A Bobby Zamora goal in stoppage time proved to be a dagger in our hearts today. A bright Fulham second half outweighed a first half where we were in control and had taken the lead through a Laurent Koscielny headed goal.
Koscielny’s goal came following Fulham’s failure to fully clear a corner and the ball came to Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey put a cross back in to the box that looked like it took a slight deflection on the way in but the ball found Koscielny unmarked just outside the 6-yard box and Kos nodded home.
Fulham came out in the second half looking much more lively and pushing forward and put us on the back foot for extended periods. We were defending resolutely if not convincingly until Johann Djourou was sent off in the 78th minute for a foul and second bookable offense on Bobby Zamora. Now, if we were Sp*rs fans, this is where we’d whoop and holler about the harsh sending off but away form home and sitting on a yellow, Djourou has to be smarter and be in better position goalside to prevent Zamora’s run because you know the opposition will look to win freekicks and penalties in those positions. Which brings me to the next point- Bobby Zamora going down by being impeded by an arm is ludicrous. A little elven type striker like Jermain Defoe, okay, I might believe it but a striker who is known for his strength, it’s preposterous. But you’re away from home with another “iffy” ref and there ya go. We’re just lucky he didn’t have ref-vision and award the penalty as well.
The subsequent freekick was deflected out by Robin van Persie but it didn’t take long before Fulham had us on the rack a bit and found an equalizer five minutes from time through an old Arsenal youth and reserve player, Steve Sidwell. From a corner, Szczesny could only knock the ball out wide where another ex-Arsenal player, Philippe Senderos met the ball and headed back across goal where it found Sidwell on the doorstep and he nodded home for 1-1.
We were reeling after that goal for sure, and as Robin van Persie was now on his own up front following Djourou’s dismissal we could not hold possession and continually gave it away to Fulham. Couple that with RvP also not being able to win a freekick to save his life. Some of these non-fouls seemed to be fouls earlier in the match, but whatever, I guess.
Then, in the second minute of a scheduled three of stoppage time, ex-Sp*r, Bobby Zamora finished inside the near post past a helpless Szczesny when a cross was cleared poorly back across goal by Sebastian Squillaci. The Frenchman, who was making his premier league season debut, was forced on due to Wenger having to reshuffle the lineup because of Djourou’s dismissal. He was trying to head clear or behind but the ball went right back across and found Zamora unmarked and bald-headed striker, who was able to stay on his feet this time, prodded home a winner as Fulham stole all three points.
So, we swap places with Chel$ki again following their late winner over Wolves earlier in the day as we fall to 5th place. Liverpool can jump over us if they can beat Man €ity at the Etihad tomorrow.
No match ratings today as I only caught the second half but let’s just say we were disappointing in the second half all around, for the most part. It definitely looks like it will be a battle all season long for the 4th spot and with Djourou being unavailable for the next match following his sending off, we’re back to crisis mode at the fullback spot even with Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs due back soon.
Despite Wenger recently saying he might not dip into the market for a fullback, and I personally still doubt he would, but perhaps this current shortage of proper fullbacks may force his hand a bit. Or perhaps he promotes somebody like Nico Yennaris for a few matches. Or maybe Squillaci comes in and plays centerback and Koscielny moves out to fullback for a match or two?
Four points from nine in the holiday period is definitely disappointing especially when we certainly had our hands on six, possibly seven of them. Our next match is a week from today against Leeds in the FA Cup. It’ll be interesting to see who Wenger trots out to play in that match.
Hope all you Gunners had a happy and festive Holiday period nonetheless and I hope the New Year finds you and yours well.
Come on you Gunners!