Before the game I called for a victory first and foremost. After the Birmingham it was important to pick up three points again and if we could produce a good performance to boot then that would be an added bonus. In the end, we got both and with the team Fulham had it was always going to go one way. They had no natural striker in the side, a leaky defence and a lack of confidence among those who took the field. If we played at all well, the game would be ours and it duly turned out this way.
We welcomed back the recovered Tomas Rosicky for the ineffective Theo Walcott. Wenger reported he is disappointed at the level Walcott is currently at but thinks he will make it at Arsenal. That is pretty much my view on the matter as I said earlier this week. However, the interesting thing in Wenger’s interview was that he mentioned his belief Theo cannot play on the wing. It is true that he has been poor on the wing but it does leave us quite short here. If he becomes a 5th striker for us we currently only have two first team players playing on the right and left in Hleb and Rosicky.
Yesterday, Rosicky made a difference to the side. His link up play with Hleb and Fabregas made the team click. They seem to know exactly where they will be and can interchange position at any time. Both Hleb and Rosicky are comfortable on either side and are not afraid to move about the pitch. Rosicky, in my view offers a far more attacking threat from midfield. He gets into the box far more than the other two and had already hit the post before his clinical strike. All he needs to do now is net some goals on a far more regular basis and try and hit double figures this season.
A very pleasing sight in the last two games was the ability of Alex Hleb to cross the ball. We saw it at West Ham very early on in the season as he swung a cross right onto the head of Van Persie to score the winner. Last Saturday he whipped a great cross at wicked pace but Eduardo managed to fluff his lines. Finally, yesterday he produced a more measured cross perfectly into the path of Adebayor’s clever run and Ade did the rest. It shows we can mix our game up and these great crosses have shown the service can be good.
With Theo unlikely to play much on the wing I hope we may get a chance to see another youngster lay his claim for a starting berth. If Theo deserves a place in the side at 18, then the same applies to the likes of Gibbs and Randall. They are at the same age and have shown the same, if not more potential than Walcott. They are at a high technical level and both have impressed most fans when they have played on the odd occasion this season. Gibbs is the only naturally left footed winger in our squad and there is no doubt we never replaced Reyes. I am not saying he was the best player in the world but he added natural balance to the side and was a different option. Gibbs can provide something different as well. At least while Eboue is away it might be worth giving him a shot in the cup games coming up.
And now to the big man up front. Adebayor has 15 goals in 20 league starts this season and that is a brilliant return. For a man who has played alone up front for a lot of the season, to have that many goals at this stage is brilliant. We need someone to break that 20 goal mark on a regular basis and hopefully he can achieve that this season. If he carries on his lethal form from yesterday, he will. Both his goals were of huge quality and both headers.
The power he generated for both goals led Niemi to stand still as Ade placed both headers perfectly. The excellent crosses from Clichy and Hleb both came in with little pace and Ade was able to climb and hang in the air as he put all the pace on the ball on each occasion to put us two up.
Eduardo also played well, especially in the second half. It was great to see him get past three defenders when he was tied to the touchline. Some lovely skill took him away and had Rosicky’s shot been an inch the other side of the post, it would have been an assist to match Eddy’s skill. Our third goal was actually quite interesting on Eduardo’s part. He should have played the ball first time to Hleb as he broke into the box. He delayed the pass too long but some great acceleration meant he could find Rosicky’s bursting run into the box. He did very well to recover the situation and it will please Wenger he was willing to run in behind and to see he has adapted even more recently. He needs another goal to kick start another run and then we could be in business.
Last year Senderos was sent off in this fixture and was given a horrid time by the Fulham forwards. Yesterday was the complete opposite. Gallas and Phil were untested and Almunia did not have to make one save of note. The full backs were given the freedom to get forward which gave us width and eventually led to the cross for the first goal after a fantastic overlapping run we are used to seeing from Clichy now.
As many of the papers have said, it was a professional performance but we were not tested by Fulham. The game could have been far more of a test but it still needed winning and three good goals did the job and we move onto the cups. It will be interesting to see the line ups for this week. In the Carling Cup the kids will start the game but Wenger has a choice to make regarding who is on the bench. I hope he puts a few of the first team on the bench, maybe Adebayor, Rosicky and Fabregas and then come Saturday has a largely full strength side out.
Newcastle were poor yesterday but the FA Cup always means a difficult, fast paced game. We will need to be on top form to win that and a victory for either side ill give that team a psychological edge going into the league match three days later. Wenger will use his whole squad over the next week and a half and he must be careful to get it right. I want to see Gibbs and Randall given a game in midweek and maybe Saturday if they impress.
We have been linked with a 15 year-old “prodigy” today in the NOTW. It is hard to sign players who are under-18 years of age from Brazil unless they really are special or have not started their footballing education. How this could/would work we would wait and see but many clubs have been linked. How true it is I do not know. We await news of Dimitriov but Arshavin will not sign according to Wenger.