Although this has my name at the bottom it is Londons first post!!!
Gone from the starting line up were Eboue and Song and Bendtner the usual suspects; instead, Wenger picked a team that would have almost certainly have been at the top of everyone’s wish list,. Up front the team included Nasri, Vela, RVP and Arsahvin; it oozed creativity, or at least it did on paper.
There was an unhurried atmosphere outside the ground, no one seemed to feel the need to rush; after all, it was only Fulham. This same lack of urgency found its way into the ground, carried in by the supporters and onto the pitch by the players.
Everything seemed under control: Almunia not having let a goal in for 5 games was not under pressure; the defence of Sagna, Toure, Gallas and Clichy knew what they were supposed to do and duly obliged; Denilson and Diaby looked as though they were ready to continue in the same dominant way as they left of against Roma; all this, behind our new, all attacking, dream team.
Then the game kicked off and it became clear, very quickly, that Fulham had not read the script; within 5 minutes, Johnson had deftly turned Toure to put himself clear only to waste an opportunity that would have had goal hungry Arsenal supporters spitting feathers in frustration at the wastefulness.
The wheels of the Arsenal machine started to turn albeit slowly. The long awaited inter play between RVP, Nasri and Arshavin started to move through the gears. Arshavin played a sublime pass that completely carved open up the Fulham defence to RVP who came close but was not able to make count. Chances also fell to Vela and Nasri; it was only a question of time until a goal came or so we thought.
Diaby has started to draw comparisons with Vieira again, comparisons dismissed out of hand by many. Once past the rose tinted, nostalgic view of past glories, the main reason being that Vieira was a defensive midfielder where as Diaby is far more attacking midfield. This is, of course, true but things have changed.
The attacking side of Vieira’s game started poor but improved in the same way as the defensive side of Diaby’s game started poor but is improving; there are some of us that hope they meet in the middle. Compassions with Vieira are high praise indeed but as much as Diaby was showing of his new found tackling skills today the comparisons will only continue if he maintains the high standard of attacking play he showed against Roma – a game that seemed somewhere in Diaby’s distant past – as passes were going astray today with alarming regularity.
The second half got underway, reassuringly with customary 11 men rather than the more recent fashionable 9. A greater urgency was evident, I suspect that during the break somebody in the dressing room may have mentioned in passing that they better pull their finger out or they are likely to be playing unknown Hungarian teams in the UEFA cup quicker than they care to imagine. However this was said it seemed to have had the desired effect and this fan told himself that it was only a question of time before our exciting new attacking combination would have its way, but it didn’t last.
Vela was replaced by Bendtner whose more sober boot colour matched his more sober style of play: the ball was controlled first time, passes found their man. Eboue replaced Sagna which I for one thought was a good idea; as by that time, there was very little defending to do; so, as Eboue’s ability to cross is superior to Sagna’s I say, bring him on?
We huffed and we puffed but to no avail; Arshavin started to tire, I thought it was a bit optimistic to ask 90 minutes of him. With 15 minutes to go a forth nil nil draw was looming and if that wasn’t bad enough Fulham started to show boat, as they passed the ball round among themselves we couldn’t get the it for a good 5 minutes. The final whistle was received to a chorus of groans, some boos but mostly groans.
So with the shortage of scapegoats what are some people going to do? I suspect they will take the default position of blaming Wenger. Personally I find it hard to do so; he put the best team out that he could, a team that I am sure the majority wanted. The only thing we can do now is remind ourselves that Arsenal is the club we love and hope that our luck changes.
Player ratings.. (avenells no’s.. Londons comments)