Craven Cottage was soaked to the bone on Saturday in a match that saw fantastic performances from both Podolski and Cazorla. Arsenal won the match by a comfortable margin.
For his part, Giroud also conjured up his third goal in as many matches with smooth finish. Whether or not Arsenal bring in another striker remains to be seen, but Giroud seems to be offering up his best efforts to remain in contention for a starting position.
Fulham seemed to take a few too many liberties in attack in a game that ended up exposing them at the back. This is not super surprising given the team has several luxury players such as Berbatov and Taarabt that while technically stunning, tend to be somewhat immobile in defence. That being said, Arsenal’s first goal was also in part created by some fortunate circumstances.
For the sake of ease, Fulham’s approach to the match can be called a 4-4-1 formation. But as is becoming increasingly evident in the modern game, formations are typically a misleading representation of player movement and tactics.
Parker remained around the center circle for most of the match. He played an integral role in Fulahm’s build-up play. He was the pivot point for Fulham’s direction. Parker had the most touches and the most passes for any player on Fulham’s squad.
As a calm, assured hand in possession, he allowed more attacking players such as Duff, Kasami, and Taarabt to find dangerous positioning in transitional phases. After winning possession, Fulham were quick to dish the ball to Parker to regain attacking shape and find routes for countering.
This is not an unfamiliar strategy for teams that play with several advanced attacking players. Liverpool employ a similar system with Gerrard and Lucas acting someties as a double pivot point around which Liverpool can re-orient and shape attack after regaining possession. It’s a vital role in modern football
In a manner similar to Liverpool, Arsenal’s wingers tuck inward similar to forwards when in possession. In reality, Gibbs and Jenkinson become wingers despite being commonly labeled as fullbacks. The average positioning of each player is typically around the half way line, illustrating their tendency to oscillate between attack and defense.
Cazorla was in flying form. While Walcott nearly created the same amount of chances as Cazorla, Cazorla’s were of a higher quality. In the graph below, it’s also interesting to note how many chances Cazorla created via angled passes to the right. This is the area in which Walcott was especially effective in attack. Using his pace and effective off the ball movement, Walcott was able to outstrip his marker numerous times and create opportunities down the right flank. Clearly this is an area in which Arsenal is particularly dangerous, and it will be interesting to see how teams deal with this threat in the future.
It would be foolish to mention Arsenal’s play without giving a nod to Podolski’s impressive attacking performance. Throughout the match, Podolski was successful in reaching the penalty area slightly behind the rest of the rest of Arsenal’s attack. Both of his strikes were products of dropped balls from the penalty area. The first was somewhat fortunate, but the second was purely engineered by Cazorla’s knifing run through the center.
This is a potential source of goals for Arsenal; Podolski can clearly finish well at the fringes of the penalty area and Cazorla has the dribbling ability to drag defenders out of position. With the space he opens up, Podolski could enjoy many more looks at goal.