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20121106_FC Schalke 04 - Arsenal FC

Better defending please

If things go our way today, we could be back as high as fourth place in the league. We’ll have to depend on Everton, Tottenham and WBA to all not to win their respective matches. Even if all that happened, we still need to do our job and find our very own 3 points. To do that, we need to beat Fulham today. Though, easier said than done.

Fulham have a similar match record to us this season. Both teams have 4 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses. Martin Jol has acquired well in the transfer window. Bringing in Dimitar Berbatov proved to be the right move as the Bulgarian has already chipped in with 3 goals and 2 assists in the Premier League. He has the support of Damien Duff from the wings and the enigmatic Bryan Ruiz. But I do believe that the improvement is done to other areas of the pitch.

The restoration of Aaron Hughes to the defence to partner the ever present Brade Hangeland. Now, I can see that they have conceded double the amount of goals that we have. Yet, I believe that the resumption of the pairing that got them to the UEFA Cup final 3 seasons ago, has a better understanding than the other partnership that Jol could field. It’s not good for them that Philippe Senderos is out injured nor am I saying he’s a bad player.

The threat down our left is probably not as big as it was last week. Fulham doesn’t quite have the wing play quality that Manchester United have. Which should be a less harrowing time for our left back. Which could be Andre Santos or Thomas Vermaelen. Both of whom are a bit short on the confidence side. The Brazilian was unceremoniously dropped in the midweek game at Shalke, more down to his performance than his half time antics. Yet, our Belgian has not exactly been a beacon of light either with his performances.

Our defending has not been as good as it was at the start of the season. Whether that’s down to the absence of the full backs that started the season, remains hard to judge. Or could it be down to the absence of a physical presence like Abou Diaby in the middle? All in all, there’s less organisation in the way we defend now than before. We looked to be in all over the place without the ball and it needs to be rectified. If the Belgian do not have it in him to give out orders, then either Mikel Arteta or Per Mertesacker will have to take charge.

If it was not because we are a little short in numbers in midfield, I would rather see Francis Coquelin being played there than the aforementioned duo. But due to the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby, coupled with the suspension to Jack Wilshere, Coquelin looks nailed-on for a start in today’s game. The Frenchman already have 5 starts this season, though only 1 of those was in the league. He wants more playing time and with opportunities like these, he grab it with both hands. He’s not there yet but certainly not far off from say, someone like Ramsey.


Wojciech Szczesny completed 90 minutes yesterday for our reserves side and it’s good to have him back. It’s weird for me to understand why keepers can’t play 2 consecutive days. Perhaps, it’s the knocks and bruises that they accumulate over the course of a game. That takes time to recover. In terms of the energy spent, that has to be minimal and the recovery of that shouldn’t take more than an overnight thing. It is hard to take out a keeper like Vito Mannone who has been in great form in the last 2 games. The Italian is showing much more resolve in his challenges and making better decisions. However, Szczesny is the number one and should be restored when the time comes, probably not this game though.

Santi Cazorla is looking like he needs a rest but unfortunately, for him and for us, we are a little short-handed in that department. We are do our best to run him to the ground by playing him the full 90 minutes in every game bar the League Cup. His performance lately looked tired and laboured. I mean, he’s still trying but little has come off. The little Spaniard will have to persevere for a few more games until Tomas Rosicky is back again (good that we saw him in the training pictures).

With the North London Derby next week, we would do well to take something out of this game. 3 points is the best possible outcome, of course. It will not be an easy game, that’s for sure. We are not going into this game in exactly the best form and thus I don’t expect to see us battering Fulham. One goal might be enough to do the trick and we’ll just have to prepare ourselves for a nervy game.

Enjoy the game wherever you’re watching. Up The Arsenal!!!