Arsenal FC, despite a less-than-impressive first half, was saved by a pair of goals scored by Santi Cazorla, and survived their match against Fulham FC to take the three points and keep the Premier League lead. They were Cazorla’s first Premier League goals in a while, and the only bright spot on an otherwise disappointing effort from the Arsenal squad. In truth, apart from about 25 minutes of brilliant team play during the second half, there was very little about the match to inspire the home supporters at Emirates.
The first half saw Arsenal flouted time and again by the defensive structure of the Fulham FC squad. It was only the fact that the Fulham midfield failed to act with any imagination at all that kept the match scoreless at the half. The second half began and ended with the same lack of energy and purpose, but in between was a display of skill and teamwork that was enough to carry the day.
It has become a trend lately that Arsenal FC supporters rely on Jack Wilshire, their “Jack-of-all-trades”, to create the opportunities needed to win. It was a beautiful ball off of Wilshire’s foot that handed Cazorla his first goal of the match. Cazorla played it beautifully, threading the ball between defenders in a precision shot which was impressive any way you look at it. In fact, both of his goals demonstrated a skill level which was remarkable. What can be said of the match Saturday is that the Arsenal FC were able to keep the Premier League lead with a performance which may not have been sufficient against many of the squads sitting closer to the top of the table.
Another ugly win for Manchester United manager, Arsene Wenger, but it got them the three points they needed to keep Manchester City from taking the top spot away from them. For three weeks now, the top three spots have been separated by just a couple of points. Even a draw on Saturday would have cost Arsenal the lead. It is a far cry from the runaway points advantage that they had begun to amass early on in this campaign. Arsenal fans can take some comfort, though, that Cazorla is stepping into his full potential at this point in the season. Along with Mesut Ozil in the middle, Cazorla could have a real impact for the club if he is able to step up and maintain this form.
This is the second week in a row that Arsenal have gotten by on a less-than-stellar performance. It has not hurt them so far, but it does have supporters wondering if there is any help coming before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Before the match, Wenger answered questions about his reported interest in Dimitar Berbatov, the Fulham striker, but Wenger claimed that no offers had been made. Arsenal has also been reported as pursuing FC Barcelona forward, Cristian Tello, a player who many fans believe could make a difference for the club. While Tello has given statements indicating that he wants to remain and try to get more playing time at Barcelona, reports continue to surface which keep this rumor alive. Liverpool has also been mentioned as a possible suitor for Tello, though he snubbed an offer from them last summer, and there is no indication that his feelings have changed in that regard.
Wenger has not given official word of any deals in the works, although he did say that he wanted to be able to announce “something exciting” to the fans. To date, the most persistent rumor other than the Tello deal is that Arsenal may make a move to take Mirko Vucinic from Juventus on loan. Without confirmation, supporters will have to wait and hope that something is in the works. With the end of the month coming up, however, the pressure to do something is mounting. With the win on Saturday over Fulham, Arsenal have survived for another week holding on to the Premier League lead, but the club may find itself struggling to keep that lead without some new blood on their stalled attack.
By Jim Malone