In a match where both sides had their chances to win, these sides deservedly drew in this fixture. Arsenal started this match brightly with two goals inside the first 23 minutes, before Fulham scored two goals before the half time break. Despite the match ending 3-3, the action didn’t stop until the last whistle, with Mikel Arteta having a 95th minute penalty saved by Mark Schwarzer, the Fulham keeper.
Arsenal lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, while Fulham lined up in a 4-4-1-1. Arsenal bought in Francis Coquelin for Jack Wilshere, who was suspended. The rest of the team was as expected, with Walcott starting only his 2nd league match of the season after some good performances in recent matches.
Fulham started with Kieran Richardson on the left side, instead of Damien Duff, who has been a starting player for Fulham regularly this season. Also, Ashkan Dejagah was handed his first EPL start, after coming from Wolfsburg in the summer transfer window. During the match, when in transition, the Fulham wingers were playing high up the pitch and coming in field, allowing the fullbacks, Riether and Riise, to overlap and join in the attack.
Arsenal started the match cautiously with Fulham having the first genuine shot at goal with Ruiz flashing wide after a deflected shot. Not long afterwards, Giroud had a long range effort which was unable to trouble Schwarzer in the Fulham goal. Giroud, in the 11th minute, made up for his poor effort with a great header from a Walcott header. It was a poorly tracked run from Hughes but a great header which Schwarzer wasn’t able to keep out.
In the 23rd minute, Podolski made it 2-0 to Arsenal. This was a well worked move from Arsenal, who were able to take advantage of Fulham being down to 10 men when this play ensued, due to Richardson going off with a hamstring injury and the substitute Kačaniklić not being ready. As Sagna got the ball and attempted to cross the ball, Sidwell cut the ball out and the ball dropped to Cazorla. As Cazorla received the ball, Theo Walcott made a very smart run pulling Hangeland out of position for Arteta to have a free run through the ball to cross the ball for Podolski, who finished with the outside of his left foot and nipping in front of Riether.
Not long later, in the 29th minute, Berbatov caught Arsenal’s defence out from a well taken Bryan Ruiz corner, getting a free header from 5 yards out to get Fulham back to 2-1. The marking from Arsenal was very poor, as the ball was able to go over 4 Arsenal players heads (Coquelin, Giroud, Mertesacker and Koscielny) before Berbatov got the free header. Question marks could also be thrown at Mannone who didn’t come to claim the ball, even though the ball was within the 6 yard box.
In the 40th minute, Fulham were able to equalise through Alexander Kačaniklić. The ball was played across the Fulham back line before being played into Sidwell (see above pic). Sidwell, then, played a ball out wide to Reither, who was able to put Dimitar Berbatov in behind the Arsenal defence, into space. As Podolski chased back to try and put pressure on Berbatov, the Fulham striker was able to get in a cross for Kačaniklić, who had made a smart run to the penalty spot. As the Arsenal defenders were running back facing their goal, they didn’t spot the run of Kačaniklić, who powered a header in from 15 yards with Mannone unable to keep the ball out.
Fulham started the better side in the second half, even though Arsenal had the best chance early in the second half with a Walcott cross just evading Giroud’s head. In the 67th minute, Berbatov put Fulham 3-2 after Bryan Ruiz was dragged down by Mikel Arteta, who was too casual in possession in this instance.
Only two minutes later, Arsenal equalised through Giroud. The ball was played by Vermalen into Podolski, who was able to hold the ball up, with a few Fulham players pressuring him. Podolski was able to play a pass into Santi Cazorla, who played a delightful pass to put Giroud through on goal. Giroud was unable to put the ball on target and it cannoned back off the post. Luckily for Arsenal, Walcott was the first player to react and played a cross onto Giroud’s head, who flicked the ball past Schwarzer to equalise and make it 3-3.
In the 85th minute, Walcott came off for Arshavin. Only a matter of minutes later, in the 94th minute, with almost the last kick of the game, Arshavin was able to win a penalty for Arsenal. As he attempted to play a cross, the ball was blocked by Riether’s arm. However, Riether was attempting to move his arm away, behind his back. Arteta stepped up to take the penalty, but Schwarzer correctly guessed to his left, his much stronger side, and pulled off a great save to keep the score at 3-3.
The match deserved to end in a draw, with some good attacking play and also some poor defensive work from both teams. Giroud played very well, as did Berbatov. Both these players caused great concerns for their opposition central defenders. Both managers won’t be happy with the goals they conceded, but Fulham will be happy with the point.