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“The difference is in the thickness?”

A very late goal by Eddie Nketiah saw Arsenal salvage a point in a game in which almost every aspect of the game gravitated against them. Even then there was an agonising wait as Craig Pawson and his VAR henchmen sought ways to disallow Nketiah’s close range effort. It followed a corner at which Mat Ryan appeared in the box to significant effect. 

While a number of us on this blog have a very soft spot for Fulham they would have been extremely fortuitous winners. Fulham played virtually no football, saw Arsenal have a marginal goal disallowed, profited from a penalty where Lemina jumped like an Olympic high-jumper to con the officials and though they defended bravely with a standout performance by the keeper, Areola, they were very much second-best even to an Arsenal side that increasingly showed the effects of Thursday’s exertions in Prague. Perhaps the worst news for Arsenal was what looked like a nasty hamstring injury suffered by Alexandre Lacazette in the second half. 

Pre- match, my main concern was if you could play in the Fulham defence if your name didn’t begin with A? The game was distinguished by the first mention in the official programme of Goonerholics Forever in respect of our Double celebration and Willow appeal. A lovely gesture by the club.

Mikel Arteta’s team selection was almost certain to be a surprise given the impact of Thursday’s match. The inclusion of Mat Ryan in place of Leno was not expected but not in this correspondent’s view significant. The defence was rotated, as was the midfield, but Xhaka remained in the team at left-back and Ceballos continued. Our recent front three was slightly tweaked with Martinelli starting but Saka, ESR and Lacazette continued from Thursday. 

Taking a knee appeared to be a very significant gesture last Thursday and Laca led us before the match in another pointed protest against racism. 

When the game began it looked briefly like crisp, sharp Arsenal had turned up. Lacazette set up Martinelli in the first minute and his lifted effort over the jumping keeper was just wide. In the sixth minute, Areola then made a good block from Martinelli after fine work by ESR. However, our early flurry didn’t yield a goal despite the brightness of some of our football with ESR, Ceballos and Martinelli prominent and Saka and Martinelli double marked every time they got the ball. Lacazette coming deep was carrying on his excellent link play but Fulham created the next major opportunity when Maja had a shot deflected just wide of the left-hand post with Ryan off-balance. It was to be their only goal attempt, the spot-kick aside.

On 21 minutes, Smith Rowe drove just over and Elneny started to become more visible but not for the right reasons, driving a pass ridiculously firmly at Saka, wrestling Lookman to the ground and then when we moved forward with Fulham under pressure he played the ball back to Holding! 

Then a ‘goal’.  On forty-one minutes, we built pressure from both wings and a teasing chip from Bellerin was subtly headed in by Ceballos. Saka’s toe was clearly offside (!) and the goal disallowed. Another ‘goal’, this time a potential own goal by Andersen was ruled out for a clearer offside by ESR. I wasn’t fully in sync with Roy Keane at half-time, not for the first time it must be said, as he described the game as ‘shocking.’ But it was very much a case of an anti-climax after Thursday. Fulham’s defensive mindset and our increasing fatigue made for a flat spectacle. We had played all the football and had returned from Prague after a big match on Friday morning. Facing a massed defence against a desperate side it was not a straightforward task although the game did have a slightly end of season feel.

Half-time – Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 

We hoped for a sparkier Arsenal performance in the second half. Laca immediately drove wide when decently placed and Bukayo Saka strangely hit the post from an acute angle with his right foot. But then the balance of the game shifted.

In the fifty-fourth minute Fulham shifted forwards and Gabriel blocked Lemina whose leap into the air would have done Dick Fosbury proud. Arsenal fans are used to interminable waits that end badly and this was no exception. Was a Fulham man marginally offside? No! Was it a clear and obvious error? I thought so but I usually do when Craig Pawson is involved. Penalty given. 

Maja hit a very firm penalty high and down the middle giving Ryan no chance. 

Arsenal 0 Fulham 1 – (Maja pen 58) 

Arsenal’s response saw a Bellerin header go just wide before he was hooked along with Elneny for Partey and Pépé. Saka was moved to right-back – yet another position for him to fill. 

The rest of the game was attack v defence even after Lacazette collapsed to the ground clutching his hamstring. Nketiah came on for some rare minutes and understandably found it difficult to adjust to first-team football after so long on the sidelines. 

Without showing any great incisiveness or quality Arsenal furnished many chances. Pépé had a point-blank header saved from a Martinelli cross. Nketiah lofted over and then mis-controlled a beautiful Saka pass. Saka was just wide with a curving shot with two minutes of normal time left. Martinelli had a shot blocked by Areola and then Reid made a great block to deny Martinelli at the death. A flurry of corners seemed certain to come to naught but after Fulham blocked a Ceballos shot, the ball was deflected across to Nketiah and he ran it home at the far post. Scott Parker was apoplectic that Holding was offside but he wasn’t interfering with play and not in Areola’s eyeline. 

Arsenal 1 (Nketiah) Fulham 1 (90 +7 minutes) 

Final Score Arsenal 1 Fulham 1 

So, if Fulham’s first victory at Arsenal eluded them at the death, it was another very disappointing home result. Europe via the League looks a long way away now especially given the injury blow to Laca. We await the visit of Everton on Friday hoping we can produce a fresher performance and one in which VAR is much less intrusive.

It’s coming …. 

20 Drinks to “Laughing Like an Aina …But VAR Fails to Give Fulham Victory”

  1. 1
    Steve T says:

    97th minute…. Get in..

  2. 2
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent review of a pretty grim game TTG. Luckily we have better things to look forward to.

  3. 3
    Steve T says:

    Cheers TTG. This was my post after the game and there is nothing I would change.

    2 points dropped. Lacklustre, rudderless and shocking for the most of it. Personally I’m so bored with watching these types of performances. No energy, no drive and virtually no movement off the ball. It was almost as if it was a pre season friendly. I dread to think what the excuse will be this time. Is this the 9th or 10th one off this season? I’m losing count.
    I can accept that there are sides better than us. What I’m massively running out patience with is the just going through the motions type of performances.

    VAR? Well, it’s here to right all of those incredible wrongs from all of those incredibly incompetent and corrupt officials. That, along with Sky over analysing every single decision that there ever was, to the Max. “He’s three inches offside, how did he miss that?” String him up from the nearest tree.

    Of course it’s a penalty. Gabriel clips his toe. “There was contact, he’s ENTITLED to go down.” Of course he is. That’s the game everyone wants. Don’t anyone try and tell me we we would have been any different?

    We want these decisions correct. If it takes 3 minutes to work out that a toe is offside, then so be it. The fact that people say, well, he’s only just offside, or it’s not in the spirit of the game is simply laughable. People for years moaned about errors made, coming up with all sorts of reasons why. VAR is now here to right those errors. People only have themselves to blame.

    The only thing that I always say is simply this. Do not blame VAR, or the decision of the officials for our inept performance. It has absolutely zero to do with what was on display there today. I dread to think what the atmosphere would have been like as we desperately searched for 97th minute equaliser, needing an assist from our stand in keeper, against Fulham.

    Yet another crap day at the office. Let’s hope we learn, and make progress from the mistakes of today. I also hope that Laca is very much only short term.

  4. 4
    Tapera Doma says:

    European Super League. Do folks understand that football/soccer, just like any other sport, is @ the end of the day NOTHING more than entertainment?
    1 more thing >> European Super League = quintessential American capitalism.

  5. 5
    Trev says:

    Thanks TTG – great report and very fair, I thought.

    I had to go out at HT and only just got to watch the second half recording.
    That was torture. I’ll allow them a bit of brain fog after playing away so well on Thursday evening but …..
    The time it takes us to push the ball out wide sometimes is ridiculous – no variation on the across the back, out wide and cut inside plan at all today. Very difficult to find space against seven across the back though.

    For the record, I really, really can’t stand Scott E Parker, and while I don’t usually mind Fulham, his time wasting, grass hugging, slow walking, high squealing team really got on my tits today.

    Ceballos worked hard and kept possession well but Elneny and Bellerin on the right hand side gave us nothing at all. Hats off to Xhaka for commitment to the cause today but pleeaase move the ball a bit quicker man.

    I don’t often disagree with Steve T on very much but while I agree that you can’t just blame the referee for the paucity of our performance, VAR can absolutely get in the bin.
    Personally I never wanted it. Give me human error, banter with rival fans, moaning about inept linesman etc etc any day over this technological monstrosity.
    I never jump for joy when we score any more. All the spontaneous thrill had gone. Instead, a tortuous wait ensues, while cross-lines are drawn on a computer screen to see if yet another goal can be disallowed for some micro-metrical offence invisible to the human eye.

    There is, of course, one aspect of the eventual offside decision which is never commented on or even considered by commentators and pundits alike – the real, actual instant when the ball is played forwards. It simply too difficult to be certain when that is, which renders the whole process a game ruining nonsense.

  6. 6
    Bathgooner says:

    An extremely balanced account of a disappointing outing for a team that looked tired of mind and limb in its critical creative engine room and at its sharp end. With a bit of luck they would have achieved the win that their largely unproductive effort deserved. This team isn’t yet good enough to win despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I hope that Laca’s hamstring has only had a tweak rather than a tear.

  7. 7
    Steve T says:


    We don’t disagree at all. I never wanted it either. I would much rather just leave it to the officials who statistically, got most decisions right anyway. But the constant moaning and abuse from all sides, coupled with the advancements in technology made it inevitable.

    Perhaps sometimes people just need to be careful what they wish for?

  8. 8
    TTG says:

    Two issues are depressing me about football at the present . That moment when your team scores is the most exciting element in football and it has been destroyed now. I ( pre VAR ) always looked at the ref after the goal and when he pointed to the centre spot there was certainty . VAR has destroyed that aspect of football .
    I know Steve is a rugby fan and while I like the game it is a very different game to football . Try going to Twickenham and asking the crowd why a penalty has been awarded! Most don’t know the rules or can’t see it closely enough. I got incredibly irritated watching some of the recent internationals and seeing almost every try ratified by a process that was still far from accurate . Football is a simple game that doesn’t need to change its rules every season If it takes three minutes to decide if someone is an inch offside allow some advantage to the attacker and give him the benefit of the doubt . Today’s game was a poor match made farcical and Fulham almost committed grand larceny .
    We will no doubt debate the new Champions League when we know more . But it doesn’t look like a great way forward for the game. You don’t want to be excluded but it could lead to the break up of the game as we know it

  9. 9
    Steve T says:


    In rugby, the ref will tell you exactly what a penalty has been awarded for. The other side of rugby that l like is that the ref will make a call, before referring it. For example they will simply say, on field decision is a try. Is there any reason it can’t be awarded?

    I’d happily go back to the old days. If it meant the odd mistake then so be it. That’s just the way it goes.

  10. 10
    North Bank Ned says:

    A very fair assessment of today’s fare, TTG.

    As for the European Super League, it will go the way of the Packer revolution in cricket, ostracism then acceptance and absorption.

    Taking on the role of the people’s tribune is not a look that suits either FIFA or UEFA, neither of which would know the best interests of the game unless it arrived wrapped up in $100 bills.

  11. 11
    North Bank Ned says:

    A top Premiership club should be able to rest half a dozen regular starters and still be able to beat a side like Fulham. As I said in the previous drinks, we just do not have the squad depth yet to do that. Elneny has many qualities but being Thomas Partey understudy is not one of them. Xhaka is making a decent fist defensively at left-back, but he offers none of KT3’s offensive threat. Clearly, there are no replacements for Saka and ESR, especially with Ødegaard still out, not even Willian. More miles were put on young legs when rest would have been in order. I hope, too, this was not the last time we’ll see Laca in an Arsenal shirt.

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, a fine report of a disappointing game.

  13. 13
    Tapera Doma says:

    Folks take this European Super League thing seriously, in light of how club finances have suffered because of COVID among other things & on the flip side how much immediate cash $$ injection is being talked about for the 15 founding club members. TV money is going to talk big time. I see a lot of ESPN+ type of streaming apps popping up everywhere & being the exclusive homes for the European Super League games.
    A majority of the time talent will go where the money is. Don’t sleep on it.
    I am just saying folks.

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    Disappointing failure to apply more telling and sustained attacking pressure especially in the seconds half after we had gone down a goal. The one chance that we really should have converted that we didn’t was Pepe’s who had the goal gaping from short range, and I was surprised he didn’t get more on his header. Other than that, we could have used a fully fit Auba on a day like this, and a number 10 with a packet full of defense-splitting through balls but we had neither of those. Lacking those things we still dominated possession and have only ourselves to blame for not creating and taking more scoring chances.

  15. 15
    OsakaMatt says:

    I was wondering what Laça was telling the players after the first
    disallowed goal by Dani. Seemed to be delivering some kind of message,
    and it looked suspiciously like leadership to me

  16. 16
    Steve T says:

    The only thing that surprises me with talk of this European super league is that it’s taken this long. Football sold its soul the moment they entered into an agreement with Sky. From that moment on, if not before that, the game became more and more about money.

    I said here many years back now that my interest was not as strong as it had once been. I said that I now felt I was being treated as a customer rather than a supporter. I was ridiculed by several in the bar for saying that. Perhaps when we are playing Juve in a league match that is played in the middle of another continent and kicking off at midnight, people might just start to understand what I meant.

    I hope that it just never gets off the ground.

  17. 17
    depressedgooner says:

    I really have to stop watching Arsenal, I missed the last three games as I could barely focus on anything and finally got to watch us again only to watch an initial period of dominance dissipate away once more to become a shambolic display of apathy.

    Bellerin as captain was useless and as a player was even worse, along with El-Neny I lost count of the times he gave the ball away and then had to chase back like a headless chicken.

    Lacazette was actually really good and losing him was symptomatic of the Arsenal curse lately, I thought both Saka and Smith Rowe had quiet inneffective games, but they are young and not robots, I thought the refereeing and VAR were generally very poor standard again.

    The super league is a terrible idea and deserves to die immediately, how embarassing for a team in mid table obscurity get offered a super league place anyway, what exactly have Spurs done to get this offered?

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Steve T says:

    Maureen has just been sacked by the spuds.

    At least there is some good news today.

  20. 20
    Bathgooner says: