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Arsenal 3 Fulham 3: Human beings have arms. Get over it.


AT 2-0…
One could hardly complain about having been largely outplayed but having created two chances and scored them both. We moan when we’ve dominated play and not scored and so this was a pleasant surprise. Equally, however, you’d have hoped that someone might have clocked we were a little fortunate to be in that position and that the last thing we could afford was complacency.

Our goals…
Had been nicely done in fairness. Theo’s corner was very good and as no great Theoist, I have to admit he played very well yesterday. His choice of ball and delivery of ball were both pretty good throughout. Giroud’s header was good and his run was good. No complaints. Arteta did well for the second and credit to Podolski for being in the middle to take advantage of Fulham’s statues.

Their goals…
Well those heady August days of back to back clean sheets against Sunderland and Stoke when some thought that under the new Steve Bould inspired regime we’d never concede again now feel a very, very, very long time ago. What we are witnessing now must be the stuff of nightmares for our former number 5. On the other hand, Fulham’s first goal must have been the stuff of Dimitar Berbatov’s dreams. Never a great fan of moving any great distance to collect the ball, he basically stood on our six yard line before the corner and found himself having to shift his feet at most 10 cm before nodding home. Our back line was pretty hopeless for their second too and while some blamed Mannone I’m not sure he could do a great deal about a very decent header.

After half-time…
The team were marginally better and the fans a lot better, offering increased encouragement after a frankly dead first half. But we were still toiling and Fulham went 3-2 up after Arteta lost the ball and dragged down his man, in a moment more symptomatic of our general failings than any particular ones on the part of a usually reliable performer.

Our equaliser…
Was very good. Great ball from Cazorla, very reasonable effort from Giroud that hit the post, good pick-up and cross from Walcott and very decent determination from Giroud to put things right.

But then we struggled…
We wanted the win but we weren’t exactly creating countless clear chances. And whereas once Wenger used to throw on the cavalry in moments like this, now he seemed more hesitant. For the second home game in succession Andrei Arshavin appeared set not to be brought on in our time of need until injury, on this occasion to Walcott, struck. Who to remove in favour of the Russian was not a simple call in fairness. Perhaps Sagna. Or if I’d had my way: Ramsey. Not because I’m a Ramsey hater but because after coming on he’d got a booking that was by no means harsh, conceded another foul and rightly was understandably worried about a red card and reticent about going in for other tackles, which frankly robs him of a key component of his game. Yes, hooking a sub is never ideal, but in this case I think it made sense.

The penalty decision…
Was embarrassing. Arsenal fans were looking at each other and shaking their heads, perhaps a bit because we felt a win would be undeserved, but more because we knew that had that decision been given against us we’d have been livid. It was just ridiculous. The handball law has become completely insane. Human beings have arms. Get over it. Those arms are capable of acting and reacting with remarkable speed and subtlety but clearly not to the extent that they can always accurately predict the exact trajectory of a football about to be slammed at them from about 50cm away. There was evidently nothing the Fulham player could do to stop the ball hitting his arm yesterday and the idea that it doing so should prompt the awarding of something as significant as a penalty just demeans the purity of football as a sport. I’d love Arsenal to win and I love the fine margins of football. Witness Gazza’s failure to get a golden goal toe on the ball against Germany in Euro 1996. That was genuine, brilliant drama. But yesterday? That wasn’t drama. That was football as farce.

All in all…
This was at least more entertaining than a 1-1 draw would have been. But when it is so patently obvious that we’re going only in one direction and that nothing is being done to remedy things, it is hard to take a great deal of pleasure from a game like this. The sad thing is that nobody in the stands appears under any great illusions and yet those with the power at the club appear to be in a state of complete denial.

My diagnosis…
Is that there are glaring gaps in the squad and an inability to get what we should be getting out of the players we do have. I genuinely don’t think the players we have are bad players. As fans, when things aren’t going our way, we always end up giving grief to certain players and sometimes it is deserved (see Bendtner, Eboue and Denilson). But when you look at the players we did see yesterday, they’re not bad. Yes, Mannone is not up to it in my view. But in fairness he is not our first choice – he is our third choice. And while people give Ramsey stick, he really isn’t that bad. He might lack the technique of others but he works hard and sometimes possesses a directness that others lack that does actually force the play. I just don’t think we have enough forwards nor enough variation in midfield. And in defence (where Djourou as fourth choice centre-back and Santos and Jenkinson as reserve full-backs is certainly no disgrace), we, for whatever reason and no doubt there are reasons, appear incapable of organising ourselves properly.

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