Saturday, November 10, 2012

Arsenal 3 - Fulham 3

After starting well with a couple of early goals from new boys Giroud and Podolski, Arsenal blew its 2-0 lead even before the first half ended. Then, in the second half Arsenal players starting spending too much time on the ball, and were caught in possession time and time again by the pressing Fulham defense. Substitute Jack Ramsey started the trend, but it was Mikel Arteta whose lack of ball protection was most costly. He gave the ball away just outside the penalty box before reminding everyone just why it's called a penalty box, hauling down the player who dispossessed him. Berbatov converted the kick as cool as you like, and Arsenal were suddenly down 3-2. 

But then the Gunners suddenly woke up, and were even again after just a few minutes, when Giroud, who had seemingly squandered a good chance that deflected off the post to Walcott, converted Walcott's subsequent cross with his second good header of the match. Berbatov undoubtedly would have given Fulham the lead again in the 76th minute, but for an excellent, last-ditch defensive effort by Laurent Koscielny. 

Finally, in the last gasps of stoppage time, Fulham gave the ball away in their own half. Arshavin took it and went on the attack. When he attempted to cross it into the box, it hit a Fulham player's elbow, which was raised, and the Ref called a penalty. It may have been a bit harsh. Arteta stepped up to take what turned out to be the final kick of the match, which turned out to be a fairly tame effort which Mark Schwarzer reached out to save with his left hand. That one play pretty much reflects the state of play for the Gunners today and over the past few weeks.

Arsenal got a draw out of a match they should easily have won. The bright side is that they got goals from   two players who have not been in poor scoring form this season, with Olivier Giroud especially impressing throughout the match. Theo Walcott also had a decent game, and Carzorla seemed to have more room to operate than he has found the last few games.

The dark side is that Arsenal squandered a two-goal lead in a game at home, despite the fact that they were playing their four best defenders, with Vermaelen replacing the woeful Andre Santos at left back. The defense still looked quite fragile, especially on set pieces. The absence of Abu Diaby in midfield continues to be very noticeable. Hopefully, he will be back soon. 

On paper, this Arsenal squad should be competitive for a Champion's League spot next year, but the results of their last few Premiership matches have left players and fans alike bereft of confidence. 

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