Fulham Review: Flattering To Receive

Arsenal 4 – 1 Fulham

Arsenal returned to some semblance of form with a 4 – 1 win over relegation-fodder Fulham. The record books won’t show whether it was comprehensive or flattering; we’ll assume the former in years to come unless we specifically think of the match itself.

Ultimately, the performance doesn’t matter. We came into the game off the back of a calamitous trip to Anfield and needed to get back to winning ways quickly. That happened; three points puts us within touching distance of the top four and clear of Manchester United. That, I’m sure, will change this evening.

Post-match, Unai Emery provided comfort for some; Gary Cahill hasn’t been discussed at the club. Or is he carrying out an elaborate double-bluff? Or maybe it’s a triple bluff…

The result, he contended, was exactly what the squad needed:

We needed to win today. We spoke before in the dressing room about today being one day where we can be consistent here with our results.

Emery didn’t try and tart the picture up; we won, scoring four is great but that serves only to disguise or distract from the weaknesses which remain:

Our challenge now is to improve defensively…we need to take more balance defensively and to improve. It’s one thing for us to work on, to prepare for the second half of the season. We need to do it better in the second half of the season by working with every player in the team tactically – and that’s what we’re going to do.

The Spaniard pointed to the injuries suffered but not the personnel themselves. That is the issue, individually and in combination.

I’ll be surprised if Mustafi and Koscielny are both here next season. The former isn’t good enough while the latter was already exploring a departure before injury curtailed his season.

It’s A Kind Of…

That’s a problem for another day, however. Yesterday, the issue of the high-pressing game not working properly was evident. Fulham, afforded plenty of space, should have tested us more. Sessegnon, in particular, wasted good opportunities.

Their goal, which briefly made the scoreline uncomfortable, saw Guendouzi and Kolasinac take their eye off Mitrovic, and the Serb duly netted to make it 2 – 1 at that point.

2 – 1; two goals we scored and the attack was functioning as we expect. Not purring; Aubameyang missed early chances but there are two issues there. Firstly, it’s a sign of the high standards he sets that we expect him to score every time he gets the ball in threatening positions. The second is that we’re creating chances. If we weren’t, that would be a genuine concern.

Yesterday’s line-up contrasted with those fielded by Wenger. Creativity is not so readily identifiable beyond Iwobi, particularly since Mesut Ozil’s back spasms travelled down to his knee. That’s no bad thing with the wing-backs and Guendouzi prompting as well.

Even Granit Xhaka got in on the act, slotting home to break the deadlock after good work by Kolasinac on the left. The Swiss did little else of note during the game but when you score, does it really matter? I think not.

Lacazette grabbed the second with the kind of finish we love; slammed into the net with no mercy for the goalkeeper. If you’re close enough, you sound of the ball impacting the netting is one of, if not the, most satisfying in football.

At 2 – 1, Emery heard a smattering of boos as the Frenchman was substituted for Aaron Ramsey. Not long after, the Spaniard became a tactical genius again as the Welshman fed off the rebound from Aubameyang’s shot with a sumptuous finish.

And For My Next Trick…

The Gabon striker got his just reward when he finished the scoring for the day. His deflected shot eluded the ‘keeper and nestled in the net. Auba worked hard with little direct reward until his goal. I’m not sure if he got the assist for Ramsey’s goal; who knows how those pointy-headed stats guys figure these things out.

To this point, mention of Iwobi has been scarce and needs correcting. He played well, continuing his recent good form. Does he feel inhibited by the presence of Mesut Ozil in the XI? Overshadowed by the German’s reputation but free of those shackles on his mind, he is blossoming. It’s football so he has plenty of critics who won’t give him credit without saying “but” afterwards.

There shouldn’t be a “but” yet there is. I don’t know if my cod psychology about his relationship with Ozil is right, it’s just a reaction to recent matches where the German has been AWOL.

It was a positive start to the campaign and three points was the bright start to 2019 we needed. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

’til Tomorrow.

25 thoughts on “Fulham Review: Flattering To Receive

  1. Jonnygunner says:

    I can’t say I’m in agreement with you on Iwobi YW….there must have been half a dozen occasions where he was out with his passing(in key areas of play)-in my worthless opinion anyway.He does frustrate.
    Mitrovic didn’t score their goal.
    Are you hung over 😉

  2. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    It was Fulham bottom of the league stragglers and even they had their chances and managed to score. That’s all you need to know about our defence. We do have a very good attack and a passable midfield however. As for “OGSforArsenal” rant in Yogi’s post – https://www.aclfarsenal.co.uk/2018/12/31/28777/ he does make one or two valid points. The debt is being saddled onto the club, whether you care to believe it or not. Hence why we have no money for new signings in January. Secondly, Emery was naive to say the least to approach the Liverpool game with those tactics and personnel. I’ll let him off just this once as it’s his first season in the EPL. But if he tries to do that sh!t away to WH on the 12th, at home to Chelsea on the 19th and away to City on the 3rd Feb then I’ll chuck my toys out of the pram and call for his head. And you know why…!? NES and Wolves. If he can make Ryan Bennett perform away at Tottenham, then there is no excuse for Emery and Mustafi. In fact there is no excuse for any of that shambolic defending we saw at Liverpool. Because we should have setup to contain and defend for the first half of the match and frustrate. Game management. Non-existent. So I’m not buying all of this Emery our saviour crap. He needs to look at himself as well at that squad.

    Oh and Happy 2019 everyone and thank you Yogi for all the great work. Keep it up mate.

  3. Damon says:

    C,

    Duly noted, but he has been a versatile player this season, contributing to both defence and attack. I think it’s a stretch to say he underpins our defensive solidity though?

  4. Bill says:

    Great review Yogi

    Its been my contention for the last 3-4 years that Iwobe should be an attacking midfielder rather then a forward. Iwobe’s game is similar to Ox in many ways. If he played in central midfield the inability to score goals and his inconsistent end product would be less of an issue.

  5. C says:

    Damon,

    I think it does for a couple reasons:
    1. His ability to defend and attack doesn’t allow for the opposing FB to come bombing forward

    2. His pace and quickness covers up for quite a bit especially when clubs counter

    3. He has doesn’t always need cover so it allows for thr midfield, specifically Torriera, to protect the center of our team.

    Your point about Holding I think is very similiar because, while he might still get found out for pace, he is the ‘balance’ CB who slots perfectly next to the ultra aggressiveness of Sokaritis and Mustafi.

  6. Bill says:

    Our defense has been bad the entire season even when Holding and Bellerin were playing. It’s generally a mistake to assume that short stretch of improved form that coincidentally happens to occur with a certain player in the line up means the player is the reason. Earlier this season we played better defense for a few game and we thought Torreira was going to was a huge difference maker in the defense. A few years ago we thought having kos and mert together changed everything. We thought the same about Le Coq in 2015/16. I think it’s a coincidence that iwobe played better in a couple of games when ozil is out of the line up.

  7. Bill says:

    A fullback can help to improve one side of the pitch. Sagna and nacho both did that. However, a fullback can’t change a whole defense by himself. Bellerin has been better on defense so far this season and but to suggest that he has morphed into the next sagna is a big stretch.

  8. C says:

    Bill,

    Nobody said that, the point me and Damon were making is that we have suffered without Bellerin and Holding. Not saying he has morphed into anything but at ONLY 23 years old and for the first time in his career, he is receiving defensive coaching and is again showing the form he showed the year before last that has him viewed as one of the best RB’s in the PL.

    Lichtsteiner has been poor, period.

  9. LSG says:

    It was a bit of a nervy first half—havrn’t they all pretty much been?—but the second half was really fun. I think Iwobi was quite good. Aubameyang missed an impressive number of chances. Our defending always gives the opposition hope, Guendouzi was generally much better than Xhaka, I thought, but he does need to learn to move the ball more quickly rather than waiting to be fouled. A good start to a new year!

  10. Bill says:

    Lichtsteiner has definitely been a major disappointment.

    With respect to Holding but we have seen this sort of thing happen dozens and dozens of times over the years. Time will tell but I suspect it was happenstance that Holding was in the lineup during the part of the season when the team was playing as more then the sum of its parts rather then the team being a lot better because of Holding.

  11. Bill says:

    I think this season adds further evidence against the idea that a manager can consistently improve a whole team of individual players. The whole notion that Arsene did that at one time in his career is not realistic. A manager can make the team play better as a whole and a rising tide raises all the ships in the harbor.

  12. Blue Yonder says:

    There were a number of pluses to be taken from the game, the chief one being the scoreline. It was important to win and by a good margin so, mission accomplished.
    Individually, the pluses and minuses were in evidence. I’m one of those who wasn’t impressed with Iwobi: he continues to demonstrate a heavy touch and he seems to give up quickly once a play has been lost. Compare that with the never-give-up approach of Guendozi and Terreira. When you add in his poor touch around goal, it’s hard to see where his future takes him. Perhaps I’m being hard on him but time will tell.
    Conversely, I don’t see the criticism of Emery at this stage. We assume his strategy is at fault when the team performs poorly but the players are usually the culprits. It’s up to them to perform, regardless of formation. I recall a wiley old manager saying, years ago: “My players made me look like a genius today”. And that works the other way, too.

  13. consolsbob says:

    The trouble as I see it with the idea that it is the defenders who just can’t do their job rather than it being possible to drill and train better defensive performances is that many other teams do it quite successfully.

    Either we have the worst defenders in the league or their coaches are managing their resources better than ours. The truth surely lies somewhere in between. Our defenders are poor overall but didn’t many award hugh plaudits to Keown for what he did with a very makeshift defence a few years ago?

  14. Blue Yonder says:

    consolsbob,

    Makes one wonder about the role of Steve Bould in the club. Under AW, it seemed he had no voice, no meaningful role and, as, as such, had little impact. Now, under Emery, it doesn’t seem much different. Perhaps, as you say, other teams are just coaching better.

  15. buckagh says:

    Blue Yonder,

    I have watched Bould closely at games and you are right, I think he has zero input in this squad he looks miserable. is drawing a salary and that’s it,
    As far as the coaching goes I appreciate it takes some time but six months and the defence is shambolic not withstanding the injuries it has to vastly improve to have any chance of top four which is beyond this team imo,

  16. Colts says:

    THe bright spot for me was lacas reaction to being substituted. Somebody is paying close attention, as soon as he heard the boo’s he immediately clapped harder and pointed to his head. Somebody is trying to play mind games…

  17. C says:

    consolsbob,

    For me, it lies in the fact that they are learning to defend now in Emery’s system and, as we have pointed out for years, Arsene didn’t always care about defending. For a player like Bellerin and even Sead, they are young and need to be teained up to not always rely on their physical gifts and athleticism but positional defending. Bellerin is learning and you see him getting back to his best(which is the best RB in the PL) but Sead has to learn to defend positionally and just not with pace and power.

    The other thing for me is CB’s, which is a position where you not only habe to trust you partner but IMHO they either fall into 2 categories: brilliant feel as a youth and you build on that or you simply have an aggressive side and you get better with age. Sokaritis falls into the latter category where as Holding looks to have the potential to fall into the former and Mustafi falls somewhere in the grey area.

  18. Noon Gunner says:

    buckagh,

    I wonder whether the decision in the summer was to keep Bouldy as a strong link with the existing players and staff, plus club tradition, etc., while at the same time giving him a chance to prove his value or not as defensive coach. On current performance we should see him replaced in summer.

  19. LSG says:

    I thought the audible booing of the Laca substitution and some of the audible disgruntlement at one or two over-hit Iwobi passes was poor from fans on the stadium. But the booing had been overemphasized—it lasted about 2 seconds before everyone started clapping Laca who took it positively and saluted the crowd. We can do better in the ground to keep up the atmosphere. It wasn’t especially good v Fulham where I was and maybe there was a hangover from Liverpool away. But, I think we can do better to support and make it fun for us and the players. The good thing was the home crowd let the awful ref hear about his poor decisions often and loudly.

  20. Jonnygunner says:

    Noon Gunner:
    buckagh,

    I wonder whether the decision in the summer was to keep Bouldy as a strong link with the existing players and staff, plus club tradition, etc., while at the same time giving him a chance to prove his value or not as defensive coach. On current performance we should see him replaced in summer.

    Yeap-exactly what I think

  21. LSG says:

    Is Bould meant to be responsible for defensive coaching? I don’t believe this is the case but don’t know. Why does everyone presume this is his area of coaching responsibility simply because he was once a defender? One thing is clear: Emery is ultimately responsible. And we are conceding even more goals right now than ever.

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