Arsenal 1 Fulham 1
Sunday 18th April 2021 1.30pm
Ah well, let’s start with the new European Superleague competition proposed by 12 self-elected clubs from England, Spain and Italy.
And what a complete PR disaster it is.
Just read the statement. The good news is that these self-serving money-obsessed pigs at the trough have been unanimously condemned, even by their own fans.
Arsenal should be ashamed of themselves. Given they will be kicked out of their domestic leagues, and their players potentially removed from the international football arena, it feels like a non-starter, a gun pointed at UEFA’s head. However, it is a gun that looks like a water pistol from here. No-one cares for this kind of self-serving uncompetitive bullsh*t, whereby no matter how poor a club may be performing on the field (er… Arsenal last actually qualified for the Champions League in 2015-16), they are guaranteed a place in this tournament that will take up 25 midweek slots of the season (compared to the current 21 that UEFA’s competitions currently do). Still, fatigue won’t be an issue if the Premier League kicks out the six clubs that have decided this is the future of football.
That Arsenal failed to beat Fulham at home yesterday, that Juventus lost to Atalanta, that Real Madrid could not beat Getafe and that Spurs haven’t won a major trophy for three decades shows why football is interesting, unpredictable. Now I will grant you that the group stages of European knockout competitions are not always the most competitive, and given the choice, I’d take the old pre-1991-92 season format of straight knockout from the off, but at least there is more variety than facing Real Madrid home and away every season so that it becomes the norm, nothing special. And in terms of competition, Arsenal fans would soon get bored of an 18 game league in which they will invariably be in the bottom half for the foreseeable future, given the club’s current decline. I guess the thought is that money can reverse this, but all the other founding members get the same, and will probably back it up with owner-injected funds to preserve their status, something that won’t be happening with the Kroenkes.
Arsenal 1-1 Fulham
Anyway, rant over, let’s at least have a few words about the small matter of a football match that took place yesterday afternoon in north London.
Relegation candidates Fulham desperately needed three points, and were cruelly denied them by Arsenal with a last gasp equalizer scored by sub Eddie Nketiah.
On the balance of play, the home side should have won this game easily, but a combination of poor finishing, good goalkeeping, VAR and a complacent attitude prevented that.
Yes, the Gunners have played twice since Fulham last did, but Arteta made five changes to freshen things up, and really, this was a bread and butter game. If you can’t take three points in these kind of matches, then you are likely going to finish mid-table.
There was less thrust and drive about the team, in spite of the three youngsters playing in the attacking four. It’s easy to pin this on Elneny coming in for Thomas Partey, and there is no debate the Egyptian is less dynamic.
Maybe better to have started with the eleven that won on Thursday, and take three of them off after 60 minutes to protect them. Arsenal do not play again until next weekend.
Still, Arteta is thinking about keeping his players fresh for the Europa League, and the injury to Lacazette would back up his thinking.
In theory, he could of course have started a completely different eleven, although the likelihood of a disjointed performance with a lack of understanding suggests that would not have been the best policy.
The price for the gamble of retaining some of Thursday’s line-up was Alex Lacazette appearing to pull or at least strain a hamstring, meaning Eddie Nketiah will get a chance next weekend at home to Everton.
Fulham’s penalty was pretty soft, but really, this was simply a case of Mikel Arteta’s team not being at the races, a falloff after the brilliance of last Thursday evening’s win in Prague.
On paper, they were not significantly weaker in terms of the starting eleven, with Elneny for Partey the only standout downgrade. Yet the penalty was conceded by Gabriel, who often seems to be involved in conceded goals of late, and Bellerin’s contribution did not seem as impactful as Calum Chambers’ in the previous two matches.
Bottom line here was a lack of ability to turn dominance into goals, and Fulham must take some credit for that.
The snatched equalizer at the end was better than nothing, and may ultimately prove significant if Arsenal manage to develop the ability to win matches habitually starting next weekend.
But generally, the club have proved inconsistent under Mikel Arteta. Some great performances, amidst plenty of disappointments. It doesn’t feel like he has what it takes to convert the team into habitual winners. As a one-off, yesterday can be excused, but we’ve seen too many dropped points. Arsenal are not ninth in the table due to bad luck.
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