Saturday, November 26, 2011

Arsenal 1 - Fulham 1

Having expected three points from this game at home to Fulham, Arsenal were disappointed to get just one. Looking tired following their Champions' League match against Borrusia Dortmund in midweek, the Gunners played a lackluster game at the Emirates, lacking pace and ideas. For all of their possession during the first half, they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Fulham, playing mostly on the counterattack, had as many decent scoring chances as the Gunners.

The second half started just like the first, with Arsenal dominating possession and Fulham looking for opportunities on the counter. A few minutes after a van Persie shot was cleared off the line by a Fulham defender, Fulham turned an innocuous-seeming bit of possession at the other end into an own goal by Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen. Fulham would have been up 2-0 a couple  moments later but for the linesman's offside flag. With 20 minutes left, Arsenal were trailing a team that had never before beaten them at home.

Looking to light a fire under his team, Wenger brought on Gervinho and Abu Diaby (just back from a long injury layoff), replacing Aaron Ramsey and central defender Per Mertesacker. Diaby made an immediate impression, forcing a great save from Fulham goalie Mark Schwarzer on a header from a corner kick. Schwarzer could not, however, prevent the inevitable game-tying goal after the 80-minute mark. Thomas Vermaelen - making up for his earlier own-goal - authoritatively headed home an excellent cross by Theo Walcott.

From that point on, it was pretty much all Arsenal. Schwarzer saved a hard shot by Gervinho at the near post, and then a tamer effort by Walcott. But Arsenal could not create the game winner. If the Gunners had played the entire match as they did the last 15 minutes, they easily would have won this match. A disappointing result for the Gunners and their fans.

Van Persie did not score today, but his work rate and the intelligence of his movement without the ball were truly impressive. It's no wonder he generates so many scoring chances for others as well as himself; and of course his ability to finish is unparalleled in the Premiership. 38 goals in 42 games during 2011 says it all.

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