This match had particular meaning for two of our players, with Sagna making his 150th appearance, and Song’s 100th appearance in the Premier League. Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squilacci, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Song, Rosicky, Arshavin and Chamakh started for Arsenal, by no means our strongest side but with enough confidence to beat Fulham. As for Fulham summer target Schwarzer appeared just having signed a new deal. Arsenal were looking to make it two straight wins in the Premier League, or three including the Carling Cup as well, in which our win propelled us into the semi-finals.
Arsenal started the game extremely strongly, with Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh and Rosicky combining to give us several chances in which we should definitely have scored from, and winning corner after corner, showing dominance early on. And who popped up to score our first? Who else but Nasri, faking a shot with his right not only once but twice, leaving Fulham completely clueless and scoring on the 14th minute.
However that was as much as Arsenal got a sniff of in the first half, Fulham began to wake up from their slumber and they begin to get shots away. And if you get shots away you gain confidence as well, showing through their close chances and offsides, and even Song couldn’t scare them with a volley on the 24th minute.
Koscielny collided with Squillaci giving away the ball to Dempsey, turned away from one defender before threading a ball through to Kamara who no one was marking, and he turned and got a shot away, and a goal. 1-1, Arsenal shellshocked but seemed to fall even more asleep for some reason and Fulham gained enormous confidence from this. However this meant that Djourou came on for Koscielny and the defense from then on didn’t look as shaky.
Arsenal then seemed to not be able to get out of their own half, and Fulham capitalised with possession and chances, most of them coming to nothing but we know that if give them a sniff, or then a sight, they might pounce on the goal as well. Fabianski did really well to deny Kamara a second as the two teams went in level, but once again like last week Arsenal should have been up by more.
The second half started nearly the same as the first half but as Wenger talked to his men in the dressing room there must have been talk to the Arsenal faithful, as they chanted louder in the bitter winter air, urging the Gunners on to get a second. Rosicky came really close with his volley 7 minutes into the second half and a few minutes later Arshavin’s shot was saved. Etuhu answered from the other end with a header the flashed at least 6 yards wide but it definitely signalled Fulham’s intent. However Song defied the urge to give up on Paintsil minutes later, forcing him off the ball and trying a shot but that went high and wide. Gera then tried a bicycle missing to the left, with Arsenal fans again breathing a sigh of relief.
Van Persie was now on for Arsenal and even though he didn’t get too much of the ball he would be pivotal in the next few moments. He worked the ball to the edge of the box and faked a shot, instead opting to pass it to the surging Nasri. He dodged Paintsil with a clever stepover and exit, and the same to Schwarzer who also fell for his feint. His move ended up with his back to goal at a very tight angle, similar to his chance against Spurs but this time he turned 200 degrees to smash it home with his right foot, another wondergoal by the Frenchman who has buried plenty of vital goals this season.
Now it was crisis time for both teams.
Arsenal’s sloppy defending of the past was shaken away by pumping all the balls out of the box and creating some chances, while Fulham were just as defiant as before, but now committing more men to attack. Gera tried a very long range effort towards the end of the game prompting a reflex save by Fabianski but the game was already won, Arsenal 2 Fulham 1.
A special mention goes to Djourou, Clichy and Nasri who were vital to the result, and to the fans for their support and loud cheering particularly during the second half. As Chelsea drew and Manchester United’s game is postponed we’re top of the league for now.