Arsenal 1-0 Fulham: Mannone masterclass opens path to move to the top two

Arsenal 1 (van Persie 52)
Fulham 0

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Mannone produced a superb goalkeeping performance against Fulham

Match Review

The Arsenal boys had third-choice Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone to thank for the 1-0 win at Fulham – and didn’t they know it? The 21-year-old produced an outstanding goalkeeping performance to ensure that Robin van Persie’s 52nd-minute goal remained decisive and each and every member of the Arsenal team made a point to personally congratulate the Italian for his efforts. 

The statistics at the end of the game showed that Mannone made 6 parried saves in all and to my memory at least four of those were quite brilliant; an early double-save from Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey, a low diving save to deny Zoltan Gera, a terrific effort to scramble away another Johnson header and perhaps the best of the lot, a tremendous reflex stop to his left to keep out Bobby Zamora’s effort. 

If it sounds like Mannone was under intense pressure throughout this match, it’s because he was. This was – in truth – a poor Arsenal performance and although we got the only goal of the game when Cesc Fabregas floated a lovely pass to van Persie and he finished clinically, Fulham were undoubtedly unlucky to finish up without a point. But as it was, this is the sort of game that we have failed to take three points from all too often in the past and although the likes of Fabregas, Abou Diaby and Andrey Arshavin never really got going, the boys should be delighted with their ability to grind out the win without playing well.

Although we didn’t play well I thought the starting team selected by the manager was the correct one. Mannone played behind the usual back four of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy while a midfield triangle of Alex Song, Fabregas and Diaby provided support for Nicklas Bendtner, van Persie and Arshavin up top. A lot of people were expecting the return of Arshavin to boost the creativity of the squad but the truth was he looked very flat after returning from almost a month out and was out-shined by both van Persie in the middle and the hard-working Bendtner on the right.

The first half saw us create only one real opportunity when a hideous bobble denied Arshavin the simplest of finishes after terrific interplay by Fabregas and van Persie. Fulham meanwhile forced three strong saves out of Mannone and arguably went into the break as the better side.

Just after half-time our boys made Fulham pay for their inability to make their pressure count on the scoreboard. Van Persie scored the sort of goal that Thierry Henry made famous, controlling Fabregas’ superb pass and sliding home with his right foot. The relief was there for all to see as Bendtner, van Persie and Fabregas celebrated with intensity and the score could have been 2-0 shortly after had it not been for an excellent save by Mark Schwarzer to deny Bendtner’s stinging shot.

From that point on, though, it was largely Fulham’s game. Mannone was forced into several more saves and Sagna even deflected a Dempsey effort off the post before Wenger saw fit to make a couple of changes to the team. Arshavin was replaced by Tomas Rosicky – who immediately added more pep to our passing – while Emmanuel Eboue subbed on for van Persie in a move that saw Bendtner moved into the middle.

The changes failed to significantly turn things around however, and while Eboue and Bendtner both had chances to put the game away it was Fulham who went closest to scoring. But just when they thought they would score through Zamora, there was Mannone again to make the save and ensure Arsenal went home with all three points.

Talking Point

I’ve already said enough about him to fill up a 500-page book but – how good was Mannone? The manager called his performance ’10 out of 10′ and although I wouldn’t go that far (some parried shots really could have been knocked a little further away from danger) it was perhaps the best performance by an Arsenal goalkeeper since Jens Lehmann’s heroics against Real Madrid at Highbury in 2006. He really kept us in the game and although I am firmly of the opinion that Manuel Almunia should return once he is fit again after his chest infection Mannone’s performance will have sent a clear reminder that if he continues to perform abjectly then we have a very able deputy waiting to take his spot.

Final Thoughts

Chelsea’s suprising loss to Wigan means that we are now just six points off the top of the table with a game in hand. The last two games have seen two clean sheets and the win over Fulham will have given the players the belief that they can take three points from games even when they are not playing well. 

All-in-all this was a good weekend for Arsenal and with three home games coming up next against Olympiacos in the Champions League and Blackburn and Birmingham in the Premier League and Chelsea having to playing Liverpool there is every chance that our team will be up in the top two within a couple of week’s time.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Fulham by leaving a comment.



  1. It was a great win as in the past we would of lost these types of games and the season is early so we have a great chance to really get going as we don’t normaly get going till nov but I’ve been happy with the team so far and I can’t wait for the Olympiacos game and hopefully see some fringe players have a game as we should beat them prety easy.

  2. Hi SF, “Hard working bendtner..” is apparentlt true for me but saying that the trio Fab, Song, Diaby is perfect is false to me.Diaby was our weakeness last saturday and honestly I think we totaly played on 10 men not 11 just bcos of Diaby’s incompetence.there are lots of things that i want to say abot him but for a sum-up, i beleive that he cant just fit yet for a PL type of game.May be, once again, we have to be patient as all of us cant refuse that he defntly has talent in him, but having played more than 60 games for Arsenal, i dont think he is the right guy for us.How long must we wait?? Deni isnt that good either to pair Song.We defntly need that Uggly guy to pair with Song.Toure was the guy that i thought of but he’s gone, now I think putting Thomas there and having Sanderos as CB is my last option, but once again Silly would be our only one CB subs.

  3. Who was really better on saturday? Mannone? Gallas? Vermaelen? Sagna? Clichy? Song? Bendtner? Or was it RVP? Most questioned the ability of Mannone especially after the standard game. On RVP I never for once questioned his lack goals at the moment. After what he did at stanford bridge last term when we were one zero down from an OG and also at everton after normal 90 mins of play. We should have to expect greater things from Arsène and the boys. Come on you GOONERS!

  4. I guess this isthe sort of games we have to be winning and grinding out, even where we dont play well… ManU didnt play well against us yet they won…Chelsea would always win some of these ugly matches.. this is what separate the boys from the men…. for Diaby, I guess he is lucky becos AW beliefs in him but as soon as that fades away, b rest assured that he would be shown the bench. Bendtner is still being used out of position but…. lets wait & see… Good weekend though and a good result for the CL 2moro

  5. Mannone’s brilliant game highlight’s our deficiencies at the back. With Almunia in goal we would have lost 4-1, he can’t seem to save anything. Most saves were from headers from Johnson and Zamora, hardly the tallest of strikers. I would love to see Arshavin and Rosicky together, both work hard so only need Song as defensive mid and with Eduardo up front with RVP. However dropping Bentner and Diaby to the bench would reduce our average height to about 3 foot 6!

  6. Just a thing that come across my mind, about our corner kicks…While Van persie takes his corner kicks well, corners from the other side of the pitch (taken by Fab or Arshavin)is frustrating. It seems every corner taken by fab is easilly intercepted by defenders stationed at the near post. It never goes beyond the 1st defender, and it’s been like that ever since he played for us as a teenage….Why can’t he swings it a little harder and higher? And 9 out of 10 corners from Arsha will go straingt into the keeper’s hands, as if he was aiming to put the ball into the pair of gloves rather than a teammate’s head….Can’t Arsene sees it? We are wasting potential scoring chances unneccesarily….maybe van persie should take some out-swinging ones from there..

  7. Win pretty, lose pretty, win ugly, lose ugly, what order would you put those? I think a win is a win and we should always be happy with a win. Some folks won’t be happy until we win every match 6-1. Sorry but this isn’t playstation. Fulham are a damn good team, well organized, and they will fight for all 100 minutes so a 1-0 win is a damn good result.

    It’s an even better result when you take into account the fact that Diaby had a nightmare, that Arshavin looked rusty, and that Cesc had to carry the midfield load.

    Yesterday’s result proved that this team just needs one or two stellar performances and we can win. Hopefully they can carry that belief forward and grind out more wins, because we’ll need that belief when we go to play those famous “committed Northern teams.”

  8. great article from you Andy! (as always, of course), I would agree that Rosicky could play a bigger role (though I don’t like him personally so far I can judge him personally), but his passes are nearly always accurate, I can’t say anything else, it’s just like that, and of course he has something extraordinary and has somtimes this glance of ingenuity that can decide matches, of course, apart from that I would add that Fulham was an important win, at this moment and of course the following will be important too, but maybe not so difficult, I hope I get a channel tomorrow night, so far till tomorrow

  9. A win is a win but we rode our luck hard on Saturday (thanks to “the Don”). We have got to be more defensively robust, but let’s hope this was a wake-up call.

  10. This where I call it quits. Quitting reading our beloved Arsenal blogs. They are all useless and plagiarise newspapers. None can come up with original thoughts.

    They are spouting tosh nicked from elsewhere and fried with their own versions of jocular words.

    I would rather see our win at Fulham as comming of age. We used to lose these kind of games and that we held on should be celebtated than mocked. Why is Manure or Chelsea ugly win better than ours?

    I took the win at Craven cottage with both hands and celebrated by giving missus a seeing to. Yes, I dont care how or where a win comes from but a win nevertherless. I would hate to have played free flowing football and still lost. Are’nt those who are mocking Arsenal for not playing free flowing football the same who credit our opponents for grinding out results?

    Come on guys, wake up. What a bunch of mugs you all are.

  11. bendtner out of tomorrows game after minor accident crashed his aston martin can you believe it what has he achieved in the game to be driving an aston martin??to cocky he should concentrate on his finishing if he,s got too much time on his hands, also arsenal have announced profits of 32.5 mil for the past twelve months..well thats alright then i,m sure the board are very happy dont worry about investment in the team lets just make as much money as possible.on saturday,s game makes a change to win when not playing well,arshavin was clearly unfit,bendtner,s only position in the team in my opinion is as a central striker and diaby should not be in the starting 11 he,s had too many chances way over 100 games and i,m still waiting for consistency.

  12. A win is a win but I thought Cesc looked like he was really struggling. I’m hoping that he isn’t trying to play through an injury or the like, Also it’s great for the team that some of our reserve players are really pushing hard Mannone, Gibbs competition never hurt anyone.

  13. just found out denilson is out for 2 months with a fractured back,ouch…looks like were stuck with mr.diaby for a while

  14. Look at Diaby in that photo on this page. What’s he doing down there for f*cks sake! The guy’s 6′ 3″! Why is he not jumping for the ball? He’s actually bending down making himself shorter!

  15. Diaby is just Carling Cup player no more no less. Lazy to defend and like to dribble. So easy for PL players to play against. Once there are 2 opposition players against him, 95% of the time he will loss the ball and put us in dangerous position.

  16. Lets just hope that Theo would be ready tomorrw, so that Bendy would be on the bench(I also agree with the above opinion abt Bendy, he should be only Central striker),
    As for Diaby, i think that there is not much that I can do(Mailling letter to AW’s personnal email ad perhaps???!!) beleive me, AW will always put him there, not only bcos of Deni’s injury but he really likes Diaby’s style.
    Diaby is really destroying our game,Lets just say that It may be too early to say something abt him.Lets see what he will do tommorow.

  17. @Hey Nonny Mouse

    Wow you are so sad, THAT IS SAGNA! And when your keeper comes out to punch a ball you better duck or get knocked out.

  18. Really puzzle about AW’s view on Daiby. As far as I understood, AW played Diaby because of his height and hope that he can help out the set pieces but Vermaenator or Gallas doesn’t taller than Diaby. Why AW buy a tall DM and really solve the problem we have? On the other way, if Diaby doesn’t concede some easy fault or loss the dribble on our own half we won’t have to defense so many set pieces. The position Diaby can play is attacking midfield or supporting striker during Carling Cup or CL when play against German, Spanish or Italian team which they give you more time on the ball.

  19. Hah my back Nonny Mouse, thats what I get for looking at the picture on a cellphone lol… But he was out of position to head that ball anyways.

  20. not a brilliant Arsenal performance but thank God for Mannone.he was really aoutstanding.and kudos to all plaers also for holding on to that one goal.Will do beta next time

  21. I think its just selective vision that Diaby is thought of as ‘lazy’ in defense by the Arsenal support. The only instance i’ve ever seen where Diaby has been lazy is against Man City once at 75th+ minute when they counter attacked. Diaby is a little inconsistent, sure, but I think he adds a lot to our play and can destroy teams on his day (portsmouth anyone, or has that been forgotton already?)

    Credit to our team I think, I don’t think we really played all that ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’, Fulham just played very well. Fulham are a good side and the win is a great result.

    In previous seasons, I would see as as winning only 1 of the last 3 games that we have played. So many players have matured. The likes of Song – hes so strong now and has learnt how to use his body etc to control midfield and Gallas who really seems to be thriving having a central defender beside him who he doesn’t hate have been brilliant all season.

  22. Sorry spanish but I have to disagree about Almunia returning as soon as he’s fit. Keepers place is now Mannone’s until he shows otherwise. When you come in and have an outstanding performance you hsve to stay . If you don’t how disappointed are you going to be? Isn’t that what it’s about – getting a chance and taking it ? No , Mannone has to stay as first choice – no qusetion . If he keeps performing then think of the confidence it gives our back line – something that is clearly absent when Almunia is in goal .

  23. @ Goonerbeall – Interesting comments, I’m pretty sure I came up with this article myself so I’m not quite sure what you’re on about. If you could explain a little further I’d be interested to hear it.

  24. Diaby is a novelty player, and novelty is something the premier league does not have time for. We do lose more of the ball when he’s in the team, although I don’t see him as really that bad. Just a bit perplexed at the time its taking him to be consistent. The performance at Fulham was bad as a whole but we won and its been a while since we had consecutive clean sheets.

  25. @ Swift – I’ve read your posts before and value and admire your opinion but I just don’t accept that Diaby has ever ‘destroyed ‘ opponents. And Portsmouth? Well – they are pretty clearly the worst team in the league this season. They’ve played 7 and lost 7. While watching the game against Fulham (on TV sadly not actually there) the commentator said “You never know what you’re going to get with Diaby. Sometimes he can be brilliant and sometime he can do things like the own goal against Man U.” Well, excuse me but when has he been brilliant? If he was brilliant sometimes I wouldn’t be complaining. I don’t like complaining about Diaby – in fact I’m going to try and make this my last time because I’m sick of myself going on about him. What baffles me and drives me so crazy is that he offers next to nothing for us. He’s tall but he never uses his height to good effect. He’s not in there knocking in headers all the time. Vermaelen, Gallas etc. get more headers from corners than he does. The only time he did head the ball in defense he put it in his own net. So his height is no asset for us. He’s not a tough tackler. He barely has any defensive qualities at all. If I was an attacker and had the ball against Arsenal I’d head straight for where Diaby was standing thinking to myself ‘easy’.
    He’s not a great striker. He doesn’t score loads of goals. He’s not brilliantly creative. He’s not a superb passer of the ball. He doesn’t hold the ball up for us. He’s not a get-stuck-in aggressive kind of player. He has no leadership qualities. He’s not a hard working, shed blood for the cause type of player. He’s not a dead ball specialist. He’s not a ‘fox-in-the-box’. He doesn’t have ‘great positional sense’ or vision. So what does he do for Arsenal? Well…he can dribble a bit. That’s about it as far as I can see and believe me I’ve watched and waited. But I man he’s not exactly Ronaldo is he? He’s no George Best. It is undeniable that we could do better. Ramsey would be better. Much better. But we could do more than that. We have loads of money to buy a really class player and get shot of Diaby. The team would benefit immeasurably. So for the last time I ask why does AW, surely one of the greatest and most intelligent football managers of all time not do it?

  26. @ Hey Nonny Mouse, you are sick and delusional! If Arsène plays Diaby in a game, there is a reason. So shut up and stop hating.

  27. I side with Nonny Mouse (just). Yes, Diaby is a good player. But the best players – and Arsenal must have them – have some quality to set them apart! What sets Diaby apart other than unnecesary dribbling’

  28. I think Diaby’s best game was the 4-0 win against Porto last season. I can’t quite decide his worst game coz he might prove me wrong on Sunday (sic!)

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