Arsenal 1 – 1 Fulham
0 – 1 Vermaelen o.g.(65)
1 – 1 Vermaelen (82)
Thomas Vermaelen provided a solution to the conundrum of who scores if Robin doesn’t, a shame one of his brace was in the wrong net. It was scant reward for Arsenal in many senses but Fulham came to stifle and succeeded in doing so for long periods of the game. Had Arshavin not been flagged offside – rightly – in the opening minutes, things might have been different.
As it was, the episode signalled the start of a siege on the Fulham half. Zamora and Dempsey provided sporadic relief but in the same way that the Marseille was ‘the morning after the night before‘ following Chelsea, this was the comedown following Dortmund. Arsenal were lethargic of thought. Their bodies may have been willing but the minds could not find the guile to create many clear chances. Walcott’s early effort was all his own work; sprinting down the right before testing Schwarzer with a rifled low shot.
As half-time approached, the visitors had their moment to take an undeserved lead but Szczesny was equal to the challenge whilst Hangeland headed the resulting corner over the bar. Philippe Senderos will have remembered such quiet afternoons from his time in the Arsenal squad; he would not have expected such on his return to the club. As it was, Arsenal nearly snatched an interval lead when the much-maligned Per Mertesacker headed wide.
The second half was more of the same. Arsenal pressed but struggled to create. Dempsey failed to meet Murphy’s cross with the goal at his mercy whilst van Persie outwitted Schwarzer but Baird cleared from the goalline. Arshavin and Santos briefly threatened before their chances evaporated.
The goal that was coming duly arrived with an Arsenal name on the scoresheet. Murphy persisted with his run into the Arsenal area, Riise knocked the ball down and the Belgian’s attempted clearance saw the ball trundle into the corner of the net. Someone, somewhere is working out how to blame Mertesacker for that one.
Wenger decided to liven things up with Gervinho and Diaby entering the fray at the expense of Mertesacker and Ramsey. Arshavin would last another ten minutes before the Paris-bound Chamakh became the final throw of the dice. The Ivorian livened up proceedings, occupying the minds of the Fulham defence as the pressure grew for an equaliser. Djourou’s header was well saved by Schwarzer whilst Diaby shot high, shot wide, sometimes both at the same time.
van Persie then blazed high and wide, proving himself to be as technically inept as he is lethal. The goal machine is human after all. Minutes later the scores were level as Vermaelen angled his run, meeting Walcott’s cross to nod home from close range. Desperation ensued but not from the visitors, the hosts desire for a winner manifested in a lacklustre penalty appeal. It was entirely in keeping with the match.
This was a rerun of many opening games at The Emirates. Visitors stealing a lead, Arsenal equalising late in the game. A point gained is how it felt post-match; it still is and as such many who questioned the mental capabilities of Arsenal had their answer. A deficit was retrieved not surrendered meekly. Yet it is two points dropped against a struggling team. There will be more of those for teams around us; this is not the end of world despite what you may be told.