Well, at least it wasn’t another defeat. I can’t remember the last time we lost 3 on the trot. Thankfully, it didn’t happen yesterday. This wasn’t the best of games in truth and the commentators were right in suggesting that the game had a end of season feel to it, a friendly, if you like.
Arsene Wenger made several changes for this last fixture with Abou Diaby, Johan Djourou, Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh coming in for Alex Song, Sebastien Squillaci, Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott respectively. That signalled a change of formation from the frequently used 4-3-3 to the more conventional and past Wenger favourite of 4-4-2. Jack Wilshere partnered Diaby in the centre of midfield with Aaron Ramsey being pushed out right and Chamakh providing the focal point for Robin Van Persie to aim for.
I do not understand Ramsey’s position. To me, it felt like another Nicklas Bendtner situation. It certainly did not help our cause on the attacking front as Ramsey is not a speedster nor an incredible trickster on the ball. He kept coming in-field and that congested most of our play in the centre of the park. However, what he did offer was protection to the right side of defence and Bacary Sagna was rarely left outnumbered.
Having look at the line-up from the start, I was thinking that more balls will be pumped into the box for Chamakh to attack but neither Ramsey nor Samir Nasri took up this option. When we see Chamakh coming deep or wide to retrieve the ball and get involve with our build-up play, then it makes no sense to switch to a 4-4-2 formation.
Carelessness when on the ball caused us to concede the first goal to Fulham. Despite the statistics showing that our pass completion is higher than compared to when we beat Manchester United at home, we were quite awful in possession. Even some of the short interchanges between Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen were either too short or far too strong.
Fulham had been toying with our defensive line from the start of the match and already had a couple of offside calls that were rightly on their side and took this route to score the opener. Ex-Gunner, Steve Sidwell eventually scored through the legs of Djourou and Wojciech Szczesny. Our defensive line was almost on the halfway line and didn’t learn from the first couple of calls that didn’t come, it was ludicrous.
Yet, we pegged Fulham back to one apiece within 3 minutes. A step up in the quality and we duly scored the first leveller. Diaby doing what he does best, his quick feet and skill took him past a couple of opposition and played a one-two before delivering a first time through pass to RvP. The most in-form striker in the league killed the ball with his first touch and put it past Mark Schwarzer with his second. This was a brilliant goal for us, taking literally seconds from being in the middle of our own half to the ball ending up in the back of the net. We used to do things like this quite often, I missed those days.
Disappointingly, we did not seem to have the desire nor the energy to go and get the winner. By half time, the news probably filtered to the team that Manchester City were in the lead against Bolton and not even a win at Fulham would push us back into 3rd spot. And that is exactly how we played out the rest of the 45 minutes. Disinterested and minds elsewhere, therefore it was no surprise when Fulham took the lead again.
This time, Jonathan Greening was allowed to run at the byline before crossing for Bobby Zamora to head home from close range. First off, we had two players covering Greening but still allowed him the space to conjure a cross. Secondly, Vermaelen allowed Zamora to get ahead of him. And thirdly, the cross was near enough for the keeper to deal with but Szczesny made no attempt to come and gather it. In a nutshell, poor defensive play all around.
Luckily, we did not manage to find the second leveller, so as to not end the season in total negativity. Vermaelen’s desperate long pass found Walcott streaming on the right and the Englishman planted another one of his trademark goals, right into the bottom corner. Schwarzer had a touch but the ferocity of the shot eventually found its way past the white line. It was the no more than we deserve out of another lacklustre performance.
Lots of talking points and lots to look back on the season but let’s leave that to another post. For now, thank you Arsenal for season 2010/2011. Thank you Arsene and thank you to the team. We’ll see you next season.