Roy Hodgson has been on my list of "Good Managers" for many years, and it's no real surprise that he has put together a compact Fulham side who play tight, attractive football. And for a good deal of a frustrating 90 minutes yesterday, Fulham were the better side.
I have struggled overnight to come up with the right balance for this match report. I am quite sure there will be many blogs posting today who a full of expletives aimed in the direction of Wenger and the players. Whilst I can fully understand the frustration that people are feeling, lets be absolutely clear that calling everyone under the sun a talentless shitebag does nothing whatsoever, apart, possibly, from making you feel better once you've got it off your chest.
The other thing we must avoid is using hindsight unfairly. For instance, the starting XI looked a good choice at the time. Denilson sat deep in midfield to allow Nasri, Arshavin, Vela and Diaby some licence to attack. However, whilst Vela kept left, there seemed very little system in Nasri and Arshavin's movement, and so the play was narrow through the middle. That said, RVP hit a header from 5 yards straight at Schwarzer, and had a one-on-one well saved by the big Ozzie keeper.
Also, fair play to Zamora and Johnson, two Premiership journey-men of doubtful ability at the top level, who made Gallas and Toure look muppets for substantial parts of the first half. They also had a good supply chain from Murphy and Davies, which our midfield was truly woeful at getting close to and stopping. It was 0-0 at half time, but could have been 2-2 quite easily.
Wenger had a tinker with the system second half, and Nasri seemed to start wide right with Arshavin in the middle, but matters did not improve greatly in terms of how we played. Denilson had a poor game in midfield. Not that he did a whole lot wrong, but simply that he did not do enough right. It was a comfort zone performance like he had against Spurs recently. Clichy and Sagna in particular, were not able to get forwards much and offer some much needed width. Indeed, both of them had poor games by their high standards, and Paul Konchesky in particular deserves some credit for keeping Sagna quiet.
Vela was replaced by Bendtner with 30 minutes to go, and the young dane did his usual trick of looking ok when coming on as a sub. At last, we switched to a proper 4-4-2 and Bendtner provided the route-one target that we had missed for the first 60 mins. A short word on Vela as well. The kid clearly has potential, but he is also clearly not quite there yet.
Unfortunately, we then seemed to settle in for the draw for the last period. An RVP header hit the post, and Schwarzer saved well from a Diaby header at a corner, but we did not create a great deal in the last 30 minutes of the game. In fact, with a couple of minutes on the clock Fulham had time and space to stroke the ball around in midfield as their fans gave them the "Olé". The inability of any 3 Arsenal players to get tight to any 3 Fulham players was easy to see, and they worked easy triangles of possession. We stood and watched.
And so it finished 0-0. The boos rang out at the Emirates and some fierce exchanges were seen between the "anti-boo" lobby and the "anti-Eboue" faction. One such exchange of views apparently didn't finish by the time we had got to Finsbury Park tube, and had developed into proper fisticuffs. So the Police sat on one of them for a bit and then stuck him in the back of a van. This kind of stuff never (or very rarely) happened at Highbury. And we were shite for years at Highbury. But there is a nasty under-current at the Emirates which is bad to see. Its a sad state of affairs that Arsenal fans are fighting each other. It really is.
We have 5 points from our last 5 games. There are 11 games left in the league this season and I think we need about 25 points off them to finish fourth. To achieve that, we need to improve the number of goals we score. RVP worked very hard yesterday but failed to score. He is a good player, who might well become a great player, but I don't see RVP as a 30 goal a season man.
There are two players in a squad who can score the goals we need. The first is Adebayor, who has had a massively disappointing season so far. He needs to come back from injury pumped up and ready to go. The second is Eduardo, who is the most clinical player in front of goal we have. At a push, you could make a case for Cesc Fabregas as well, who scored a load of goals last season. But lets not get carried away - the two goals a game we need to score must primarily come from the strikers.
And Wenger needs to find a big piece of luck. He has placed his reputation on the line and the knives will be out if we fail to finish 4th.