Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Analysis, Goals & Ratings

By on November 28, 2011

The Gunners started brightly, winning a corner inside a minute, although Van Persie’s delivery was cleared by the first defender. In just the 4th minute Arshavin had the ball in the net; the Russian was played through by Van Persie, but was correctly adjudged to be offside for the second time in as many minutes. Fulham then came forward for the first time and Dempsey’s shot from inside the penalty box was blocked excellently by Djourou. A minute later Ramsey drove into the box and came very close to giving Arsenal the lead, only to be denied by the outstretched Schwarzer’s fingertips. The resulting corner was then easily collected by the Australian goalkeeper, as was Arteta’s a few minutes later.

As Fulham came more into the game, slowing the early Arsenal tide, Theo Walcott earned a large round of applause for tracking back and excellently winning the ball back for the Gunners. 20 minutes in, the English winger took on Riise and cut inside, but his shot was blocked by Hangeland. Zamora then spun Vermaelen on the edge of the box, but fired his right-footed shot over.

Arshavin, who like Walcott was cutting inside from his wing, had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty waved away by referee Mike Dean but the Russian was looking better than he has in previous weeks, seemingly justifying Wenger’s decision to start him in place of Gervinho. Walcott made another fantastic run, beating left-back Riise with ease and driving into the box, before cutting the ball back to Ramsey. However, the Welshman’s shot did not match Walcott’s run and he skied a bobbling ball well over the bar.

Arsenal were ramping up the pressure on Fulham, but as they pushed more and more men up for corners, they were nearly caught out on the break. Song gave the ball away and as Fulham broke, Andre Santos intercepted the a pass on the halfway line with his hand, picking up a yellow card for his trouble. Zamora was then deservedly booked for dissent, after spending over a minute haranguing Dean in an attempt to get Santos sent off. Riise struck a shot from around 40 yards, which was blocked well by Vermaelen. The shot rattled the Belgian’s knee and left Arsenal fans worrying for a couple of minutes as he limped around the field. However, he appeared to recover with no serious damage and continued to lead the defence.

Van Persie and Arshavin had weak shots, but neither had enough to test the keeper. The game was becoming increasingly slow as the Fulham defence soaked up the pressure and the Arsenal midfield trio of Song, Arteta and Ramsey struggled to create a clear cut opportunity. Despite sitting back without the ball, it would be unfair to say that Fulham were looking for a draw and attacked with some intent; Dembele had the space to shoot from the left hand side of the penalty area after makeshift right-back Djourou was caught out of position. The Belgian’s powerful shot was well saved by Szczesny, but Hangeland just missed from the corner that followed. Ramsey was inches away from latching on to Walcott’s terrific cross before Etuhu was wrongly booked for an excellent injury time tackle – this nearly proved a crucial decision; Arteta whipped in the free kick and Mertesacker headed inches wide. Dean blew for half time as a frustrated Wenger headed down the tunnel.

Both teams came out unchanged for the second half, although only in terms of personnel; the Gunners immediately had far more attacking intent and moved the ball with more pace. Schwarzer intercepted a Walcott cross and although he spilled the ball, a defender cleared before Ramsey could reach it. Santos attacked down the left and was often looking to put in a cross. He tried an optimistic shot that was blocked by a defender, which went out for Arsenal’s 8th corner of the game. As with the others, the Gunners offered little threat and Baird cleared easily. As in the 1st half Arsenal took their foot off the pedal and allowed Fulham back into the game. After originally clearing a corner, Arteta failed to put any pressure on Murphy, who put in a dangerous cross that was nearly turned in at the back post.

The game was growing increasingly open as the crowd woke up for the first time. Arteta looked to make up for his defensive lapse by laying in Van Persie. The Dutchman pulled the ball back onto his left and shot, but it was cleared off of the line by Baird for another corner to Arsenal, which once more came to nothing. Van Persie was sandwiched by three Fulham defenders in the box, but one of them just got their foot on the ball meaning no penalty was given. Dembele’s shot was easily saved by Szczesny, but this was against the run of play as unlike in the first half, Arsenal picked up their game after dropping off.

Then, against the run of play, Fulham took the lead. Arteta lost the ball and Murphy chipped it into the box. As Riise took the ball down and looked to shoot, Vermaelen went to tackle the Norwegian but as he did the ball skewed past Szczesny into the net. It was unlucky as Vermaelen had, as ever, defended excellently all game. Fulham nearly doubled their lead, but Zamora, like Arshavin in the first half, was flagged offside before finishing well anyway. Gervinho and Diaby replaced Ramsey and Mertesacker as Arsene Wenger looked to turn the game around. The changes meant that Arshavin, who had done very little after the first 10 minutes, moved to his favoured position in the centre, while Song moved to centre back.

Gervinho was flagged offside as the Arsenal fans got behind their team when they were behind – something that may not have happened a few weeks ago. Van Persie put in the first excellent corner of the game for Arsenal and Djourou seemed destined to score, only for Schwarzer to pull of a fantastic reaction save. Diaby looked very lively after coming on, but Arshavin had still done nothing and so was replaced by out of form Marouane Chamakh. This signified Arsenal’s intent to put in more crosses and as Chamakh is the ideal man to get on the end of them. Kasami also came on for Fulham, replacing Ruiz. Van Persie then struck a free kick wide, before Fulham made another substitution, replacing Zamora with Johnson.

Santos chipped the ball to Van Persie at the back post, but the Dutchman blazed over the bar. As Arsenal pushed nearly everyone forward the ball was fed out to Walcott who put in another fabulous cross, as he had done all game. Vermaelen, who was unmarked up from the back headed into the net, making up for his unlucky own goal earlier on. The crowd really came alight now, egging their team on to get a winner. Gervinho cut in from the left and drove between two Fulham defenders, but shot straight at Schwarzer at the near post. Van Persie was played through by Walcott but chipped into the side netting – Arsenal were desperate to find a winner.

As Fulham creaked under pressure, Santos had a shot blocked by a mixture Dempsey’s arm and side but Mike Dean gave nothing. After Fulham held the ball up at the other end for a couple of minutes, Chamakh won the ball back a quarter of the way into the 4 minutes of injury time. Arsenal broke and earned another corner and Van Persie flicked it on, but it went straight at Schwarzer. Fulham managed to hold onto the ball for the rest of the game and the full time whistle went.

Interestingly, this was the 10th time Mike Dean has refereed Arsenal and the Gunners haven’t won a single one of those games. However, this time around we cannot really blame the referee; if we had attacked the way we did in the final 10 minutes for the whole game we would have won comfortably by 4 or 5 goals. We did not do this and were made to pay by an organised Fulham side, but one who we should really have beaten.

Arteta and Ramsey were poor in midfield, and that caused a problem for the whole team as they lacked creativity. Despite this, we had plenty of chances to win the game, but for the first time in a long time it just wasn’t Van Persie’s day. Nonetheless, a draw is not the worst result in the world and we can now turn out attention to Manchester City and the Carling Cup.

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