Fulham 2-1 Arsenal

Yes!

One of those epic nights by the Thames, an early fluke from the opposition setting up game-long persuit of justice.

That justice came with a late 1-2 from Sidwell and, thrillingly, Zamora, both goals coming after right-back Djourou had been belatedly dismissed. This red card changed the dynamic: we were looking at an unfortunate defeat until then.

Arsenal’s started well and showed some nice composure, but clearly lacked Manchester United’s extra gear.  They’re further off challenging than I’d expected them to be, and their goal came when a cross deflected onto Koscielny’s head. It could have gone anywhere but we found ourselves a goal down.

Then came the game’s key moment: Arsenal sensed a second but were denied by some expert work from David Stockdale, a double save miraculously keeping the ball out via the post. Had that gone in we’d have been in all kinds of trouble, but Stockdale’s reflexes and positioning were excellent and we lived on.

The half ended with Fulham pushing on but not really progressing. In the stands we felt that Arsenal were there to be beaten, but also that our play would have to improve to make this happen.

And improve we did. Dempsey, increasingly agitated with the world (he remonstrated with Murphy and Zamora at half-time, Frei later on, and doubtlessly several others out of sight), drove on relentlessly; Dembele showed that he’s more than capable of dominating the top teams, too; Zamora – back in the team! – gave our attack a focal point we’d clearly missed in recent times.  I have my doubts about the Murphy-Sidwell partnership – good players, of course, but they seem somehow not to play together – and really it was Murphy’s removal for Kerim Frei that gave us the extra impetus we needed. Frei didn’t have a lot of luck with his running, but the very fact that he was prepared to have a go, and that Arsenal knew he’d do this, was enough to open up opportunities.  It became hard for Arsenal to know who to defend, Dempsey, Ruiz and Dembele were floating all over the place, but in a good way, Riise (having another fine game, incidentally) and Kelly pushed up on the flanks, and all of a sudden we seemed to be absolutely storming the match.

He scores when he wants, he scores when he waaaants, Robin van Persie, he scores when he wants

Ha. Not today, chumps.

Anyway.  Forward the players marched.  Senderos headed just wide, Dempsey just missed. Was it going to be our day? Djourou got lucky with a body check on the touchline, surely a second yellow, but the ref let that go.  Referees are human though and soon enough Djourou offended again, this time on the edge of the box.  Out came the red (and Steve Kelly took the free-kick!) and on went the Whites.

Ruiz sent a corner over and Senderos headed back across goal, from where Sidwell headed in! Pandemonium!

Then the winner, a really weird goal from Zamora.  Kelly’s cross, bad clearance, Zamora with a volley on the drop, just inside the post!  Those of us who had nipped out to beat the rush may have regretted our decision deeply, but this is why the club provides screens on the way out of the ground.  Phew.

As I sit here digesting my post match jam sandwich (plum) I feel remarkably happy. Happy for the players, the manager, the fans, and for everyone who watched a thrilling game of football.  Arsenal are a pleasing enough side but many of their fans have become insufferable (you can always spot the bad fans because they sing about our ground being shit).  I wouldn’t want Piers Morgan to tarnish all the good Arsenal fans any more than I want Michael Jackson to represent Fulham, but there we are.  It was a particularly satisfying win.

27 thoughts on “Fulham 2-1 Arsenal

  1. Not mentioned in your write up but Senderos gave the centre back performance of his life – he was exceptional. Riise as you mentioned had a great game too. Zamora played like the Zamora of old and dunno if you saw the hug between him and Jol at the end of the game but seems like whatever differences there were have been resolved.

  2. They’ve conceded 6 points on late goals (squandering potential wins against Norwich and Arsenal and potential draws against Stoke and Everton). Now they’ve won 6 points on late goals, though, with 3 today, 2 in the win against Liverpool and 1 in the draw against Man City. That doesn’t put them back in Europe, but at least everything has evened out in the Premiership.

  3. Yes, it’s nice to be on the giving end of one of the last-minute defeats. I thought the whole team put in a good shift today, with the possible exception (as much as I respect him) of Murphy, who go caught in possession and let a few passes go stray, one of which started the move that resulted in Arsenal’s goal. Because I live in LA, only get to 2-4 matches at the Cottage per year, and this is one I would have given anything to be at. Even more than the 6-0 win over QPR, the way in which the lads battled back showed great character and, more than anything, showed the Jol’s vision is starting to come together. Important point that I hope Jol was noticing is that the team just play better when they have Bobby to play balls into up front. That gives Dembele, Ruiz, and Dempsey space to be creative in front of the opposition defense. I also think your point about Frei pushing back the defense because they know he’s willing to run at them is spot-on.

    I really do think we’re seeing the emergence of the next Fulham squad, with Ruiz getting used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League (mostly..he got muscled off the ball a handful of times today), Dembele coming into his own, Frei picking up the mantle of pacey wide player from Duff, and Stockdale emerging as a top class keeper. While a win flattered our side a bit, in the second half I though we matched Arsenal and better even before the red card. All in, some real reasons for optimism out of the festive season (with the exception of the Man Utd. result). A win v Arsenal and an away tie v. Chelsea suggests that, in the long run, we have a team worthy of the Premier League and probably a top-half finish.

    1. You guys don’t have FSC and FSC+ in LA? We have both on TWC in NYC, and I think I’ve missed maybe one FFC Premier League match all season (thanks in large part to the convenience of DVR, as the FFC matches are often first aired at random afternoon and evening times — no complaints, though).

      Hope you get your FSC’s soon.

      1. Oh no, I watch pretty much every match on FSC/FSC+ whilst I’m at home, but I travel to the UK 2-3X/year, so I get to see lads in real life 2-4 times/year. I actually was there for the 4-1 over Wisla and the 3-1 defeat to Spurs in November (and got to take the Cottage tour, as well…just brilliant.)

  4. What is it with Arsene Wenger? He is intelligent, articulate and his teams play good football, but he annoys the hell out of me with his refusal to accept that any of his players ever commit a foul or deserve a yellow card. In his post match interview there was no acknowledgement that Fulham were the better team throughout the second half, just a tight lipped rant about the referee robbing them of the game.

    The longer the second half went on, the more we tightened our grip. I feared that our momentum might be lost when Murphy went off, but after a minute or two of Arsenal possession, normal service was resumed. In truth we should have scored before the sending off, but when we finally did I was yelling for us to go for the jugular, not try and sit on the draw. Thank goodness we did.

    Martin Jol has spoken often enough about our need to capitalise when we are on top and put chances away. This is still a weakness, although Ruiz and Dembele continue to improve, Dempsey seems to be playing as well as ever and Zamora looked more like the centre forward we know and love. Frei impressed again and no doubt a few more games will help Sidwell get fully tuned up.

  5. Seconding the praise for Senderos and JAR – both outstanding. Also to Stephen Kelly for doing the simple thing well, like the cross into the danger area which led to the 2nd goal. Frei looks a talent, but his crossing was fairly woeful – hope this is not an enduring flaw in his game, as Dembele’s shooting (he was excellent otherwise) appears to be.

  6. How great was this? Match of the season so far.

    I spent halftime composing a post in my head along the lines of, oh well, we lost, but this was actually a pretty good effort — I had thought the first half was solid, except for Ruiz losing a couple dumb balls and Koscielny appearing completely unmarked. But the lo and behold the second half was fairly dominant, even before going up a man.

    A few more specific thoughts:
    – I take back a lot of the mean things I have been privately thinking about Zamora this season. I’ve been watching appreciatively as the chemistry between Dembele, Dempsey, and Ruiz has developed over the last month+, but I think the addition of Zamora to this trio has real value.
    – Much-maligned JARhead Riise had a good game and basically dominated Wolcott when Fulham was attacking. There was a moment in the second half when he knocked Theo out of bounds off the ball that made me laugh out loud.
    – I thought Fulham won the aerial battle, which is not something I expect. Unfortunately, Hangeland and Senderos pushed two corners well over the bar, in addition to various nearer misses later on. But I’m heartened to see that not only were we winning the headers in those spots, but also more possession-oriented challenges later on. (Side note: how high did Dempsey get?!? That would have been a spectacular goal.)
    – Arsenal’s speed terrifies me on the counter, but once they yanked Wolcott and Gervinho (who scares me as an individual, despite his blowing about 4 chances today), their attack was largely neutralized. RvP was a non-factor for reasons which I’m not smart enough about the game to understand, but I like to think were a result of good defensive play.
    – Stockdale++. Like him.

    1. Agree with the comment about Gervinho – I thought he was Arsenal’s most threatening player by miles yesterday. Walcott has phenomenal speed but did nothing with it on this occasion; when he’s off his game, he’s Wayne Routledge.

  7. Agree with all the comments – great win. I am a fan of Martin Jol and back him despite a few negatives this season. His task is to have the team evolving with younger players whilst looking for a top ten finish (which I believe is very do-able.) Senderos & Riise have done well in the past few games and I like Kelly though admit maybe he is not always the full monty not quite doing enough to grasp the spot of number 1 choice right back. Stockdale is solid and if he keeps playing this well will make Schwarzer have to force his way back into contention. Overall I think we are looking pretty good at the back and midfield. I’d love to keep BZ, AJ I like but I think if we can get $2 million or so we should do so. Duff has been a great servant but along with Davies will struggle to get into the starting line up from now on. So – I’d be OK with a striker to replace AJ this transfer window. Hopefully Etuhu, Sidwell, Kasami,Gecov, Hughes & Baird are OK to play their part as cover and brought into games as tactically required. Would love to keep Davies too and see him fully fit and fighting for a place. So the transfer window is upon us – the most overused phrases that we will read in the next few weeks will be : “want-away”, “swoop” & “test x’s resolve”

  8. In the last 10 matches we’ve acquired 13 of 30 points:

    3W (Liverpool, Bolton, Arsenal)
    4D (@Sunderland, @Chelsea, @Norwich, @Arsenal)
    3L (Spurs, United, @Swansea)

    Only the loss to Spurs was harsh. Two of the four draws should have been wins. None of the wins were flukes but hard-fought and just.

    Hmmmm

  9. Awesome win!

    Frei looks like the fastest player on the team since I’ve been following the team (yeah, I’m a Dempsey import), but man if he isn’t painfully right-footed?

    Also, it seemed like we did a lot less hoofing the ball upfield today. Maybe Jol is consulting the same chalkboards as you Rich!

  10. Fantastic game, great win. Definitely think Stockdale played the ball out more rather than hoofing it.

    Anyone else think that besides the goal Sidwell didn’t do much? Until the goal I was commenting to my mate that I just didn’t see what he was adding to the team last night, but obviously the goal was huge. (I’m undoubtedly being a bit picky here, as it was a great team performance.)

    1. I’m no coach, but when Sidwell gets forward there is less of a disconnect between our predominantly attacking quartet and our predominantly defending 6. In my very limited understanding, 4231 and its approximations do very poorly when there is a division of labour (defending/6 and attacking/4).

      Speaking of which – rich, is there a book on coaching in football you’d recommend? (for Kindle, ideally!) I’d like to improve my understanding of the game.

      1. I thought Sidwell did a good job of collecting loose balls and providing them to Dembele/Dempsey/Ruiz/Frei in the Arsenal half; I’ll have to look at the chalkboards and see if they bear this out once they’re available.

        1. One thing that Sidwell is excellent at is getting into the box when we attack. He’s a true box-to-box player and is much more dangerous than Etuhu in the attack. There’s nothing more difficult for a defense to mark than late runs into the box and Sidewell does this very well.

          I thought that he played great yesterday.

  11. YOU LEFT BEFORE THE END TO BEAT THE RUSH???
    SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!
    THERE ARE VERY FEW THINGS MORE IRRITATING THAN HAVING NUMPTIES LEAVING BEFORE THE END AND BLOCKING YOUR VIEW AS THEY DO SO

    1. bugger off. My gf has been off on maternity leave for 14 months and started work again today, so I felt bad about going in the first place, especially as our son hasn’t been well and she wasn’t feeling on top of the world either. Getting out of the Riverside stand can take ages so I thought I’d beat the queue and run for the bus, which I did.

  12. Great end to the festive holidays. Nearly knocked myself out in the celebrations. At only a goal down we always had the chance to pull the rug out from under them. Lots of people near me in H2 were getting really annoyed when we were playing keep ball at the beginning of 2nd half as opposed to trying for the killer pass – daft being that we barely touched the ball for the 1st 35 minutes.

    Great team performance, everyone pitching in and giving it a good rattle. What a start to 2012,

    Rich – I hope you will consider staying to full-time next time bud :) “Football, bloody hell”

  13. Sidwell converted me into a pretty big fan last spring and I’m glad to see him getting some more playing time–and making the most of it.

    As others have noted, Riise had a stormer of a game and I think he deserves a little more credit than he’s been getting. Not that he’s been taking much criticism, but he seems like he’s been on the side for years now. I sometimes forget what an adventure left back was the past couple of seasons. Riise has shored that hole up and then some.

    I was pretty skeptical of breaking up the Hughes/Hangeland partnership, but Jol seems to know what he’s doing. Senderos is growing on me. The Twin Towers are incredibly menacing back there in front of Stockdale, who, it should be mentioned, is defending like he’s got as many arms as Vishnu.

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