I'll keep this brief because I'm so gutted that we have thrown three points away against a Fulham side that we really should have beaten. There were certainly many reasons for our defeat today, some we couldn't do anything about such as Lee Probert's pathetic refereeing performance, but the sad thing was that there were many things we could have done something about, and that is the frustration.
We dominated the first half and should have been more than a goal ahead at the break, some poor finishing was largely to blame, as well as a highly debatable decision not to award us a penalty when Gervinho appeared to be taken down in the box. Still, Fulham looked dangerous and the warning signs were there in the first half, the inexperienced novice full backs were not getting enough protection from the players in front of them.
Fulham cranked the pressure up in the second half and a mixture of poor defending, a lack of adequate fresh players with the right attributes on the bench and some more poor refereeing contributed to this leading to a Fulham victory. It looked like we might hold out, but then a ridiculously poor decision from Probert saw Djourou sent off for a second yellow when he barely touched Zamora, the Fulham player looked to have gone to ground rather easily to say the least. Szczesny's flapping led to the first which got bundled in and Zamora struck home the second a minute from time after a headed knock down. So so painful.
I feel for Arsene this time, our squad has been decimated by a massive number of injuries to our defensive players, we are down to the bare bones at the moment and this undoubtedly played its part today. To their credit the players who have been playing out of position at full back have been doing a damn good job considering. The way our squad has been stretched was obvious today, the full backs are not proper full backs, while our midfielders looked fatigued as the game wore on.
There are problems with the depth in our squad too. In terms for forwards, do the likes of Rosicky and Benayoun really give us a dangerous pace that can scare teams on the break when they are asked to play in wide forward positions? I think not. We need some more quality back up to the likes of Gervinho and RVP. Could we have done with Francis Coquelin in the midfield today, I would argue yes. There is clearly not enough depth in terms of pacey forward players.
The 4-3-3 system can fail dismally at times if the wide players fail to assist the full backs defensively, but this is also partly down to the personnel we have, do we really have enough midfielders who can contribute with that tough defensive grit? How much does a player like Rosicky do when they don't have the ball, this really is something that needs to be debated. We lost the midfield battle in the second half, the fatigue and lack of midfield bite on the bench seemed to have its effect.
Anyone who says that Lee Probert's incompetence didn't have a significant effect on the outcome of today's game needs their hollow head examined. We had clear penalties denied in both halves, a ridiculous sending off and there was a strangely consistent tendency to award free kicks to Fulham for offences that did not appear to merit free kicks if committed on us. Lee Probert catalysed own dismal demise, that is for sure.
So most importantly where to go from here? Knee jerk reactions are not clever, we must see this result in the context of our excellent recent form and the massive improvement we have made in the last three months. However we must also see the problems that we have, we need to sign some extra defensive cover in January, the injuries to our full backs have cost us numerous points already, we need more balance in our squad overall in terms of midfield battle. There are also several players who need replacing in our squad, they have simply not delivered and need to go. Come on you Gunners.