A lethargic first half set the tone for a disappointing display that cost us two points in the short term and who knows what in the long term.
To say the team looked jaded is an understatement. There was no zip or tempo to our game and a comfortable Fulham rebuffed our early advances with relative ease. We only created one good opportunity in the first 45 minutes, when Walcott fed Ramsey after an excellent surging run, but the Welshman fired well over.
It wasn’t just tiredness though — the team seemed content to play with little urgency, safe in the knowledge that their vastly superior technique would eventually win the game against little Fulham.
It’s not the first time we’ve taken to the pitch with the wrong attitude and it’s not the first time I’ve blogged about it. I’d hoped our new found mental toughness would ensure we put in the required effort against a so-called lesser team like Fulham, but alas, the boys took too long to wake up and the three points had gone.
In an effort to freshen things up from Wednesday, Wenger had replaced Gervinho with Arshavin and Koscielny with Djourou. The latter played well, but after a bright five minutes Arshavin just didn’t want to know. It has got to the stage where he should only be used as an impact sub against tiring legs because he doesn’t have the desire to play a full 90 minutes.
Someone who did show desire and impressed me all game was Dembele. He was a constant danger alongside Zamora as Martin Jol boldly played two up front and Fulham gave as good as they got in the first half. I watched them batter Spurs a few weeks ago but somehow they lost that game 3-1 as Lady Luck stayed away. Well, she made up for it by parking herself in the Fulham dugout for the second half as the visitors enjoyed the rub of the green during two pivotal moments.
The first came on the hour mark when van Persie turned neatly in the box and fired a low shot past Schwarzer, who was well beaten. It looked a certain goal, but Baird was running back to cover and the ball hit him and bounced away for a corner. If that had gone in I’m sure we’d have gone on to dominate the rest of the game as we did against Dortmund.
Five minutes later Riise chested down a long pass into the area but lost control of the ball. Vermaelen got there first but miscued his clearance and the ball trickled agonisingly past Szczesny and into the net. Jol nodded a quick thank you to Ms Luck and Arsenal were staring down the barrel of an embarrassing home defeat.
That’s when we finally woke up and started playing with some urgency. Gervinho and Diaby came on and both had an impact as we at long last raised our game and closed Fulham with real purpose when they had possession. Suddenly we really wanted it and the chances began to come. Unfortunately, Schwarzer was in fine form and denied Djourou brilliantly before Vermaelen atoned for his error by heading the equaliser from Walcott’s good cross.
In the remaining eight minutes plus injury time we took plenty of potshots but Schwarzer was equal to them all and Fulham took a deserved point back to the cottage.
So a disappointing end to a great week as we failed to take advantage of teams above us playing each other. I’m frustrated because the excellence of beating Chelsea away is diluted by drawing at home with Fulham. We really need to be up for every game from the start, not wait until we’ve had our halftime cuppa.
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