Category Archives: Fulham

Arsenal v. Fulham: Podolski’s Complaint

Ahead of Fulham’s visit to the Emirates Saturday, it’s high time that we decide on who’s most likely to take this match my the scruff and make damn-well sure that all three points stay just where they bloody well belong—right here at the Emirates. All three. Fulham’s last two trips have seen them snatch a point. Fulham. As in “we’re proud to be mid-table, thrilled to take on aging, past-their-prime Spuds” Fulham.

The Hammer of Mjölnir. It does make evening strolls a bit dicey.

Two years ago, we went from a Vermaelen own-goal to a Vermaelen equalizer to salvage a precious point. Last year, it was a Keystone Kops affair, a 3-3 draw that could have and perhaps should have ended 4-3 had Arteta done better with a last-minute penalty-kick. These offer two different facets of a multi-faceted problem over the previous several seasons when our own weaknesses, just as much if not more than our opponents’ strengths, have been our own undoing. At various points, we have been among the most generous of teams when it came to errors leading to an opponent’s goal, and one of the areas in which we’ve shown the most improvement, after all, has been in reducing such errors.

Sadly, Vermaelen and Arteta, mares of those previous matches (if only in those key moments), won’t be available on Saturday in order to avenge themselves on the Cottagers. I would love nothing more than to call for each man to bag a brace, each assisting the other, while at the other end turning away any attack Berbatov & Co, LLC could muster on our way to a 4-0 win. It’s not to be, not tomorrow at least. So it goes. In their stead, then, someone else will have to step up, but who? Will it be Podolski, scorer or two goals in the 3-1 win at Fulham back in September before his injury? After all, he leads the current squad in goals against Fulham (three goals, three appearances). However, he’s been so thoroughly marginalized even after his return that he can barely seem to find any time on the pitch, and the rumors around other left-wing targets, be they Draxler or Ntep or others, suggest that he’s running out of time to prove himself.

However, there’s no guarantee that he’ll even appear, much less start. Then again, with Cazorla also struggling to rediscover the form that made him Arsenal’s Player of the Year, and with his hiccup leading to Aston Villa’s goal on Monday, it might be time to wield once again the Hammer of Mjölnir—that lethal left-foot of Podolski, unleashing concussive thunderbolts at goalies and woodwork alike, while Poldi exclaims, exultantly “AHA! to be a center-forward, a center-forwardand nothing more!”

After all, perhaps alone among the midfielders, Poldi does not flit or dance or pirouette on the ball; that is not his game, no. Give him the ball and let him turn and shoot. Play him centrally with Cazorla and Gnabry flanking him and with Özil behind him, and let him pummel the Cottagers into submission, hammering them with shot after thunderous shot. They, as well as the woodwork and the net it holds up, will succumb, and we will have back the Poldi we have come to know and love, and he will deliver. Therefore, with these ramblings in mind, I’m amending my own match preview, in which I called on Wilshere to be anointed as Man of the Match. Please, Arsène, play Podolski through the middle, and let him lay waste to the Cottagers’ defense.

Fulham Preview: Walcott will lay waste

Give some credit to Laurent Koscielny, who timed his only injury for the entire season to coincide with his only red-card suspension of the entire season. We go into Saturday’s match with Fulham without the squad’s best defender, but at least he’s not missing two

separate games. There’s not much else to do but to continue playing Sagna at the center-back with Jenkinson on the right. Ironic that we’ve floated the idea of moving Sagna to the center as a strategic move and are now all but forced to do so, such is the thinness of our squad. Rumors continue to float around Flamini returning. Why not? He’s French, he’s free, and can offer a bit of cover in the midfield and defense when needed. This would be about as exciting as this morning’s breakfast when I saw that I had poured just the right amount of milk over my cereal. So it goes.

As we look to Fulham, there’s some concern that they beat Sunderland. Begging pardon, but they had only one shot on goal all day and it managed to go in. True, that’s markedly better than taking 20 shots without scoring, but I’m hardly impressed. Yes, they feature Darren Bent, who’s managed to score on us a number of times, but the same was true of Dirk Kuyt, and we handled him well enough on Wednesday. In other words, this still counts as a very winnable game—even if the necessity of winning it has grown sharply after losing to Villa last weekend. All of our key rivals won their openers, of course.

However, I see Wednesday’s win as a galvanizer. Whether through complacency, low confidence, or bad luck (read: refereeing bad enough to see a man lose his job), we got off on the wrong foot Saturday. Wednesday’s win is a truer reflection of what we can do, and I look to us to carry that momentum into Saturday’s match. In particular, Theo Walcott looks ready to seize his moment, having delivered some tidy runs and sharp passing but yet to score since his goal against Man City two weeks ago. Nonetheless, he’s finding other ways to contribute, most notably his pass to Gibbs to open the scoring against Fener. A younger, more impetuous Walcott might have put a shot on goal despite the tight angle. I’m not saying those days are done and gone, but it suggests a stronger awareness on his part. His timing and run to receive Ramsey’s pass was similarly astute. He’s knocked on the door himself a few times and might have found the back of the net against Fener had he not been fouled as he collected the ball (leading to Giroud’s taking the penalty-kick).

With Kieran Richardson out, Fulham will send out Matt Briggs, who’s been loaned out to various Championship clubs (Peterborough, Bristol City, and Watford) over the last three years and has managed only 16 appearances in those three years. His lack of experience in the Prem (12 appearances over eight seasons) should have Walcott salivating at the prospect of running him ragged. With Stekelenburg also out, we’ll see journeyman David Stockdale in the net, who has 19 Prem appearances and 100-something in so many other leagues that I can’t even list them here. Long story short, though: Walcott could have a field day. We’ll see. I’m looking to Walcott to get a goal and an assist as we dominate possession but show much-better finishing.

We showed much greater purpose and determination against Fener in a match we knew we had to have. Going into this match, we know we are already in must-win mode and simply have to take maximum points for every inferior team we face. Fulham have made some decent additions, but without sounding too arrogant, they are still clearly inferior to us. Let’s put it way early, by all means.

Arsenal will appeal Giroud’s red card

According to the official team site, the club is set to lodge an appeal against Giroud’s red card in the closing minutes of Saturday’s match with Fulham. The article is one sentence long and states that the FA will make its decision on Tuesday afternoon. I assume this is London time, so this American writer will have to wake up a bit early to catch the news. Here’s the statement from

Arsenal Football Club have lodged an appeal to the Football Association for the wrongful dismissal of Olivier Giroud during the Premier League match against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
An FA regulatory commission will hear the claim and make a verdict on Tuesday afternoon.

Sorry it’s so repetitive so far. More to come below the fold.

As I stated in my previous post, anyone who cheers his suspension as some kind of addition by subtraction is a bit nuts. He’s not Robin Van Persie even if he was hired to fill the man’s boots. He’s been a decent if maddeningly inconsistent and profligate striker, but he’s the only one on the squad who can play the role that he plays. It’s not his fault that he’s the only one who can effectively hold up play. This is simply not a strength for Walcott, Gervinho, or Podolski. He does seem to make others around him better through his willingness to create chances for others by creating that second-ball off a cross or corner or making a pass in the box for an uncoming team-mate, such as Podolski’s strike against Norwich. In fact, if just a small handful of his passes in the box had been converted, we might be lauding him for leading the team in assists. After all, across all competitions, we’ve won 21, drawn 9, and lost 11 with him in the starting line-up. Not bad.

The red card was harsh, in my opinion, as Giroud was making a play on the ball and had his foot on the ball at the time of the foul. A biased fan might even argue that it was the defender’s fault for running into Giroud. Check the video: Giroud’s foot rolls over the ball and it appears that the defender clips Giroud’s heel. I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating, either.

Contrast that against Sidwell’s red card in which he went in cleats up and got nothing but leg. It’s possible that Giroud’s red was issued in part as a sop to the home crowd, similar, now that I think about it, to Kompany’s red card against us in January that “evened out” Koscielny’s red in the 10th minute of that match. Kompany’s was overturned on appeal, and that challenge was far worse in appearance and intent than Giroud’s. Kompany, after all, managed to poke the ball but upended Wilshere in a way that looked awful at the time but not quite so bad on replay.

I’d say that Giroud has a fair-to-good chance of having this one overturned, and I sincerely hope he’s available for Sunday’s visit from Man U. How great would it be to see him return to the line-up and score one or two for us with Van Persie there watching?

Arsenal 1-0 Fulham: Fouls tell the story

Steve Sidwell might feel aggrieved after receiving his second red-card in as many appearances, but any time a defender leaves his feet to make a tackle, he leaves himself open to any number of outcomes, ranging from bad to worse. Even if he does make a legitimate tackle, he’s likely to upend  his opponent, risking injury, a booking, or both

In Sidwell’s case, the fact that he went into Arteta rather than from the same direction made his tackle look Shawcrossian. His cleats caught Arteta squarely on the ankle just after the Spaniard planted his foota split-second earlier would have been enough to see something truly ugly. As it went, he got none of the ball and all of the ankle, and he had the nerve to act like he had been injured. I know that footballers are known for histrionics, but that was a bit much, akin to a boxer holding his hand after a punch. At a time when we already had about 90% possession, his sending off seemed to spell Fulham’s doom. Instead, it was very nearly Berbatov who put Fulham ahead shortly after but for a decent save from Szczęsny. More on Szczęsny in moment.

Indeed, it seemed like Fulham responded to the red with a jolt of adrenaline and desperation, playing with more urgency and threatening more than they had at full strength. I was throwing my hands up in frustrationit seemed 10-man Fulham had taken as many shots as us, and they certainly had more cornersand Walcott has setting up to waste yet another spot-kick from outside the box. Instead, he lofted a curling cross to the back-post that Koscielny headed back across the goal, and Mertesacker nodded it home. He may have even “stolen” a goal from Kos as it might have gone in on its own, not that he seemed to mind.

Aside from that cross, Walcott was largely ineffectual and I was more than happy to see make way for Podolski in the 70th minute. It’s a harsh call to make, but you’d expect him to have made more of a mark on the game, especially against a short-handed side. Say what you will about Cazorla’s influence on our attack on the left; Arteta, playing from the right, had 100 touches by the time Walcott came off, so there were plenty of opportunities to move up the right flank as well.

More troublingly, Szczęsny did terribly on a set-piece from just outside the 18 after a rash tackle from Ramsey, coughing up a rebound that led to a goal cancelled by an offsides call. He moved nicely to make the save, but offering up a deflection at a time when he has to know other attackers are crashing in was sloppy keeping. I’ll always be first in line to defend a keeper, but this one makes it hard for me to do so with much conviction. The play left me hoping that Fabianski’s rib heals sooner rather than later, I’ll say that much.

At the other end of the pitch, my MOTM prediction backfired for Olivier Giroud. He very nearly scored in the 34th minute, hitting a tightly angled shot that glanced off the far post. He put it in just about the only spot it could be in order to get past the keeper; there just wasn’t enough space left to put the ball in. Aside from that, he left us with little else to reminisce about. Unfortunately, he’ll miss three games after he got sent off after a clumsy challenge that saw his foot roll over the top of the ball and into an uncoming defender’s leg. A bit harsh, in my opinion, certainly not equal to Sidwell’s red. However, it’s done, and this throws down a gauntlet that I hope someone can pick it up, whether it’s Walcott, Podolski, or Gervinho. We’re going to need goals from someone, simple as that.

Back to our back line, I’m awarding a shared MOTM to Mertesacker and Koscielny. Not only did they combine to put us ahead (must…resist.. pun…on…headers…), they held Berbatov off and anchored another solid defensive performance, allowing us to keep a second clean sheet in as many matches. Despite my earlier tetching about Szczęsny, he did look bright and quick coming off his line to snuff out Fulham’s chances as our attempts at offside-traps frequently faltered. Without those two in front of him, however, he might have had much more to put up with on the day.

At the end of the day, we escaped with three points that were far tougher to earn than they should have been. It would have been nice to see us put the game away far more quickly after Sidwell’s sending-off. We just couldn’t find that second goal that would have allowed us to relax and play keep away. Still, three points is three points no matter how you slice it. We’ll sit in third place for a while as we await the results of Spurs-City and Liverpool-Chelsea tomorrow.

Arsenal vs. Fulham: Starting XI Prediction

We have a tricky one coming up, no doubt about it, but it’s one from which we absolutely must take all three. With that in mind, we have to take it to the Cottagers early and often. We have a full eight days after this one to prepare for Man U. I therefore want to see an assertive side named, one that will put

Fulham back on its heels. That demands some speed, clinical shooting, and aggressiveness.

I’m therefore hoping to see Podolski start this time out to see if he and Giroud can continue their symbiosis and for Oxlade-Chamberlain to come on in place of the heretofore ineffectual Walcott (who should perhaps come in at around 60′ to see what he can do). Shift Cazorla to a more central role to take advantage of his two-footedness and to see if he can distribute down that right side a little more. With Cazorla starting on the left but tending to drift to a more central role, it might be interesting to see what happens with him starting in that more central role with the option to distribute to either side.

Behind him, the rock-solid tandem of Arteta and Ramsey look set to continue their friendly competition to see who can have the most touches, the highest passing accuracy, and the most tackles. They may not be the most exhilarating of players, prone to staid consistency rather than swash-buckling forays, but the attacking midfielders can more than make up for that.

The backline might see a few changes with Monreal and Jenkinson coming on to spell for Gibbs and Sagna, and Koscielny has earned a rest after having played a full 90′ in our last five matches. As long as they mind Berbatov, we should be fine.

Of course Wojciech Szczęsny will be between the sticks, if only because Fabianski’s rib injury continues to plague him.

In my previous post, I boldly dubbed Giroud the MOTM as I hope he’ll replicate his performance against Fulham the first time ’round. This might be an away-game, but it’s ours to win.  Fulham has little to play for other than pride, and ever since Clint Dempsey left, I harbor no sympathy or affection for them. Come on, you Gunners!