By Randy Osae
An absolutely sluggish Arsenal side were fairly beaten by Fulham in a disappointing match at Craven Cottage. Last season, an impressive Arsenal start had to go a double-figured number of games before finally beaten in December.
This year, it looks as though the early loss to Fulham will ditch the burden of keeping “invincible” runs. That could mean a positive factor, but on the day, Arsenal were actually irritative with their lazy performance.
Arsene Wenger started Van Persie and Kolo Toure ahead of last week’s Bendtner and Djourou. Indeed, those changes might have been better-off not done by the intelligent tactician.
Kolo Toure’s partnership with Gallas has proved questionable before, and so far this season, Johan Djourou in there had not seen Arsenal concede yet. So it was very critical when from Toure’s clearance for a corner after being caught napping, something happened. Bullard whipped in the corner-kick that allowed Hangeland to steal in ahead of an unaware William Gallas and poke home from close range.
Arsenal instantly made a reply and Adebayor almost levelled when he directed a superb header against the post from Sagna’s cross. Everyone sensed an Arsenal firing on Fulham was coming, but instead, the Gunners also had to keep the Cottagers at bay. It was soon half-time and Arsenal had been bossed instead of driven by going behind as usual.
The second-half was nothing but the same old story. Fulham rather looked like the better killers when they attacked. Arsenal relied on the flanks. And it was fullbacks Gael Clichy and a very busy crosser, Bacary Sagna who had the jobs.The man running the left was sloppy defensively, but Sagna managed on a couple of occasions to put over-hit crosses in.
None of them really got near Adebayor and Walcott’s replacement Nicklas Bendtner. But for the third time in the match, Van Persie held the stadium’s breathe for a few seconds and then blasted his highly anticipated free-kick.
Few Arsenal players were close to satisfactory on the day, but arguably one of the most dull performers, Denilson, made Fabregas’ absence a real miss. Song who was his most tipped replacement rather came on for Kolo Toure later in the game.
Stoppage time was pulsating but fruitless. And so Arsenal registered their first defeat of the campaign. In their second league encounter last season, Arsenal frustratingly drew 1-1 at Blackburn after leading. It was a similar result today, but the difference – the Gunners are not unbeaten.