Vito Mannone stold the show at Craven Cottage with a quite spectacular performance to deny a tough Fulham side any share of the spoils and ensured Arsenal returned home with a more than welcomed 3 points. His first action was a splendid one as he not only scooped Andy Johnson’s header away goal but stopped the rebound from Clint Dempsey with his chest albeit the second stop was a fortunate one but one which he could not have made had he not recover fast enough. How Almunia viewed this game from home will be interesting. Surely glad that his colleague has performed admirably in his absence but maybe in a tiny corner of his heart holds a little fear of competition for his spot.
On the whole this was a very poor Arsenal performance. They certainly did not merit the win but win they did. Although the press will probably have a field day attacking Arsenal’s lack of penetration and inability to massacre a Fulham side, it doesn’t change the fact that Arsenal went home happy with the 3 points. Coming into this game, the lads know that this is tough ground to get points and it showed. At the end of the day, we scored and they didn’t. If we win every game from now on with a solitary goal, I wouldn’t mind. Heck I’ll be happy as hell.
Perhaps the more significant aspect from yesterday’s game was the fact that Arsenal kept another clean sheet. That’s only the second time in this season’s Premiership. Together with Mannone, William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen held the fort brilliantly. The partnership has really blossomed. Vermaelen judges the flight of the ball really well and always seemed to win header from opponents that are not only taller but also bigger built than him. The leap the boy has is really incredible. Meanwhile Gallas has continued his post-captaincy form. Superb reading of the game and his speed has helped him recover from lost situations. His block on Zamora’s goal-bound shot was amazing to say the least.
The midfield again looked poor with only Song being able to come away with any credit from this game. Time and again Abou Diaby lost the ball in the center of the park and this allowed Fulham to counter. His dribbling at the edge of the Arsenal box towards the end of the game was not something which should be allowed to happen. That it happened when Fulham was in their purple patch of the game makes it even more scarier. Arsene Wenger’s patience with him must be wearing thin.
Cesc Fabregas has looked human after all in recent weeks. Since his injury break, he has consistently under-performed. Too often yesterday his passes went short and not finding the intended target. With next week’s home game to Birmingham, perhaps Wenger can afford to rest his captain in order for him to reinvigorate himself. It’s rare, but yesterday was the first time I wanted Fabregas to be subbed out together with Diaby. I’m sure that’s a new low for the young Spaniard.
So that the second out 8 wins that we must absolutely win to challenge for the title. It wasn’t pretty but the law do not decree that it has to be. Bring on Birmingham City.