Arsenal dropped two points after an eventuful 3-3 draw with Fulham at the Emirates this afternoon.
Francis Coquelin replaced Jack Wilshere in midfield, other than that Arsenal were unchanged from midweek in Schalke.
The visitors had the first chance of the game when, after a scramble on the edge of our box, a shot deflected just wide of Mannone’s post. But Arsenal went in front having won a corner, Theo Walcott curled it in and Olivier Giroud thumped home a header to make it 1-0. Schwarzer got a hand but couldn’t keep it out.
It was 2-0 just over 10 minutes later when Arteta, played in by Cazorla, might have shot from a tight angle. Instead he took a touch and drilled a low ball across goal which the onrushing Podolski prodded home with his left foot.
For the second time in a week Arsenal were 2-0 up in a game which they were a long way from dominating, and for the second time in a week we let the lead slip.
In the 29th minute Berbatov, unmarked from close range, headed home a corner to make it 2-1, and the former Sp*rs and United man set up Fulham’s second. Again Arsenal were found wanting in the left back position, Berbatov’s cross found Kacaniklic unmarked on the penalty spot and his header beat Mannone when the Italian probably should have done better. 2-2.
They almost went 3-2 up right at the end of the half, this time a cross from the right was flicked from close range and only a late Mertesacker intervention prevented Berbatov having a tap-in at the back post.
Arsenal started the second half very brightly, with Theo Walcott involved. He crossed for Olivier Giroud but it was just too high, then he cut inside from the right, ran towards goal and curled a left footed shot just wide.
It was a game of to and fro, with both sides looking capable of scoring, and in typical Arsenal fashion it was Fulham who went ahead. Mikel Arteta was caught on the edge of our box, had a little pull at Ruiz who fell over as you would expect, and Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Berbatov made no mistake to make it 2-3.
But just two minutes later Arsenal were level. After being put clean through and seeing shot hit the post, Giroud powered home a header from Theo Walcott’s follow up cross and the Gunners were right back in it. 3-3.
Giroud then forced Schwarzer into a fine save having run through midfield before unleashing a powerful shot which was going inside the near post. Arsenal brought on Oxlade-Chamberlain for Podolski and Arshavin for Walcott, and they also had Laurent Koscielny to thank for a couple of last ditch tackles to deny Fulham. One in particuar, on Berbatov, saved a certain goal.
It looked like the game was going to fizzle out to a draw, which neither team could complain about, when an Arshavin cross was deemed to have been handled by Phil Dowd. It seemed harsh but the penalty was given.
Mikel Arteta took responsibility but with the last kick of the game his spot kick was saved by Schwarzer, and the Spaniard slumped to the ground the final whistle went. People may ask why Giroud, on a hat-trick, didn’t take it, but a senior player took responsibility, perhaps keen to atone for his earlier error, and I doubt he’ll sleep well tonight.
Maybe we didn’t deserve the victory but fuck that, I’d have liked it. In the end though a draw was a fair result and Arsenal will rue defensive lapses again. Despite character to come back into it having gone behind, we chucked away a two goal lead and it’s hard to look at today and not think anything other than 2 points dropped.
67 – Penalty, Berbatov scores
69 – Giroud goal
80 – Giroud run/shot