Ah, how annoying, eh? A nearly flawless “away to Arsenal” performance only undone because Thomas Verbloodymaelen decided to make amends for his earlier own goal, thus turning an away win into a 1-1 draw. Pah.
Fulham – as the live commentators never stopped saying – were very organised. Sometimes Fulham players must feel a bit like Pamela Anderson here: well yes, thank you, but there’s more to me, really there is…
In this case we had a nice blend of midfield guts and attacking smoothness. Dembele and Ruiz are like a pair of figure skaters out there (in a masculine footballing sense, obviously), weaving their way in and out of things with considerable grace. Dempsey pumps on like Dempsey pumps on, and Zamora ties the whole thing together. It wasn’t perfect but we made enough half-moments to wonder if there mightn’t be something good around the corner.
There was: John Arne Riise – having perhaps his best game in a Fulham shirt – surged into the area to get on the end of a Murphy dink, controlled the ball (possibly with an arm) and then was robbed by Vermaelen, whose touch took the ball into the Arsenal net for a surprise but not entirely undeserved Fulham lead.
This was almost a bad thing, the danger being that Arsenal would wake up, we’d sit deep, and they’d get two. As it happened Fulham added a second soon after, Zamora nipping the ball over the ‘keeper but from a fractionally offside position.
Arsenal were always going to take the game to Fulham but the Zamora – Johnson substitution baffled me. Zamora is an outlet and you’d back him one-on-one with any Arsenal defender. Johnson is supposedly quick but I would be surprised if he could outrun Zamora at this point. He is useful when we have the ball so he can slip in and poach, but in a defensive effort this is less relevant. He spent his time on the pitch chasing things, either the ball or Arsenal players in possession. We got squashed back in our own half and could find no way out. I’d have kept Ruiz on, too: true, he was fading, but again, he can get the ball and make it stick. This was no time for Kasami, not after he hasn’t played for weeks.
These things are always arguable but the “never take off Zamora” mantra is a good one: he’s too important to us for that. It almost let Arsenal off the hook, especially as they completed the match without much by way of centre-backs. Humph.
Credit to many of Fulham’s players, not least Mark Schwarzer who pulled off one of those saves that makes everyone swear in disbelief, clawing out a late header when everything about the situation cried “GOAL!”. Dickson Etuhu has his knockers but produced a fine, rampaging display, and if he didn’t win everything he went for he certainly disrupted Arsenal’s ballplayers time and again. That’s why he’s a useful squad member, and I’m delighted to see him back and contributing.
All in all a good point, but it perhaps might have been three.