Fulham Preview: Dreams of the Brave

In the end, it was too much to hope for. Apparently, my expectations of Mourinho being sacked at half-time were too high. United, my son informed me in all seriousness, would at least let him get to the tunnel before sacking him. Jose, meanwhile, is plotting where to shove his thumb. Here’s a hint, Ed; it isn’t up your arsenal.

Arsenal meanwhile prepare us for a 15-day break. After this, the drudgery of faux international competition surfaces with Leicester not arriving until a fortnight tomorrow.

Unai Emery will want them to face an Arsenal side looking for its tenth consecutive win. Too much, in my view, is being made of the travelling on Thursday; these are players who are used to it and as Emery said, it’s a sign of being successful. It feels like we’re getting the excuses for defeat ready.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returns to the squad and it will be no surprise if he starts the game centrally with Alexandre Lacazette dropped to the bench if tiredness is a genuine concern with the players.

Others such as Bellerin and Xhaka return to the line-up, as unfortunately will Mustafi. The pairing of Holding and Sokratis looked stronger than with the German involved, but I suspect that until he is sold next summer, Mustafi will command a first-team place. I realise that last sentence involves me dreaming and it turning into a nightmare.

About now seems a good time to suggest an XI which won’t be the one fielded by Unai Emery:

Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi; Aubameyang

The reality is that Emery’s line-up will be closer to:

Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

Personally, I find it imbalanced but we’ll see what Unai does about it at half-time.

Will He Be Brave Enough?

It’s a match we ought to win. Fulham are struggling and as we’ve adapted quite well to being flat-track bullies; all the good sides are. There’s still some way to go before we can claim to be ready to move to the next level, i.e. title contenders, but it feels as if we are at least capable of doing so. It will take at least two more transfer windows before that becomes a reality and some chaff in key positions to move on.

The perception of Emery from opposition coaches is interesting. Jokanovic observed that “he seems to live the profession 24 hours a day” which may not necessarily be a good thing in the long-term.

Interestingly, the Fulham boss believes the “team right now is brave” and ” really offensive at a good level.” No mention of the imbalance between attack and defence which is being slowly addressed.

Fulham have two players of concern to me from our perspective. Injuries seem to be forcing Sessegnon to the left-back/wing-back position; he has enough pace to outsprint Bellerin and an eye for goal. It’s why I suspect Ramsey will continue in the XI as he offers some semblance of support.

The other is Mitrovic against Mustafi. Let’s be honest, the German isn’t the most ‘robust’ of defenders and while he strays the wrong side of the tracks quite a lot, Mitrovic is a physical opponent. Mustafi will know he has been in a game after the final whistle.

Nonetheless, I do expect us to win. The hesitancy of last season is slowing disappearing when it comes to these matches. Whereas Wenger’s final year saw us lose games against teams fighting the drop, a durability emerged since losing 3 – 2 at Chelsea.

Little Victories

Crucially, we’ve begun keeping clean sheets and whilst three in four games isn’t necessarily impressive given the opposition, it’s certainly confidence building. And anything which isn’t sapping the confidence away is a good thing, surely?

Anyway, three points and a three-goal winning margin will edge Tottenham out of the top four assuming Chelsea beat Southampton. It would be a nice way to go into the international break.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow


62 thoughts on “Fulham Preview: Dreams of the Brave

  1. On this day, the 19th April 1967, Arsenal played Fulham at the Cottage.

    In a programme costing 6d we didn’t get very much information, more a glorified Team Sheet really. Mind you, at that price, one could buy a whole season’s worth of programmes for about 50P in today’s money.

    We do learn that the Fulham Chairman was that cheeky chappie, Tommy Trinder, which I’d forgotten.

    The ‘Voice of Fulham’ tells us that they have an incentive to do well other than it being a derby, that is, they needed the points to be safe from relegation. This was a time of transition for the club as, they point out, it was for Arsenal

    ”Bertie Mee took over as manager last summer, was joined by former Fulham coach, Dave Sexton and has put Arsenal on the road to success. Players like George Eastham and Joe Baker have gone, others like full back McNab, George Graham have been signed. Young players like Jon Sammels and John Radford have progressed.

    “But like Fulham, Arsenal have not yet accomplished the change. The ’new look’ has been adopted but not yet worn with a consistent flourish……..one senses that here we have teams with obvious potential that, as yet, has been realised only spasmodically.”

    Well, history has cycles, doesn’t it?

    Arsenal were distinctly mid table, 15 points behind the leaders, Manchester Utd, Fulham a further 5 behind us.

    The teams that day were :-

    Arsenal: Furnell, McNab, Simpson, McLintock, Ure, Neill ,Court, Armstrong, Sammels, Graham, Radford’

    Fulham: Macedo, Cohen, Callaghan, Robson, Dempsey, Conway, Haynes, Brown, Pearson, Clarke, Earle.

    The ‘Voice’ had some footballing vision. The Arsenal side went on the win the fairs Cup and the Double over the next few years. Fulham were relegated in 1969.

    For a post match pint of Young’s special we are told elsewhere that the nearest houses providing them are The Castle and the Duke’s Head. I always preferred a pint of Ordinary myself and took them over the bridge in Putney.

    Another advert offers A ‘Complete Rizla Outfit’ for only 9d ‘for men who like to suit themselves’. Ah.

    An historical footnote is a report by George Cohen, the World Cup winning fullback, on the defeat at Wembley of England by Scotland on the preceding Saturday. He was shocked.

    “I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the game on television on Sunday afternoon. I just went out and did the garden, front and back.”

    A rather different response, one feels, to that of some modern footballers after a defeat. Why didn’t he just buy a new sports car or have another tattoo done one wonders.

    We also learn that Johnny Haynes recently celebrated his 500th game for Fulham. He made his debut in 1952 and when asked what was the biggest change in his time replied, “ Players’ wages. Players are much more dedicated and more determined to win”. He also said, “…basically the game hasn’t altered much. These systems have made the game tighter undoubtedly. But beating defences has always been a problem”

    Here is yesterday’s football result: Fulham 0 Arsenal 0

  2. Bloody international break I can guarentee it, every time consolslel goes to visit her daughter in Crete, there is a bloody fortnight without football.

  3. It would not surprise me, having seen the line-up, if we saw the same scoreline today.

    Thanks for that Bob; are you sure her ladyship hasn’t done this deliberately so that you’re not distracted in her absence? I’m sure she left you with a list of chores to be completed…

  4. Masterstroke,

    He didn’t look comfortable midweek in all honestly, looked like he was running awkwardly. But his illness and back spasm history isn’t thus far good

  5. He difference a high energy creative midfielder like (i hate to say it) Eriksson would make in our team.

  6. A much better all around performance.

    Is it just Craven Cottage, I wonder but this game reminds me of watching the Big Match back in the 70’s. Very retro feel to it.

  7. They made it all-seater without wrecking one of nicest grounds in England. No new stands or moving fans miles away from the pitch.

  8. YW,

    Who would have thought, it all started with Bellerin doing his defensive work. Funny because the narrative would tell you he is the worst RB in the world…….

  9. Aubameyang doing what Aubameyang does!!!!!!!!!

    Lacazette and Aubameyang grabbing a brace!

    The Emery revolution just ‘keeps on keeping on’ as my Grandmother would say.

  10. Certainly feel more of a TEAM despite the usual clanger out of defence.
    Hope Ramsey can still stay somehow
    Mustafi a great game!!! Woo

  11. That Xhaka and Torriera partnership is looking quite good as well. Torriera buzzing about and tackling and winning everything while linking play allowing Xhaka to sit, dictate and intercept passes which is what he is best at.

  12. Wow! Saw the line up and was disappointed. Mustafi ahead of Sokratis, no Aubameyang, no Özil. Obviously the scoreline is telling, but the balance with Iwobi and even Welbeck, being better in the wide positions than Aubameyang was such an improvement!!!!!

  13. 9 on the bounce, things are starting to really come together and Emery is really changing everything at Arsenal. I mean FFS, even the ex-players are actually enjoying it.

    Emery is showing just how valuable a quality manager can be.

  14. In what world would a winger/striker finish with 2 goals and an assist and not really be in the conversation for MOTM 🤔

  15. C,

    Slowly but surely we are seeing improvement.

    I’m sure we’ll have a hiccup or two along the way, but the first major sign is that this team no longer just gives up like they used to when things go against them.

    I suppose we really should be “careful for what we wished for”.

    I’m sure that’ll come out again as soon as we have a blip or two.

  16. C,

    I’d tweak your comment a touch and say “Emery is showing just how valuable a quality coach can be”.

  17. So very enjoyable match, and the full 90 minutes. I can’t remember the last one, that was so easy on the eye.
    Everyone did well today, I thought, the odd mistake takes nothing away. So pleased that both Bellerin and Iwobi have improved so much, and that Holding …well, his own.

  18. Wavey:
    C,

    I’d tweak your comment a touch and say “Emery is showing just how valuable a quality coach can be”.

    Zigackly, you’re ferpectly correct!

  19. MikeSA,

    I mean a hiccup will come but you correct.

    I mean even though we are beating teams that on paper we should, all to often we have seen previously us lose a match or two

  20. What was also a joy to watch was just how much Aubameyang and Lacazette enjoy being together..Lacazette scores and immediately goes over and celebrates with Aubameyang.

  21. @consolsbob,
    Your 11.22 warranted sympathy but it’s not all gloom. Think of reading at the table, ease of bedmaking and total control of the remote!

  22. Last season we would have lost at least one of those and drawn another, at best.

    I’m really not sure what coaches get paid for if they cant make a difference.

  23. I hope it’s the start of a huge mentality change at Arsenal. We shouldn’t be scared playing away from home against Fulham etc, and last season these games had me panicking before kick off.

    I hope it’s also the start of a more fluid football, it was very easy on the eye i must say.

    On to Leicester next, then Sporting, Crystal Palace, Blackpool and Liverpool!

    COYG

  24. That was fun! First match I have so thoroughly enjoyed and felt like we are in a new era that promises both good football and good results.

    And no coincidence that we did it playing 2 strikers up top in 442. Let’s have more of that. Auba and Laca together in the middle. Lacazette was brilliant as the 10. Has the energy/pace and quality to drop a little deep to be part of build up and still get forward and finish. Total, complete CF performance. And Auba looked very happy playing centrally. A killer running behind and finishing in the box. Also a lovely cross for Ramsey’s spectacular finish. Emery is figuring it out and has transmitted a new culture—steely intensity, team spirit despite competition/rotation, and tactics being taken seriously. I like this trajectory. The real test is Pool and how we are doing in early December after Spurs and MU. But let’s keep it going!

  25. No coincidence the players are being coached either.

    Got to love Emery on the touchline, seeing every pass and run in his head as it happens. Nothing wrong with showing a bit of pashun in your work.

  26. LSG:
    That was fun!First match I have so thoroughly enjoyed and felt like we are in a new era that promises both good football and good results.

    And no coincidence that we did it playing 2 strikers up top in 442. Let’s have more of that.Auba and Laca together in the middle. Lacazette was brilliant as the 10.Has the energy/pace and quality to drop a little deep to be part of build up and still get forward and finish.Total, complete CF performance. And Auba looked very happy playing centrally.A killer running behind and finishing in the box.Also a lovely cross for Ramsey’s spectacular finish.Emery is figuring it out and has transmitted a new culture—steely intensity, team spirit despite competition/rotation, and tactics being taken seriously.I like this trajectory.The real test is Pool and how we are doing in early December after Spurs and MU.But let’s keep it going!

    We might lose 2-1 mate(and be generally in command of the game)against Liverpool,so that result won’t necessarily be a true reflection of how we are as a team.City and Chelski weren’t.

  27. YW,

    Absolutely! Clear instruction helping players improve and giving them the support from the sideline to improve tactical discipline and organization. I think having a real defensive midfielder has also made such a huge difference, DM and 2 strikers. Crucial.

  28. Jonnygunner,

    That’s why I said and “where we are after Spurs and MU in early December.” If you read the whole comment you’ll have a more complete idea of what I am saying. We are on a good run against middling opposition, which is no mean feat, but the real test is whether we can take points from these other tougher sides and be in a top 4 position in December after facing them.

  29. LSG,

    Agree, Nov is where we can see where we are. Liverpool, Wolves, Bournemouth, Spurs and Man u is where we need to excel! Happy day, not getting ahead of myself though, we WILL lose at some point and we need the same positive attitudes then

  30. LSG,

    I’m not sure we played a 442, I though it was more of a 433 with Mhkitaryan sitting behind Lacazette and then when Aubameyang came on, they played with them 2 and Mhkitaryan roaming. Either way, I think more than anything was the fact that they could play more in the channels especially with Bellerin bombing forward(he was brilliant all day defending and attacking).

    Isn’t it funny that Aubameyang had 2 goals and an assist but not even in discussio for MOTM because Lacazette was brilliant, Torriera was sublime and Xhaka looked much more the player I thought he was in Germany and has shown in glimpses. Also, all the talk of Mustafi, he was really good. Sure he had a moment but so did Holding, but overall Mustafi was good.

    O yea, Leno again showed he needs to start not only for his shot stopping and command of the box but 2 of our goals werw started because of his distribution.

  31. C,

    I thought Lacazette was often playing in the No 10 slot behind Welbeck. It looks like Emery told Ozil he was not playing No 10 and Ozil’s back went into spasms, as it is prone to do on such occasions. Lacazette really is the complete No 10 (if that is where he was playing!).

    Torriera looks like the greatest buy of the last millenium.

  32. I just saw the score and the highlights on ESPN. Fantastic score and I love it when we take no prisoners. I think this must be our best run of form since the second half of the 14/15 season. Hopefully this is more then just another 1/2 season false dawn. Emery certainly has this team playing as more then the sum of their parts and full credit to him.

  33. Ramsey scored today but for the most part Ramsey Ozil and Mkhitaryan have been mostly underwhelming and yet we look really good on the attacking end. I think it adds more evidence to the running debate about Arsene’s misguided obscession with midfield creativity and purely creative players.. You need to build your attack around your forwards.

  34. Biggest thing that struck me today is the speed they get the ball forward from defence. One of the best away performances for a long time….shame it’s the international break as we have built up some really good momentum.

  35. freddo,

    I think Lacazette is more of a complete striker than he gets credit for. I also thought he dropped deep but that doesn’t mean into a number 10 role, more its rhe style Emery plays (but I could be wrong). He generally allpws his front 3 the freedom to move and interche freely, which I thought they werw doing with Mhkitaryan playing the 10 but drifting about. Who knows truly but the players and Emery.

    Its funny everybody takes shots at Ozil despite the fact that he has featured in every match this season both in the 10 and on the flanks….guess that goes along with the lazy narrative too 🤔

  36. C: Well, I sometimes get confused when watching football on the TV. It’s hard to follow the tactics and de-fur the cat at the same time. I actually quite like Ozil on the right wing as an inverted winger dropping into the middle and spraying the ball around with is left peg. I just don’t think he’s so good in heavy traffic.
    .

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