There are few better football grounds to visit on a glorious afternoon than Craven Cottage, with it’s Riverside backdrop framed against a picture perfect blue sky. It was a gorgeous day for all those Gooners who arrived via their riverboat cruise on the Thames, all turning up well-oiled and with a couple of drunken ditties to add to our terrace repertoire. The game itself almost seemed incidental, or at least that’s what one might have assumed, judging by such a thoroughly uninspiring display.
Based on our infuriatingly meager return from corners and set pieces, Fulham, with their Viking Goliath Hangeland in situe, was one of the last places I’d expect to go to, nick a set-piece goal and grind out a “1-0 to the Arsenal”. But grind out a win we did, which is really all that matters at this stage in the season.
Nevertheless, such a flaccid performance doesn’t augur too well for those of our remaining four fixtures in which we’re likely to require a stark improvement, if we’re to avoid a seriously anti-climactic end to our largely disappointing season. Le Gaffer blamed nerves, but I’m not so sure, since from where I stood in the Riverside Stand behind the goal, it felt as if we were watching two teams who didn’t want to have to graft any more than absolutely necessary.
I had to laugh at all the hoo-ha about Mo Farah’s supposed Marathon payday. When you consider the monk-like dedication and sacrifice involved in scaling such double Olympic Champion heights, compared to the glamorous celebrity lifestyles of all those Premiership stars, who earn more every week than Mo did for bashing out his half-marathon on Sunday, it’s utterly farcical that Farah was subject to any criticism.
Meanwhile there were few signs of Mo Farah-like focus and determination in Saturday’s stroll in the sunshine and while we might have got away with it at the Cottage, the likes of Man Utd and a Wigan side, clinging on for dear life to their top-flight status, are unlikely to succumb to such woefully insipid stuff. You wouldn’t have known which of the two sides had the extra-man advantage for most of this match and when Andre Marriner eventually evened the odds, the ambivalent reaction to Giroud’s dismissal and our French striker’s resulting three match suspension, just about summed up Gooner misgivings about our lamentably mediocre looking squad.
Personally I feel that Marriner has done Giroud a favour, as the lumbering forward doesn’t really deserve to be playing on the same park as a player of Van Persie’s prowess and in some respects I’m grateful that we’ve been saved by his suspension from having to suffer the ignominy of this comparison next Sunday.
Although we’re going to have to find some goals from somewhere, if we're to maintain our Champions League challenge. Many would prefer to see Podolski played through the middle, but I’ve seen little from Podolski’s tentative cameos to suggest he’s willing to put anything on the line for the Arsenal but his end of season bonuses! I rather suspect that Wenger is more likely to go with Walcott, but sadly up until now this ‘devil we know’ has done little to prove his “main man” assertions up front.
In fact, obviously by complete coincidence, Theo has been consistently anonymous ever since he signed his new contract. But I liked the way Walcott was grabbing the ball at set-pieces against Fulham, even if they did all prove ineffective. Not that he was exactly having to fight off Cazorla, Rosicky, or a queue of other takers, but this did at least imply a willingness to take responsibility, which is precisely what our ‘after you Claude’, crab-like sideways football is crying out for at present.
There’s some solace in Spurs victory over City, as mercifully this should mean the title will be settled before Man Utd turn up next Sunday. But it looks like Champions League qualification is going down to the wire and with neither Spurs or Chelsea willing to gift us this highly-prized reward by default, befittingly, the Gunners are going to have to earn it!
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