Fulham 2-1 Arsenal: Crappy new year

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Joined: Nov 2016

Match report – Player ratings – Arteta reaction – Video
Mikel Arteta described yesterday’s game as Arsenal’s worst performance of the season, and even if I wasn’t too hungover to argue with him, I wouldn’t argue with him. It would be a fool’s errand.

Despite the bright start and the early goal from Bukayo Saka after Gabriel Martinelli’s shot was saved, it was dismal stuff from Arsenal. Individually, collectively, just not good enough. If I want to see men using their sport ball very, very slowly, I will go and become a fan of lawn bowls.

Touch. Touch. Touch. Slow pass. Touch. Touch. Touch. Slow pass. See an opportunity for a quick pass, ignore it. Touch. Touch. Touch. Slow pass. Slow pass. See an opportunity for a quick pass, ignore it. Touch. Touch. Touch. Slow pass.

Argh. It’s like some kind of malaise.

“Doctor, please help – I’ve got slow balls.”

I have bemoaned Oleksandr Zinchenko’s propensity to do this in the last couple of games, but it’s not just him. Players like Declan Rice and William Saliba were at it yesterday, and the way it impacts the game is that it lets a team like Fulham get organised too easily, and so much so that the Shirley Bassey lad was doing pirouettes at will. You can’t let that happen.

To be fair, I think Fulham played pretty well while we were well below par. Bernd Leno was basically a spectator. Their equaliser came from a nice move which we were about 3% off in terms of defending but that’s all it takes. The goal that turned out to be the winner was a touch fortunate in terms of how it broke to them in the box after a corner, but did we defend it as well as we could have? I don’t think so.

The manager made changes, but this was the equivalent of coming home to see your house on fire and then pouring a load of petrol on it. The shift to the back three made us even more ineffective. Everything was too narrow. Without full-backs we couldn’t get the ball out wide and it was easy for Fulham to defend. Once they marked the wide players and blocked off those routes, there was nothing to our game. We were like the big crap wolves huffing and puffing and not able to blow anything down because we had footballing emphysema.

When Gabriel Jesus comes on and his best contribution is defending valiantly in the right-back position, something has gone very wrong. Much like the West Ham game, you felt like we could have been out there until midnight and not scored. The timing of our defensive and offensive form going off a cliff is far from ideal, and to lose two in a row over the busy festive schedule feels quite damaging.

Afterwards, a rather crestfallen Mikel Arteta said:

Painful, that’s how I’d sum it up. We had the opportunity to be top of the table after 20 games with the consistency that we’ve shown, and we haven’t managed to perform well enough to earn the right to win the game. Three days ago we lost a game that we fully deserved to win, but today was a very different story.

We weren’t good enough, we simply weren’t good enough in ball possession – we gave so many balls away, we didn’t have enough rhythm, enough purpose, enough threat, and defensively we were second best. We couldn’t control them directly, it was so easy for them to win that first or second ball and have the opportunity to run; we conceded two exact goals like we did against West Ham, and if you do that in this league, it becomes really difficult to win.

Like I said, even if I wanted to argue with this, I couldn’t. It was a genuinely terrible performance, with no redeeming features whatsoever. Not a single player was anywhere near their best level, and far too many were a long way off that. When that happens in the Premier League, you lose. Simple as that.

The only thing I would say this morning is that every team has a bit of a blip in form during the season, and we have to make sure that this was ours. Past tense. There’s an FA Cup game against Liverpool at the weekend, then a break and some warm weather training (I think), after which we play Crystal Palace. It is, in all honesty, a good time for us to have that chance to reset, regroup, work on what’s gone wrong, and get going again. What else can we do?

This was a dismal way to end 2023, but let’s hope we can make 2024 a lot better. Speaking of which, I’d like to wish all of you a happy, healthy, successful and peaceful new year. Thanks for being with us throughout.

I need coffee. I need some kind of sandwich. And then I’ll be ready to record an Arsecast Extra with James in a while.

Until then.


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