Arsenal 1-1 Fulham (the actual report this time)

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.

8 thoughts on “Arsenal 1-1 Fulham (the actual report this time)

  1. Respect as ever, Richard, but how you can put ‘Dembele and Ruiz’ together is beyond me… Dembele was outstanding again. An absolute magician on the ball. And has some combination of speed and strength to be able to play direct and beat people. And with defensive capability and stamina. He is without doubt destined for a ‘bigger’ club (let’s be realistic), the only issue how much Fulham can get for him. Obviously need to recoup the initial outlay plus some profit and ideally plus what it cost to bring Ruiz to the club. Guy’s a sham. Thinks he can dribble – cannot. Almost without fail Ruiz’s dribbles end with ‘fail’. Damien Duff maybe cannot dribble as directly as when younger but he is still a clever player and can contribute to moving the ball up the pitch and keeping possession. I cannot have Bryan Ruiz on my mind.

    1. I see your point to the extent that the’re totally different players, but I like Ruiz’s vision, and I thought he looked solid in the first half. After the break he looked completely winded and I can’t really fault Jol for taking him off, even though I am pretty dubious about Kasami.

      But yeah, magician is the only word for Dembele. Holy smokes. His main flaw seems to be, as you say, that he’s too much of a talent to stay with Fulham long-term (and he knows it).

      By the way, I agree with Rich’s original point about Zamora/Johnson.

  2. Another match against tough opposition where we start Etuhu and wind up doing better than expected. And his yellow card (or was it for dissent? it wasn’t clear on TV) was never a foul.

  3. Dembele has everything except PRODUCTION. We need PRODUCTION soon!

    To go with the skating analogy, maybe a hockey player would produce more than a figure skater???

    I also thing the “big clubs” won’t pay enough for him, and we’ll be watching him skate in May.

    1. Not sure quite how much production you want though. He keeps the ball, commits (and therefore pulls out of shape) defences, he isn’t scoring that many yet, but our top league scorer rarely gets into double figures so it’s not like he’s freakishly off the pace or something.

  4. I must admit, Rich, that I was surprised to see that your’s was the most negative evaluation of today’s match I’ve seen. I didn’t have much to quibble about, and agree that this was Riise’s best effort for us for 90 minutes.

    Evidently — and you wouldn’t have necessarily known this prior to your report [I certainly didn’t] — both Ruiz and Zamora signaled the bench saying they needed subbing.

  5. And we had another “clever” free kick which didn’t come off but could have done beautifully (not shown on MOTD). Neither as Zamora’s disallowed goal shown on MOTD.

    I liked our performance. Sad that we had to resort to hooting the ball up field during the onslaught in the last few minutes. Sad too that Kasami with an area full of players decided to dribble it into the corner to waste time rather than get the ball over (during injury time).

  6. Hi there; happy to share thougts here.
    From my point of view, Dembele was the heart of the team, but Murphy also played a great game, pressing always on the creation point of Arsenal, and Etuhu made a great comeback.
    But the black hole was Ruiz (not to mention kasami). In fact he has great technic skils, but he’s soo slow with and without the ball. Maybe he needs some physical training or whatever, but we miss a midfielder and we miss Dempsey too. He is so far from the goal to be dangerous. Maybe Sidwell plus etuhu and Murphy could make the creation needed, and let Dempsey free to move forward with BZ

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