Arsenal 3 Fulham 3: Giroud Brace Not Enough as Arsenal Capitulate
It’s really a trying period to be an Arsenal fan right now.
The relationship between Arsenal and its ever-loving, faithful fans can be likened to a man and his wife that shows off her flaws every week. Despite her nagging, countless issues and probably cheating, this man will always be there for his wife because he loves her and he’s bound to her by his wedding vows.
In this case, the fans represent the man while the bitch is …
Arsenal began the game with basically the same squad that dropped two points in Germany with the only exception being Francis Coquelin, that was drafted in for the suspended Jack Wilshere. Le Coq was directly involved in the opening goal when his good decision-making played a role in the midfielder slotting in a carefully-weighted for Theo Walcott but the cross was intercepted for a corner.
Walcott swung in the resulting corner and an unmarked Olivier Giroud jumped highest to power a header at goal. The finish was reminiscent of Didier Drogba’s powerful headed equalizer against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League final. Despite the fact that Mark Schwarzer put his hand on the ball, it wasn’t enough as it crept in to put the home side ahead.
Arsenal’s early goal put them on the driving seat and some intricate passing play allowed Santi Cazorla to tee up Lukas Podolski with a sumptuous pass down the left but the German latched his cross way off the mark. Moments later, Fulham’s Kieran Richardson pulled up short and was replaced by Alex Kacaniklic.
Cazorla was ubiquitous in the first half, and he did well to fashion a chance for Giroud that used his quick feet to flick the ball to Arteta. The Lego-haired Spaniard shimmied past his marker before drilling a cross that was clinically dispatched by Podolski. That was his first Premier League goal since his brilliant free kick against Southampton and it was good seeing him back on the score sheet as he has been on the spotlight for his fatigue, poor form and what have you.
Arsenal was in a similar situation in Germany and we all know how that panned out. The Gunners got too comfortable and were duly punished when an unmarked Dimitar Berbatov nodded in Bryan Ruiz’s in-swinger to reduce the deficit to one goal. Minutes later, there were grim faces all over the Emirates as Berbatov got in behind the defense to cross a ball that was nodded home by Kacaniklic, but in my honest opinion, the defense should have closed him down and Mannone should have done better.
Fulham almost got a third goal late in the first half when Ruiz was free on the left hand side before lofting a cross that evaded the Fulham attack but Per Mertesacker was on hand to avert the danger.
Arsenal began the second half with more urgency and almost had a goal for their efforts when Walcott dinked a cross into the box but it was beyond Giroud’s reach.
All season long, the Arsenal attack had failed to utilize the potent threat Giroud posed in the air, but after seeing his goal against Schalke, the Gunners probably practised a lot of crosses in training, because the Gunners tore a script from the Stoke Rugby FC manual in yesterday’s game.
Giroud executed a neat one-two with Walcott, and the winger went on a mazy run before blasting his shot over the bar. Arsene Wenger withdrew Coquelin for Aaron Ramsey to add some verve to the attack. However, a moment of madness arrived when the reliable Arteta lost the ball in the edge of the box before wrestling Ruiz to the ground, leaving Phil Dowd with no choice but to point to the spot.
The execution of the penalty was perfect as Mannone was rooted to the spot while the ball found the corner of the net.
From two goals up, the Gunners were 3 – 2 down against a side that have not won at the Emirates since the days Sylvester Stallone fought in the first instalment of Rocky Balboa. Fulham almost made it embarrassing when John Arne Riise was free on the left but Mannone blocked his venomous shot from his left boot.
Arsenal pushed hard for the all-important equalizer and almost got it when Giroud was clear on goal. Nonetheless, Giroud’s shot hit the post but he got a second bite of the cherry when Walcott chipped the ball delicately to his path, and the rest they say, was history.
At 3 – 3, the game opened up and it was glaring to know that the next goal was going to be the sucker punch.
Uncharacteristically, Bacary Sagna gave the ball away further up the pitch which inadvertently led to a Fulham counter attack but Mannone did well to save Ruiz’s shot. Cazorla followed Sagna’s footsteps in losing the ball and had Laurent Koscielny to thank, as the French defender made a last-ditch tackle to keep his team in the contest.
The moment of inevitability arrived when Podolski was substituted for the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that received a rousing ovation as he stepped into the pitch. Out of the blue, Giroud made a slalom run from midfield and fired a goal-bound shot that was saved by Schwarzer.
Giroud had the chance to grab his first Arsenal hat-trick when Sagna lofted a teasing cross for his compatriot but the unmarked forward missed his bearings and a great chance went begging.
Walcott appeared to be struggling late on and was replaced by Andrey Arshavin. Wenger shared after the game that it was a glute muscle problem and his involvement with the national team might be in jeopardy.
With basically the last attack of the game, Arshavin drifted in from the left before crossing a ball that met Sascha Riether’s arm, causing the ref to point to the spot. Two seasons ago, Phil Dowd got on my bad books when he awarded two fictitious penalties for Newcastle in that epic 4 – 4 draw but seeing him point to the spot on Arsenal’s favor made me scream so loud, it was probably heard on the Moon.
It’s one thing to get a late penalty and it’s another to convert it.
I can vividly remember a scenario in a World Cup qualifier a few years back in a game between Cameroon and Egypt were the Indomitable Lions won a penalty in the 95th minute. Pierre Wome missed it, much to the disgust of the irate Cameroonian fans that almost made an attempt on his life. The aftermath of the event caused him to retire from Cameroon.
Arteta was faced with the same situation and this happened,
Dowd rightly blew his whistle and two points went with the wind.
Mannone (6.5) made some decent saves but could have done better with the second goal. I’m glad that Szczesny is back.
Sagna (7.0) worked hard on the right and supported Walcott admirably in attack.
Vermaelen (6.5) was assured in defense but didn’t really provide any threat offensively.
Koscielny (7.0) made a series of last-ditch goal saving tackles in the course of the game.
Mertesacker (6.5) didn’t put half bad.
Arteta (6.0) will probably have nightmares after the game.
Coquelin (6.5) was industrious in midfield.
Cazorla (6.5) was a bit sloppy but he did well overall.
Walcott (8.5) supplied two assists and was a threat all game long.
Giroud (9.0) put up his best performance in an Arsenal shirt.
Podolski (7.5) scored a well-taken goal.
Ramsey (5.5) was peripheral and killed many attacks with his constant dwelling on the ball.
Ox (6.0) didn’t really stamp his authority on the game.
Arshavin (7.0) injected some life into Arsenal’s attack and won the penalty that would have been enough to grant his side all three points.
After another nerve-raking game were the Gunners failed to secure maximum points, Wenger was barraged with countless questions but I’ll share his quotes on Arteta’s missed penalty,
“We had a penalty to win but you cannot blame Arteta for that. It is part of the game. Who hasn’t missed a penalty? From there it finished 3-3 and the positives are that we can score goals now. The negatives are to concede three goals at home of course, and the chances we gave away, defensively it wasn’t an historical performance.”
The North London Derby comes up next at the Emirates and the memories of that enthralling 5 – 2 victory are still fresh in my head. I could really do with a win against that Andre Villas Boa Constrictor and his scum from White Shite Lane.
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The results will be announced on the 22nd of November, just four days before Gooner Daily’s second anniversary.
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