How strange. As time ran out on this most odd season, the Arsenal fans got angry. It’s hard to be sure what this was about, but perhaps there was a clue in last week’s ‘lap of appreciation’ at the Emirates, during which the team was booed.
Booed for finishing fourth. What kind of fans are these people? It just seems like simple bad manners, bad form (for an example of good manners I present myself on the 220 bus on the way home: I sat on my seat, stepped on something, then turned round with a sincere apology… to a half eaten corn on the cob on the floor). Something has gone horribly wrong with Arsenal, the beautiful girl who, once so nice, became a bitch.
They were lucky not to have been beaten by an increasingly strong Fulham side. Everywhere you looked on the pitch a Fulham player was winning his individual battle. The defence was in good form (although Wenger really should have attacked young Matthew Briggs more than he did; leaving Walcott out may have been a mistake), the midfield (with Sidwell playing how I like to imagine Graeme Souness might have done in those great Liverpool sides) was every bit as good as it’s illustrious opponent’s, and Zamora was by some distance the best forward on the pitch.
Sidwell it was who scored first, Dempsey combining cleverly with Zamora (who strayed towards the right a good deal today), who squared for Sidwell to score. Robin van Persie equalised quite quickly with a typically neat goal, but at no point did Arsenal take control, the excellent Wilshere’s efforts notwithstanding.
Fulham scored again in the second half after some more fabulous work on the left by Jonathan Greening. It was great fun to see Greening take Birmingham apart on the flank at half-pace, and here he did it again, twisting and turning before sending over a lovely cross for Zamora to head home. Three assists in two games from our hairy midfielder now: good work that man.
We might have had a few more, AJ scampering clear but again showing that he has lost those vital few yards of pace (pace measured in yards doesn’t feel right but we’ll go with it) required to get in good strikes. Simon Davies nearly scored during a good spell of “bombard the Arsenal defence”, and a few more quick transitions through the midfield might have caused them bother had we been a bit slicker. Briggs might have won a penalty after a fine slalom through the Arsenal defence was ended clumsily, too.
The game turned when Zoltan Gera came on for what might have been his last Fulham game. He had a few half touches then launched into a studs-up challenge that drew a straight red from Martin Atkinson (who had a horribly fussy game but couldn’t say no to this one). From then on Arsenal, with four forwards on the field (not including Nasri) took it to us, and AJ as a lone striker wasn’t enough to make the ball stick. It was then no surprise when Walcott nicked an equaliser, the heretofore brilliant Schwarzer beaten with a low shot across him.
2-2. A decent end to a decent season. In many ways it’s hard to assess the team’s performance: it feels like we’ve progressed, but perhaps next term is the time to judge this. Hughes, by then, will have had the time to really imprint himself on the team, and if the glass is as full as it might be then good things could happen.