” I’m here and you’re there and we’re not together. Backs to the wall r us.”
The signs of retreat were everywhere. From Cesc Fabregas preferring to spend his day in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix to Arsene Wenger cheerleading Man Utd’s Champions League dream. But it was on the pitch once again to remind us where it had all unraveled.
The thought of ceding the last automatic Champions League spot to Man City would provide motivation against Fulham. That was the hope. But this side has shown time and time again when it comes to grasping opportunities it does so smearing its palms liberally with Crisco. Arsenal’s lack of will and composure is now amongst its trademarks and should serve as caution to Laurent Blanc that technical perfection is not the Rosetta Stone to success.
Mark Hughes did nothing different from what other clubs have done as Fulham tactically set about using the long ball and exploiting Arsenal’s high line. It paid dividends as Bobby Zamora cutting back after latching onto Clint Dempsey’s pass found Steve Sidwell who slid his shot past Wojciech Sczeszny. The Polish goalie could have done better perhaps with a more horizontal posture.
Arsenal were able to answer back through Robin Van Persie, the one bright spot in Arsenal’s attack after he deftly controlled Abou Diaby’s diagonal pass and swept the ball past Mark Schwarzer. It was RVP’s 18th goal in 19 starts. An eye raising stat for a second striker.
It was back to square one once the second half resumed as Johan Djourou whiffed on a Chris Greening cross and Bobby Zamora was able to muscle his way in front of Vermaelen to head the ball home. It could have gotten worse if Vermaelen had not effected a goal line save after Danny Murphy cut through a collapsing defense.
Not even Zoltan Gera’s ejection four minutes after being introduced made much of a difference. Gera clattered into Vermaelen in a two footed tackle studs and in a flash Martin Atkinson had a red card out.
Marouane Chamakh up front was an effete antagonist in comparison to the bristling muscularity of Zamora at the other end. Wenger brought in Arshavin and Walcott to shake up the attack. The former continued his slide into irrelevance and the latter was anonymous till the 89th minute for the equalizer.
For Fulham, Gera’s dismissal might cost them a place in the Europa Cup on fair play grounds while Arsenal’s draw was tame surrender and they now face the prospect of contending with Bayern Munich, Villareal, or Udinese for the Champions League playoffs.
For those looking for signs of change there was none as Pat Rice continues for another season with Wenger’s primary criteria comfort with his assistants. There was no statement from Stan Kroenke either and as Arsenal’s majority owner this is hugely disappointing. What are his thoughts about this season? What does he expect next season? At this point we rely on Wenger to undergo some sort of self realization that it cannot be business as usual. He has escaped the pressure exerted by a more activist ownership evident elsewhere and Kroenke remaining silent does not help.