Friday, December 9, 2011

Fulham Halt The Revival... Wigan Provide Little Resistance...

Premiership: Arsenal 1-1 Fulham
After Arsenal's hard-fought win at home to Dortmund, there was a hangover. The players looked knackered against Fulham; it was an all-too-familiar display of lethargy from thr home side at the Emirates. The game was played at the pace of a pre-season friendly, and the Gunners missed the injection of speed and penetration that Gervinho has already provided in his short time at the club. Arshavin, though he did net a neat but offside goal, was typically ineffective in general.

Fulham attacked in fits and starts, as the away side usually does at the Emirates, and although Arsenal's defence has seen a marked improvement in recent weeks, the opening goal here was largely the result of one of the sporadic bouts of ineptitude that has blighted the team in recent years. After Arsenal were caught trying to be too clever playing the ball out from defence, Murphy had time to size up a typically canny diagonal pass into the box for the onrushing Riise. The Norwegian's touch ran away somewhat, but a panicky Vermaelen miscued his clearance and the ball trickled past Szczesny and into the corner.

That the comical opener came soon after Van Persie had been denied by a desperate goal line clearance seemed to suggest that this was not to be Arsenal's day. But credit to Vermaelen, he responded to his mistake in characteristically buccaneering fashion, storming up the pitch in open play to nod in Theo Walcott's superb cross. In the late stages after the equaliser, Arsenal had pressure but no real chances, and Fulham held out for a draw that they deserved after a compact and solid performance.

Carling Cup: Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City
The Carling Cup game against City was notable mostly for the return of Samir Nasri, who had a subdued game in front of his hostile former admirers. Arsenal's mix of youngsters and squad players gave a good account of themselves, as they usually do. City's back up players failed to gel except in the moment that decided the game. A lightning break saw the ball shuttled from one end to another, Dzeko to Johnson to Aguero, and the Argentine slotted clinically past the exposed Fabianski. Arsenal had had a lot of possession, and Oxelade-Chamberlain looked particularly dangerous, but City hd the class and the cutting edge to engineer the killer moment in a tight match.

Premiership: Wigan 0-4 Arsenal
A welcome return to winning ways was found at Wigan, though in truth they offered little by way of tough opposition. There was an early scare in which Santos deflected a point blank shot wide, but Arsenal slowly took control. Still, the first two goals were the epitome of soft. Arteta's shot was well struck and moved a little, but still should have required only a routine save from Al-Habsi. Instead it found a way through him and into the net. Then Vermaelen pounced with a well-aimed header from a corner, but one that would not have been so telling had Wigan positioned a man on that post.

Of course, Arsenal have disturbing recent memories of leads thrown away at the JJB and elsewhere, and so there was no room for complacency. The game could not be considered safe until a patient move led to a beautiful 1-2 between Van Persie and Song. A dummy from the Dutchman left the wretched Caldwell sliding into the middle of next week, and though his right-foted effort was parried by the keeper, Gervinho was there to pick up the pieces.

Walcott squared unselfishly to Van Persie for number 4, and Arsenal thus continued their impressive away form of recent weeks.

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