In the end, there was only one Dimitar Berbatov danger that got us worried for a while but otherwise, it was the nature of our performance that left a lot to be desired. A slim solitary goal win was the final outcome and it was the crux of our objective at Craven Cottage yesterday. Which should be something that we could celebrate, or should we?
In terms of the 3 points, it was massive (yes, I admit that I do say this A LOT). It puts us back into 3rd spot, though with varying degrees of matches played compared to Chelsea and Sp*rs. It also puts the pressure back on these 2, to replicate our points tally for the weekend. We even managed to keep a clean sheet in an away match. Doesn’t happen very often and we have to enjoy it, whenever that happens. On that side of the coin, one could hardly complain.
However, on the other side of the coin, it was one of our most laborious and ponderous performance of the season. There was simply no pace in the match, almost everything was done at a walking pace. I can’t remember Theo Walcott hitting the turbo button at least once in yesterday’s match. Despite the win, the way we went about it yesterday was really strange.
After so many weeks of playing only 1 match per week, I don’t see how the first midweek match we have, is able to cause increased tiredness and fatigue on the players. Then, what is the reason for the lethargic performance? Was the early red card for Steven Sidwell the reason? That the players felt that this will now be an easy match and it’s only a matter of time before we romp to victory? If this was the reason, then we are still engulfed in all manner of complacencies.
If this is how a champion should perform, then I’ve qualms with the definition. It has nothing to do with the quality of the team. It’s just pure luck. Whenever any team doesn’t play well but still comes away with the win, it’s really down to luck. It’s not the hallmark of champions, it just so happens that for that particular season, lady luck has decided to award you with the limitless credit card of luck.
To me, it’s worrisome that when we failed to live up to expectations, we do it as a collective. Our front 6 failed to produce any sort of performance worthy of a mention and it’s a big worry to me. I understand when one or two players have an off day and produces sub-par performance. In some ways, I’m beginning to believe that our players have connection that sees them playing well/bad together.
I would thought that our performance in the first half, despite playing almost 30 minutes with a man extra, was poor and I was expecting changes in the second half. I wanted to see an early substitution so that we can spread Fulham’s compact two banks of four apart and disable the good shape that they’ve kept since the sending off. Nothing came about and I have to say, it was a strange decision from Arsene Wenger.
If anyone deserves any credit, it would have to be the 3 at the back. Wojciech Szczesny produced a very good save from that one Berbatov shot and held his own in what turned out to be a match that gave him more exercise than the Norwich match. The centre back partnership combined to score the winning goal and they remained resolute throughout the entire match. It’s not hard to see the growing understanding between the pair and that’s very encouraging.
Right at the end, the numerical advantage was wiped out when Olivier Giroud was sent off. That leaves us unable to call upon his service against Manchester United next week. He’s not a man in form but we could have used his service. That said, it was stupid for him to make that type of challenge in a game where we had the advantage. It was an area of the pitch, where it was unnecessary to take the risk. He may have been unlucky, slipping at the last minute but the challenge was over the ball. Given how the referee decided to sent off Sidwell, I couldn’t see anything beyond red. Luckily the sequence of the red card, happened the way it did.
Wenger has got one week till the next match. Enough time to check what went wrong yesterday and fix it. Also, time to choose a Giroud replacement for next week. He’ll do that and we’ll do our part and hope that Manchester City and Liverpool wins their respective matches today.