

    im saying that sometimes a handball is a handball in the box even without intent, as it turn the game . that ball Santos struck was headed in the right general direction.

  3. goonerkam says:

    he should have at least one of the three chances presented to him. just too tired and not Sharp enough.

  4. JamesM says:

    “and we can start rotating the players we have on bench so that we can avoid turnout like today….”

    As far as I can see it was rotating Gervinho for Arshavin that played a major part in us looking toothless for most of the game.

    The fat little russian pudding offered nothing today.

  5. JamesM says:

    “@james M . not just me but many at the Emirates also felt the ball came off the defenders ARM. i think it was Brede H. but Dean would have none of it. he probably felt the intent wasnt there.”

    At first I thought it was handball but the replay looked like it hit his chest.

  6. goonerkam says:

    i think a 1-1 or any tie would be my preference for tomorrows pool/shitty game..

  7. goonerkam says:

    maybe your right James. when needing a goal sometimes the heart sees something there that the brain doesn’t.
    AA will come good as we need him to for the rest of this season. a game or two to find himself and he will have his breakout and start contributing with assists and goals. i have no doubts. he gave us good production last year and i expect he will do the same again this year….

  8. Irishgray says:

    Just finished watching the game, have to say AA was not as bad as some of the comments would have you believe. No he was not as sharp as he could/should have been but still gave Fulham a few scares. Thought it was great to see Diaby back and settling straight in. Theo was immense, RVP played well but just lacked a bit of luck. I think the next few weeks will work wonders for both of them as they can sit back and only play 1 game a week. Chamakh actually impressed me as his positioning was excellent for the most part which tells me he is zoned in and reading the game well but I think he just needs that 1 goal to really spark his confidence. As for TV, what can I say? The man is a rock!! There are very few players who respond to making such an unlucky mistake, most put their head down and do not instantly recover. His reaction to the owngoal said it all, he was furious with himself. Well done to the lad. Gervinho must be getting a bit of a reputation by defenders throughout the league as he just loves to run at them and they hate that. Let’s just say that if this is what we look back on as a bad result, I/we should take it with a big smile as it was only a short time ago we were consistantly losing games like these.

    Jonny – Gloating is childish and immature. So all I will say is B 🙂 🙂 BS!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. william the thrillyum says:

    Fulham had one quality look at our goal. Even then, Djourou was centimeters away from the block and Wojeich made a fine save.

    We on the other hand, had many shots directly at goal. Ramsey had 2 or 3, Theo had a few, RVP….

    I think that the ball did not roll in our favour today. Take this draw on the chin, and let us start making up some the space between us and the Spudz.

  10. Irishgray says:

    William – Well said mate. RVP had his shot cleared off the line by Baird(?) when the keeper was well beat too, just one of those days. But like I said, one of those days where before we would have lost but today we fought back and deserved a draw at least. Have to also point out that the few media write-ups of the game were not the usual crap articles.

    This from of all papers, the Daily Mail: “Truly, there are times when Arsenal are the nearest thing to Barcelona that the English league can offer, and for the opening 20 minutes, their football held the same joyous fascination.
    So great is their belief in their own skills and touch that they look to play through the heart of the opposition rather than seek the wider options.
    Against a pair of hulking central defenders in Philippe Senderos and Brede Hangeland, it seemed that Arsenal’s methods would ultimately enjoy success.
    Inside four minutes, Andrey Arshavin was sent scuttling through to stroke in a chance which was ruled offside.”

    If such an article can appear in the Mail, it surely speaks volumes as to how this team has improved and indeed gelled. Fulham maybe near the bottom of the table but I have watched a few of their games and, though they lost, they played a lot better than their results would suggest.

  11. Irishgray says:

    Barca lost 1-0 to Getafe today by the way. I would be happy with that result if it were not for the fact that Jose is manager at Real Madrid, now 6 points clear. Maybe Valencia can break the stranglehold ut I doubt it.

  12. goonerkam says:

    how are your legs feeling irish, after all day carrying stuff.? 🙂

  13. Irishgray says:

    Was also nice to see Djourou playing well again. Christ the Doomers must be soooooo disappointed as I am sure they thought we had lost today. Doomers are stupid!!!

  14. Irishgray says:

    Better now that I am sat on the sofa eating pizza and watching crappy tv!!!

  15. MDGunner says:

    We should ban the ACLF crew from attending games en masse.

    I bet Irish’s GF has control of the remote!

  16. Limestonegunner says:

    Watched the end of a replay of Dortmund v. Schalke, 2-0 to BVB and I have to say we did very well to defeat them convincingly. Gotze was back playing, so his injury knock wasn’t serious. Good luck to them–they play with flair and went top of their league after starting as low as 11th. Not as far back as us, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to make up much ground on the top teams so far. Hopefully Liverpool loses tomorrow, which would put us ahead by a point and in 6th.

    Ditto, Irish–no gloating, just a bit of a chuckle, Jonny… ACLF meet up indeed!

  17. Irishgray says:

    MDGunner – Of course she has control of the remote man, I may be crazy but I am not stupid!!

    LSG – I am not quite gloating but I did have a good long laugh at some of the posts:

    Jonny @ 3:36pm – I’m here. Where are you guys. Lets not do a Limestone.!
    Matt @ 3:41pm – Are you the tall chap with the retro shirt Jonny?
    (apparently Jonny and Matt and Spy and Muppet meet)
    Maria @ 3:50pm – Okay, so where is everyone sitting I’m nearly there. I’m a black jacket and a pink scarf. (brilliant description of self Maria!)
    Maria @ 3:58pm – Can’t see anyone I’m off.
    Matt @ 4:03pm – By the door nr the Thai food sign
    Maria @ 4:07pm – What are you wearing? (kinky little so-and-so isn’t she?)
    Ateeb @ 4:09pm – This is funnier. I guess I shall just stay home and watch how this meeting unfolds. So far, Maria and Matt, are approximately 1m away from each other and standing alone. Ha Ha
    Matt @ 4:12pm – I’m not alone, with Spy, Muppet & Jonny. 🙂 Jonny is easiest to spot, tall with a retro 1971 home shirt.
    Maria @ 4:16pm – I’m lost someone meet me outside the ladies toilet.
    Matt @ 4:19pm – Jonny on his way (I bet he was!!)

    and drumroll PLEASE………….here’s Jonny!!!!

    Jonny @ 9:30pm – Ok. Someone explain this to me.

    Consolbob. Darius. Yogi. Where were you?

    We were there before and after.

    Lovely to meet Muppet, Matt, Spy & Maria.

    Limestone and Irish: permission to gloat.

    Priceless Jonny my man, priceless!!!! B 🙂 🙂 BS!!!

  18. Irishgray says:

    MDGunner – As to your request to ban the ACLFers from attending en masse, I think it would be a redundant gesture as they(myself included!) seem unable to “masse” in the first place.

  19. mumbaigooner says:


    try searching dental hospitals in the city of coimbatore… excellent hospitals and you can plan a tour of kerala (we call it gods own country) which is very close by

  20. Limestonegunner says:

    Genius, Irish–it’s a literary gift! Doing a Limestone?! I thought it was doing an Irish!!!

  21. Irishgray says:

    Definitely “Doing a Limestone” mate 🙂

  22. Sriram says:

    Mumbaigooner- Some one talking about my city eh?! Awesome!

    It was a tough game, the fatigue really showed, game was slow paced. We lacked the tempo!
    But my word goes to Vermaelen, a mistake here and he goes on to score at the other end to rectify it, fucking fantastic!

    And Irish on Jonny! Priceless B 🙂 🙂 B S!!!!

  23. Irishgray says:

    Mmmmm……looks like Yogi has done a ‘Limestone’ on us boys and girls, so I am off to bed.

  24. Muppet says:

    Hi Irishgray,


    Anyway… I did turn up. Sorry to miss YW, Consols, Darius, Ateeb, Passenal and any others.

    It was quite hilarious as I stood in the entrance, trying to match YW’s description of somebody with an arsenal scarf and blue coat. I was guessing YW is between 35 and 45. Well – guess what ? Everybody in the pub looked between 35 and 45 and had an Arsenal scarf or hat.

    Anyway, finally saw Jonny ask somebody about ACLF and it went from there.

    The Maria turned up. Saw Spy and Matt too.

    Went back after the game, but only Jonny was there with his friend Chris. Didn’t stay for much longer.

    Nice to meet up, but it would have been nice to see a few more regulars.

  25. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Muppet, Where were you?

    Great to meet Darius and Bob, lovely company for the day as you would expect. Even Darius’ mate turned out to be OK. For a scouser…

    Looks like it’s going have to be a rolled-up copy of the FT and red rose in the lapel for the next one.

  26. Muppet says:

    We were in the pub YW !! In one of the corners. The one with the side door. !

  27. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Aaah, we were outside for a while ’til we found Darius and Bob. In the opposite corner to you…Mind you, I must have walked past you half a dozen times en route to the bar. I thought the bar staff were…

  28. Jonny says:

    Might I make a humble suggestion? Next time maybe we could exchange phone numbers? From an organisational perspective this might be helpful! 🙂

    I’m not saying you couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery but, my word, I did four laps of that pub and going by your confident email –

    “Identifying the group will be easy. Look for anyone who is nervously glancing around the room looking like they are looking for people they don’t know. Failing that, shaven-headed 40-something yob-lite in a grey coat with an altogether more respectable looking friend sort of sums me up”

    you’ve come might close!

    Maybe I was just distracted by the bar staff.

    BOOBS! All round.

  29. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Jonny, that was so scarily accurate I’m not sure how you missed me in the crowd of Arsenal shirts.

  30. Jonny says:

    Lol. I refer you back to my learned colleague Muppet’s words –

    “Well – guess what ? Everybody in the pub looked between 35 and 45 and had an Arsenal scarf or hat”

    You had an advantage too – as Spy very politely put it “You look like your photo. Except older”.

    Which went rather nicely with his other ‘compliment’, “I’m not vain enough to put a picture of myself up”.

    And his other ‘compliment’ “I prefer to let others talk and to comment infrequently. You have the opposite problem”

    How is that for scary accuracy?!


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