Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this game were studio guest Adrian Clarke and Tim Bostelle of 7amkickoff.
Adrian Clarke Studio guestADRIAN CLARKE, STUDIO GUEST
Arsenal’s performance was far from pretty at Craven Cottage but a win's a win, so we should all feel pretty happy with the weekend’s work.
There was a lack of creativity, and that was caused by failure to provide enough movement in the final third. Too many players stood still in positions where they were easy to mark, instead of pulling them out of position. This left the man in possession with very few options, and attacks faltered as a result. I also felt the crossing was disappointing.
“The pick of the bunch for me was Mikel Arteta, who did a fine job with and without the ball, but overall it was quite a frustrating afternoon. Looking back, the players just didn’t use their spare man cleverly enough at all.
“The side will probably have to up their game from here on in, but as long as they continue to find a way to win matches, the performances themselves don’t greatly matter. Onwards and upwards.
I loved the intensity of the challenge Everton presented on Tuesday night and even though two dropped points were a slight frustration I actually believe it’s a contest that will do the Gunners the world of good for the remainder of the run-in. Until Everton’s visit things had been relatively easy for the team, but the pace and physical nature of that 90 minutes shocked them into life. They’ve been reminded that these last few weeks won’t be a walk in the park, and that if they want a top-four place they can’t afford to let their standards drop for a moment.
Fulham were very positive when they came to the Emirates, pushing their full backs on and creating loads of chances. Arsenal’s midfield and defence found it hard to contain Dimitar Berbatov too. However, I feel the renewed focus the Gunners have right now makes them better equipped for the challenges they’ll face from Fulham second time around. If the players are well concentrated they’ll handle whatever is thrown at them.
Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Craven Cottage was a bit harsh on Fulham, but with a bit of luck it has dented the home team’s morale. And, if Martin Jol’s men aren’t feeling good about themselves, Arsenal are definitely in the right kind of shape to punish them. It’s a huge game, one that Arsenal must go all out to win, and I believe they’ll manage it. To be honest, I don’t care if it’s a scrappy 1-0 or a 7-5 thriller, all that matters is three points. An early goal would be nice. I don’t have many fingernails left to chew.
Tim Bostelle 7amkickoffTIM BOSTELLE, 7AMKICKOFF
A beautiful boat ride down the Thames, a sunny April day in London, and three points for the Arsenal, what more could you ask for? Well, I suppose you could ask that the team who have 70 per cent of the possession, more than 700 passes, and who played against 10 men for 80 minutes, would win the game comfortably and not have their main striker sent off with a straight red - but you can't have everything!
Sometimes teams just have poor performances and Saturday against Fulham was one of those times but rather than dwell on the negatives, I'll take some positives from the game. Despite some decent stretches of pressure by Fulham, Arsenal didn't concede and got their 12th clean sheet in League play this season. Moreover, since the Bayern match, Arsenal have only allowed three goals against them. While it has been a bit nervy at times, the record stands and provides a great platform for the team to build on.
Obviously, Giroud's red card is a problem because it leaves Arsene with a selection headache at centre forward for three matches. I wonder if the club might appeal the tackle because the card did seem harsh. But if not, then I guess we will have to see if Wenger's work with Podolski has paid off or if Walcott and Gervinho are ready to try their hand in the middle.
I'm not going to worry about that for a while, though. It was three points, a clean sheet, and Arsenal are in third place! It could be better, but then that's just being greedy.
At the start of the season, many Arsenal fans look forward to the Fulham fixture and the opportunity for a boat ride down the Thames to see the Arsenal at Craven Cottage, but this season is a little different. In the midst of a fight for a top-four finish, Saturday's game may start with a lovely boat ride but by kick-off the tension will be palpable.
Berbatov got the plaudits when Fulham drew 3-3 at the Emirates but it was actually Ruiz who was one of Fulham's most dangerous players as he tormented Arteta time and again with his pace and trickery. Ramsey is a willing runner and has been putting in some excellent defensive work alongside the Spaniard so I expect the two of them will be entrusted to keep Ruiz quiet.
Arsenal's top performers in the last meeting were Giroud and Walcott and it remains to be seen whether Arsene will give Podolski a run at centre forward and play Gervinho on the right. We know that the boss has been working with Podolski and that he's Arsenal's most clinical finisher. We also know that Gervinho causes fits forflat-footed defenders like Hangeland and Senderos. No sense in pumping crosses in to Giroud with those two around, so we might see a change up front.
Arsenal have developed a bit of a "crunch time" mentality of late. Well, it's crunch
time of crunch time, boys. Show us what you got.
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