Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Vermaelen response displays the mental strength we now possess

Another very decent week has come to a close for the Arsenal.

A comfortable, controlled win over Dortmund in mid-week secured safe passage to the second round of the Champions League — in top spot to boot! — and a determined fight-back against Fulham saw us grab a draw in the Premier League.

It would be rather greedy to complain about the performance of the lads against Fulham given the way this group have pulled themselves out of the mud in recent times to produce a very good run of results.

After five straight wins in the Premier League there was always likely to be a little blip around the corner. It came on the weekend against a Fulham team that played to the best of their ability and took advantage of the lack of energy that often infects teams the game following a European outing.

For much of the first half we were clearly stronger than Fulham, Aaron Ramsey in particular wasted a couple of great chances, but our opponents settled into their organised approach and were difficult to break down as the game wore on.

Even so, their goal came as an enormous surprise. After a sustained period of defending Fulham broke forward and John Arne Riise, who had barely crossed the halfway line, came haring into the penalty area. His presence cause a problem and Thomas Vermaelen stubbed the ball passed Wojciech Szczesny.

On first view it looked like a combination of Riise and Bobby Zamora forced the ball home but on a second watch it became clear just how bad an error Vermaelen had made. He didn’t have a particularly good game, the Belgian, often attempting to nip in to prevent Zamora retaining position and just as often getting his judgment wrong.

But if there is one thing you can always count on from Vermaelen it is his spirit and willingness to take responsibility and give everything he has to right the wrongs of a mistake. He did just that with eight minutes to go, racing into the box to power home a header from a superb Theo Walcott cross to level the scores.

Vermaelen’s willingness to accept responsibility for his mistake and then do something to fix it was wonderful to watch. It is why he is one of the most respected and important members of this Arsenal squad and why the fans love him so much.

It is worth pointing out too that a number of our defensive players have responded well to individual mistakes over the past weeks, even the past year. Per Mertesacker was barely fazed by the little blunder that saw Norwich take the lead last weekend while Wojciech Szczesny never shows any signs of Almunia or Fabianski-like jitters when he performs below his best. Even Laurent Koscielny, who could have been ruined by last year’s Carling Cup final mix-up, is a player that simply shrugs off any little error he makes the moment it is done.

I think it shows that, defensively at least, we are close to obtaining the mental strength that the manager has often spoken about. Look at the Chelsea result, where two goals were scored after Juan Mata’s belter made it 3-3 with ten minutes to go. Look at our positive result against Dortmund after their attacking start put us under sustained pressure. These are definitely good signs.

While the winning goal never came I think we can be proud of the effort our boys put in. We may have lacked a little bit of spark until the injection of Gervinho and Abou Diaby (can you believe it!?) in the final half-hour but game to game a clear spine is forming which means a place in the top four remains a good bet.

To finish off on a rather sad note today I just want to recognise the death of Welsh manager Gary Speed. He died at the age of just 42 on Sunday and, as the player with the most appearances in Premier League history and a reputation as real footballing role model, will be sorely missed. I wish his family and friends all the best.

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  1. We need to mend the holes in back-line.If not , allowing so many goals for opponent teams will lead Robin to leave the club sooner or later.

  2. Just wanted to salute Gary Speed as many others have done in blogosphere. Feel bad that I’ve learned so many impressive things about him post-humously. He captained every side he ever played for. He scored on a bicycle kick at age 36. No one in the game seems ever to have had a bad word to say about him. RIP and I hope Wales play well for him in the coming months.

    As far as the Fullham game – Couldn’t agree more and I said basically the same thing over at 7 am kickoff. I think our side would have wilted after the OG last year. We really poured it on in the final minutes. I hope the big players get a decent rest for the Man City cup game tomorrow. We really need to focus on securing a top 4 finish and progressing as far as possible in the CL.

  3. Hi Drew,Hi all,
    Still in shock over the Gary Speed suicide. I wish the best for the friends and mostly the family that have to go on and deal with this loss over the long term.
    It was very key that we came back but having just watched the game a second time we once again wasted too many opportunities especially in the first half. The Ram looked a bit tired and gave away a lot of passes. Arteta and Song were again rock solid. Johann looked good at right back in fact the whole back four looked good with the own-goal the outstanding contradiction. A game we should have won but would have lost last year. Can’t win them all though so I’m grateful for the point and the progress the team is making as a team. Still don’t know what to make of Arshavin. Can he return to form or, is this his swan song season?

  4. Hi for all Arsenal fans, the last game was unlucky, guys approach many times on the penalty box of opponent. Please do not panic we must give VERMINATOR big YES.

  5. Leftcoastgooner, its definitely sad, there so many unemployed,depress,love lost ones,enemy to society yet they remain strong and suicide would be their last option we will neva know what went threw his mind those last minutes he might think he did the right thing but it came at a greater loss than expected world mourns,it just not worth it.

  6. Man city comes to the emirates what could be a mini test of how far arsenal came from that old trafford disaster to now,arsenal will not see ballotelli playing n man city look weary against liverpool and only had less than 48 hrs to rest also the match is taking place at the emirates, le boss needs trophies so expecting a much more experience on form side to play as he wouldnt want to hurt the fans with a man city drubbing,
    Djourou,squalluci, koscienly,miguel

    Not the side I would want, but it wenger ideal pick.

  7. Howdy Dutch,
    Good to hear from you.
    I kind of like the team selection. Time to rest some of the regulars and give the kids and “fringe” players a chance to work there way into the rotation.
    Kolo led out City which pains my heart but oh well, that’s modern professional football.
    Love ’em and leave ’em.

    @laninja try
    Should be a varity of links or
    Well, here we go. COYG!!!!!

  8. Leftcoastgooner,damn! sergio aguero we really work hard for that victory,koscienly,djourou &frimpong absolute barbarians,well done overall everyone played incredible well,just up front no real forward chamakh I just don’t know anymore ! Pls leftcoastgooner help understand chamakh he really upsetting me.

  9. I don’t know about Chamakh anymore, but I do know that it took almost 200 million pounds of debt and one of the world’s best players in Aguero to barely beat our mixed squad of youngsters and veterans by 1 miserable goal. I’m just glad it’s over and we can better focus on the league competitions.

  10. @200 million I was of course referring to the loss they made last year and not the mountain of debt which is even bigger depending on which accounting rules are used.

  11. Well it was too bad we losr but you have to admit the gang put up one heck of a scrap.
    No folding,whining or moaning. As usual we didn’t finish the few good chances we created and finally it bit us in the rear. All in all though it was a good performance by the kids especially Ox and Frimpong,Coq and Miquel. Benayoun did a good job and hustled big time and Fabianski and the Squid stayed out of trouble for the most part. Chamahk had some good moments but again no goals which unfortunately is what we got him for.
    I foresee a return to France for him especially with the African Cup of Nations around the corner. BTW: even I booed Na$ri every time he had a touch, the chinless twat.
    Cheer up Dutch,we’re on to Wigan. COYG!!!!!

  12. Great performances from Koscielny, Frimpong, Coquelin and the Ox…great strength shown by AOC and Frimpong against a strong City midfield.
    Unfortunately we had no craft or imagination up front and both Park and Chamakh only wanted to drop and get the easy ball to feet, there was no threat of pace in behind except from AOC and it highlights the difference in the better teams abilities to finish a chance when they get it, one shot on target, one goal scored to win the game.
    Surely Coquelin and Frimpong are putting pressure on Arteta for that midfield role, they seem to show much more energy and endeavor anyway.
    A huge worry for us is the ACN where we will lose Gervinho for a month and a half, if we are left with Arshavin we are going to struggle for fourth, Chamakh is also off to Africa in the new year but I doubt many will notice, honestly I dont get this guy he doesnt put himself in goal scoring positions, anyway he wont be around much longer if the PSG rumours are true…Id sell for 4M to be honest, just to try and make back whatever over the odds salary he was being paid.
    Anyway now we can concentrate on the CL spot n the league

  13. @Shambogunner
    Hey shambo,
    Good to hears from you. What about winning the FA Cup? With this group of kids I think we could make a darn good run at it and if they come together (and finish some chances) I think we’ve got as good a shot as anyone.
    BTW: Hots**** and ManU(re) both lost and Steve Bruce got the axe at Sunderland. Too,too bad but that’s what happens when you’re dependent on Nick Bendtner(TGSTEL) for goals.

  14. Looking ahead to tomorrow morning (tonight for you down-under types) We have 2 wins a loss and a draw against Wigan over the last two seasons. Both wins were clean sheets(3-0,2-0) a 2-all draw and a 3-2 loss last april during our post-Carling final cup skid.
    Robin’s 12 goals are just one short of their entire team total so assuming he plays we should have a healthy fire-power advantage.
    With the sacking of Steve Bruce at Sunderland it stands to reason That Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is next for the chop so I expect him to have his charges at full tilt and to spare no measures to get at least apoint. On our behalf with the two teams directly ahead of us in 5th and 6th (Newcastle and Chelsea) playing each other all 3 points would do us a world of good but consequently 1 point wont help that much. Plus, if you consider the draw at home to Fulham and the cup loss to Man $ity(also at the Emirates) we have to go back to Norwich in the 3rd week of November for our last EPL win.
    Clearly, a good time to get back into the the winning swing of things.

  15. Not getting a win from this game is just not acceptable at all. To recover this season we must be finishing of all of these smaller games, even if it means we lose the big ones just get a good position, very annoyed with this one.

  16. Arsene defended stupidly to his sub of Arshavin for quick legs’ Charmbalen. This is not a smart move at all, totally lost the momentum after the substitution. I have to blame Arsene for this loss of valuable 3 points. We would have lost the CL place at this stage of the season and even lost the place to Spurs is one thing I cannot swallow.

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