Fulham v. Arsenal - Aug. 24th

Discussion in 'Fulham FC News and Notes' started by BarryWhite, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. BarryWhite

    BarryWhite Well-Known Member

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    Martin Jol and his array of first team fellows will greet Arsenal in Fulham’s home opener on the season this weekend. Another chance for the Fulham faithful to give a rousing welcome home to the old guard and an opportunity greet many of the new boys who could be given their official debut at our home by the Thames. I am certain the butterflies will be running rampant both through the dressing room and through the grand old stands as the players prepare to take the pitch against our London adversaries come Saturday.

    If recent history is any judge we should be in for an entertaining match between the two squads as the last four matches have featured six goals, a win, a loss and two draws for each side accompanied by Steve Sidwell drawing the ire of Fulham fans for his reckless challenge which left the White’s a man down after only twelve minutes of play and Olivier Giroud drawing his own red card at the death of the same match. Since I have been a Fulham fan Arsenal has been the traditional power that Fulham have always seemed to match well against, especially at home, and I see no reason to believe that the outcome of the forthcoming match will once again not be an edge of your seat finish with both sides wrestling for a valuable early three points.

    After the Gunner’s opening day home loss to Villa this match represents the opportunity to either help right the ship of public opinion or fuel their fans outrage at how the club is being run under Wenger. They may however be facing an uphill battle due to their midweek Champion’s League confrontation. No doubt the resounding 3-0 victory over Fenerbahce did wonders for the Arsenal psyche but it certainly will not help the squad’s legs come kickoff. Arsenal is already facing mounting injury problems in a squad that is thin in depth due to multiple departures without adequate replacements being procured during the summer transfer window. If Fulham fans agonize over the lack spending during the transfer window then there must be more than a few Arsenal fans in therapy after watching their closest London rivals spend like there is no tomorrow and knowing that Arsenal have once again been dormant in the transfer market with cash at the club's disposal.

    The bad news for Arsenal fans and the good news for Fulham fans if reports are to be believed is that Arsenal’s defensive situation is quite dire with Per Mertesacker being the only regular starter in the back line to be fully fit. Out for certain is Koscielny with a red card suspension and according to physioroom.com Vermaelen, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Miyachi and Diaby will also be unavailable for this match. Top that off with numerous reports stating that there is some doubt over the ability of Sanga, Monreal and others who played on Wednesday to feature against Fulham and Wenger may be left putting a patch work lineup out come Saturday. Not facing the White’s at full or near full strength should surely be a concern for Wenger knowing how tight this fixture has been over recent years.

    Fulham on the other hand have the opportunity to truly jump start the season after nicking three points from Sunderland in the season opener. In almost a very Hodgson like manner the White’s stood resolute in the defensive end while offering very little going forward. Now equipped with a variety of replacement parts and pieces one would hope that Jol will find a way to fine tune the attack without opening up the defense to too much pressure. The key to this will seemingly be the industry and leadership of Scott Parker in the midfield. Whether Parker can help unlock the Fulham offense by seizing control of the midfield remains to be seen but he will be one of the new boys I would expect to make his debut for Fulham at the Cottage. Of the options not available to Jol we will most certainly see Stockdale deputize for Stekelenberg but who gets the call at left back will be the more critical question. Will Jol give young Matthew Briggs another start against one of the traditional powerhouses or will he pull Riise back into the fold with Richardson unavailable? With Theo Walcott the target to be marked it is an important question to be answered.

    Of the other parts and pieces in Jol’s holster I have no solid idea who will fit where. I expect Amorebieta to feature if he is fit even after the showing that Hangeland and Hughes put on at the Stadium of Light. Players don’t usually lose their place due to injury based on one match so I do expect Hughes to return to the subs bench. On the offensive end things are far more muddled as to how the pieces will all fit together to get the jewel movement offense that Jol has been promising. Berbatov, Bent, Ruiz, Taarabt, Kacaniklic, Dejagah, Kasami and Duff all offer something in my mind but you can’t play them all and guessing is just plain maddening so I will reject all my thoughts on what is the best combination and hope Jol can fit the puzzle together properly.

    Who to watch?

    Arsenal
    Theo Walcott against the Fulham left back will be a key matchup. If he can’t be slowed the Arsenal offense may run down the right all day long.

    If Arsenal are forced to a patchwork defensive line Per Mertesaker will be key to holding it together.

    Oliver Giroud has scored twice this season. Last season he managed a brace against Fulham at the Emirates and a frustrated red card at the Cottage. Can Fulham lock him up will be a key question.

    Fulham
    Scott Parker and partner preventing the Arsenal midfield from maintaining control of the midfield and linking the lines will be the key to Fulham’s success.

    Dimitar Berbatov managed a brace and Alex Kacaniklic scored once against Arsenal last season.

    Bryan Ruiz has always seemed at his most creative against Arsenal.

    Taarabt to come off the bench late as Jol’s impact sub. (Yeah I know I couldn’t help but make one guess)

    My prediction
    It seems odd to say this so early in the season but Arsenal’s backs are already against the wall in that Wenger cannot really afford another loss to a team that Arsenal fans will expect three points against. I believe that any first choice player who can hobble on the pitch for Arsenal will do so but Fulham’s defense will prove a tough nut to crack and that this match ends in a low scoring 0-0 or 1-1 draw.
     
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  2. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

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    Great writeup! My only quibble? Ever since RVP decamped for Old Trafford, Walcott has been seen more as a central striker.

    I think this will be a good match, and I think both sides will be pleased with the point each I think they'll get. 1-1 for me.

    Oh, The View From South Texas will make its debut late on Saturday morning. I just hope it's half as eloquent as Barry's preview.
     
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  3. dtowndough

    dtowndough Active Member

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    Thanks for the preview Barry. I would hope for the point, but I think arsenal and Wenger are already feeling too much pressure and find away to pull out all three points I'll go 1-2.
     
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  4. SoCalJoe

    SoCalJoe Well-Known Member

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    In the second half of the season it seems like there is a big advantage when playing a team that had a mid-week European match, but not so sure at the beginning of a campaign. The Gooners traveled to Turkey and put a hurting on Fenerbeche, 0-3 and will be looking to making amends to the home loss to Villa. Should be an open and entertaining match, and I do like the fact Arse still has the brain cramp guy in goal (won't attempt to spell his name). Dtown's score seems like the right one, but will go with an optimistic 2-2.

    MJ's weekly interview, and in the final minute+, he seems very pleased w/the transfer window thus far;

    http://www.fulhamfc.com/news/2013/augus ... ager-video
     
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  5. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

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    I like our chances in this one for a number of reasons already stated. Plus we're home and it'll have the feel of a fresh start with the new owner and new faces. I've always liked Stockdale, and I think we'll manage to prevail on a late strike we normally give up..3-2, Cottagers!
     
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  6. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

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    Jul 29, 2005
    Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) tweeted at 6:59 AM on Sat, Aug 24, 2013:
    Fulham team to face Arsenal: Stockdale; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Parker, Sidwell, Taarabt; Kasami; Berbatov #ffc #coyw
    (https://twitter.com/FulhamFC/status/371225197321277441)



    Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) tweeted at 7:10 AM on Sat, Aug 24, 2013:
    Fulham subs: Etheridge, Briggs, Boateng, Karagounis, Kacaniklic, Ruiz, Bent #ffc #coyw
    (https://twitter.com/FulhamFC/status/371227903645601794)

    Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download
     
    #6
  7. AggieMatt

    AggieMatt Well-Known Member

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    Villa showed once again the way past Arsenal is to be direct in attack, be willing to lose the possession battle, but defend with vigor without the ball, particularly in midfield to break up the Arsenal attack. Despite losing possession 64% to 36%, the Villans were only outshot 15-10. Shots on target were a more even 4-5 in favor of AV.

    In the first meeting last year, we fell behind early and resorted to a more direct approach. We fought back and drew 3-3. We took a more conservative defensive approach in the second affair and lost 1-0. We can attack and play more direct, and have had success when we've done so, but for some reason we keep reverting back to the inept, slow build possession game and a rather passive, packed in defense.

    Arsenal have a weakened back 4 but to exploit it we'll have to get past the Arse midfield. If we play MJSF, I think we lose 2-0 and put them under very little pressure. After seeing Jol's lineup for the match, I'm afraid that's how we're going to approach this one, at least initially. Hope I'm wrong.
     
    #7
  8. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

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    Well the team didn't sit back at the start, but didn't really work out regardless. Disappointing in some regards because I had some hope for a home opener victory. Don't think Sidwell and Parker in the middle together is the way forward. Despite not playing very well in his first match, I think Boateng should be given another look in place of Sidders. But since it's the first game Parker and Sidders were partnered together, I'll take a wait and see approach. A lot of new faces so I can't get too upset with some of the player's performances, except Berbatov. He did well on the Bent goal to put the ball across, but other than that...meh.

    On to the league cup, where, hopefully, we don't crash out early like last year.
     
    #8
  9. AggieMatt

    AggieMatt Well-Known Member

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    Weird match. I liked that we tried to take the fight to them, but at the same time, it left the same old usual problems to be exploited and Arsenal did just that.

    We started off attacking more, and were more direct. Unfortunately, we couldn't really create much of an end product outside of some shots by Taarabt and several free kicks that we subsequently squandered. As the match wore on, our movement off the ball came to a halt. We looked more dangerous late, but you have to take into account that we were down 3-0 and toast at that point. That said, it was nice to see someone in a Fulham kit make a back post run. Haven't seen many (or any?) of those since Dempsey left town. And wouldn't you know, it resulted in our only goal. We've certainly missed having a poacher in the side.

    Defensively we put good pressure on the ball at the start, especially in the midfield. That waned as the match wore on and by halftime, Arsenal had found the holes in our defense and we never seemed to adjust. From there we were just chasing the ball most of the time. Our midfield didn't offer much protection for the back four either. If you go back and watch the 2nd and 3rd goals, Sidwell is in the box but as deep as the cb's, and there's no one else around the box. Surely we can find some middle ground between parking the bus and abandoning the defense.

    As for some of the player performances, thought Berbatov looked like he couldn't be bothered most of the way. Thought it was particularly amusing when he stepped in front of Kasami's shot and blocked it and barely looked like he acknowledged his error. As we mentioned in the chat room, if the roles were reversed, we might well have seen a murder at the Cottage. Loved Kasami's effort today but he doesn't appear to have enough quality. Still early though, so we'll see. Taarabt was our most dangerous player offensively, but was a liability on d. Sidwell looked lost today. His defensive positioning when he'd drop back to protect the back four was odd, there was no balance when he and Parker went forward. It's probably just a result of them being thrown together on rather short notice. That and the crap system we play. I wasn't as impressed with Parker as it seems many were. Offensively he was good, both at moving the ball forward and at moving w/o the ball and providing an outlet. However, he offered little protection for the back four and was jogging back behind the ball a few too many times for my liking. He started off well pressuring the ball in midfield, but that waned pretty quickly as well. Maybe it's a match fitness thing and he'll improve, but I was expecting to see more of a two way player. Riise was another who disappointed today. Poor free kicks, squandered opportunities on offense, and gave Walcott far too much cushion defensively. In fairness, he didn't have a lot of help, but still felt his d was a bit too soft overall. Course, I'm surprised we even saw him out there. Hughes had an odd one. Was outclassed and turned by Podolski and Giroud but he did have quite a few timely clearances. And I thought Stockdale was fine. Don't really fault him on any of the goals and his distribution was good. On another day, with better support, I feel confident he can do the job. No Ruiz again. Starting to think he's going to be a late departure.

    Seems like we're always saying "wait and see" with Jol's teams. And yet, that's where we find ourselves once again with the new additions.
     
    #9
  10. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

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    Well, it won't be wait and see from me in about a month's time. But I would think you would have to give a few of the players and the team in general at least a few weeks to gel? Parker and Bent's ink on their contract probably has not dried yet. I'll reserve "some" judgement until then. I think Jol has had enough time to realize where he wants to go with the team and should know how to make the right adjustments for the team by now--I think he is a fair target for criticism, along with players that have been here for the past year.
     
    #10
  11. LaxAttack

    LaxAttack Well-Known Member

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  12. BarryWhite

    BarryWhite Well-Known Member

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    I pretty much agree with Matt's post on the match above and you'll get no whining from me on this one because I am going to say Arsenal was the better squad and deserved the three points. However, if I am the manager here are my three takeaways that have to be fixed going forward for the squad to advance.

    1. The Fulham Triangle - There was an area on the pitch that Fulham's defense just disappeared and Arsenal was able to advance the ball at will. J.A. Riise in my opinion is probably getting far too much blame without enough of the responsibility being dished out to his co-conspirators. Between Adel Taarabt, the CM's and Riise there was consistently a lack of defensive pressure on Arsenal’s right which provided an automatic outlet for Arsenal to push the ball up the field without pressure and get well into the Fulham half to begin their offense. Somewhere in that triangle between the LB, LM and CM some balance must be found so the LB is not left on an island defending multiple runners. Riise did not have a great match by any stretch and anyone who has read my posts knows I am not going to go out on a limb to defend him but I am not convinced Briggs or any other LB would have fared much better on the defensively with so much space to cover single handedly.

    2. Gelling the CM's - Whatever the CM pairing is going to be Jol must sort out the delicate balancing act of maintaining some semblance of balance between the pairing. It was a discussion point in the chat room that Parker and Sidwell both seemed to want to push up the field leaving the back line exposed to Arsenal's counter attack. This may actually be item 1a but it is again a question of maintaining balance on the pitch and may simply come down to either finding the right pairing or repetition of the practice pitch if Sidwell and Parker are the men for the job.

    3. Movement off the ball - The lack of movement off the ball has been a long-term issue for Fulham that must be addressed. Scott Parker demonstrated a handful of times how effective a simple wall pass and run can be if only someone can be bothered to make the run. Fulham have looked stagnant on the offensive end for quite some time now and if Fulham's offense is to truly become fluid it cannot be based on a pass and stand still philosophy.

    "If you don't have the ball, you must do the work." -- Ty Stauffer (You don't know him but the philosophy still applies)
     
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  13. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

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    Ag, Check your frigging email
     
    #13
  14. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

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    Ruh-roh? Is he in trouble?
     
    #14
  15. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

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    nah, just trying to hit all his locales in case he shows up at one of them. All is good.
     
    #15
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