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Scouting preview ahead of the next game: Fulham

Andrew Crawshaw

I have a very good friend who, for his sins, has been a Fulham supporter since he was knee high to a grasshopper.  As a season ticket holder he is entitled to buy up to four extra tickets for selected home games before they go on wider sale so a while ago he asked if I wanted to go to watch Fulham v Sunderland and as we had no home game on 11 January, and Fulham were about to put in an appearance at the Emirates, so I said yes – more as a chance of catching up with him than in any expectation of a good game of football I might add.  The ticket was in the Putney end and cost the princely sum of £10, a good way of rewarding the Fulham faithful.

If you haven’t been to Craven Cottage, let me explain.  It is an old fashioned ground, quite small and all supporters are close to the pitch which itself is somewhat smaller than we are used to at the Emirates.  The Putney end is designated as Mixed in that it has both home and away supporters.  I had Fulham fans to my front and right and Sunderland to my left and behind and all were very well behaved throughout.  The official Away supporters area is at the left hand side of the stand facing the pitch.

The ground backs onto the Thames on one side, was built in the 19th century on what was a wilderness, and received its first major upgrade in 1905, just as the Chelsea ground along the way was being built.  Rather amusingly the same architect (who also took on the role of what later became known as the “clerk of the works”) ran both projects simultaneously.   He was one Archibald Leitch.

Anyway to the game, Fulham lined up as follows :-

Stockdale; Riether, John Arne Riise; Sidwell; Senderos, Amorebieta; Duff (Dejagah 68′); Parker; Berbatov; Taarabt (Kasami 63′), Dempsey (Bent 79′)

They were somewhat under strength at the back with Stockdale, their No 2 goalkeeper, starting and Senderos starting in place of Hangerland, who has been missing for a long time (yes the same Senderos who was always an accident waiting to happen when he was on Arsenal’s books a few years ago).  Riise is the regular left back and is starting to show his age.  Dempsey is back with Fulham on a two month loan from MLS.

Sunderland were :-

Mannone (well known to Fulham fans following his heroics for Arsenal was it two or three years ago), Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso, Johnson (Celustka 88′), Cattermole, Colback, Ki, Borini (Larrson 75′) and Fletcher (Altidore 66′).

Fulham started brightly, knocking the ball about confidently and provided Berbatov with two excellent opportunities to score, a header first that he failed to get any proper kind of contact on and it went straight into the ground before being grabbed by Mannone.  A few minutes later an even better opportunity but he missed his kick horribly and the ball went out for a goal kick.

After 20 or so minutes Sunderland started to come into it more and the game became far more even.   In minute 28 Johnson was fouled and took a great free kick from 20 yards or so which beat Stockdale despite him getting both hands to it (0-1).

In minute 30 Bardsley showed what an idiot he is by kicking the ball away well after Mr Dean had blown his whistle and went into the book (stupid and unnecessary yellow card).   In minute 36 the card count was equal as Sidwell went into the book and in Minute 40 Fulham were two one in this score as Riise lunged at Borini  (this was at the opposite end of the ground to where I was seated and I thought it could easily have been a red, but the replay on MOTD indicated that a yellow was probably adequate – just).

In Minute 41 Ki doubled Sunderland’s lead following another free kick (0-2).  That just about wrapped up the first half – Fulham on top in terms of possession but lacking a clear cutting edge and let down by conceding free kicks in dangerous positions which they failed to defend properly.

In the second half again Fulham started brightly and in Minute 51 their pressure resulted in a corner, Duff crossed and Sidwell, unmarked, headed home (1-2), poor defending from Sunderland.

In minutes 59 and 60 the yellow card swapping continued with Colback and Parker going into the book.  The Parker one was after a good piece of refereeing when Dean allowed a good advantage leading to a Sunderland shot and then the booking was made when play stopped.  Fair play to Dean for that one.

In Minute 69 the two goal cushion was reinstated as Johnson slotted in from Ki’s pass (1-3).  Till then the second half was really end to end stuff with Fulham on top in terms if possession and intent.  The scoring ended in the 88th minute when Senderos clumsily collided with Altidore in the penalty area, Dean thought about it then awarded the spot kick.  Johnson sent Stockdale the wrong way and hit a solid penalty, to get his hat-trick, to the left hand side of the goal (1-4).

Fulham didn’t do nearly enough to win the game and were always at risk on the break.  Whilst they had the greater part of possession, most of it was in areas where Sunderland were quite content to sit back behind the ball and watch the ball passing sideways in front of them.  Riise was too slow, and Senderos and Amorbietta frequently caught out of position.  Senderos, in particular always looked likely to be beaten and was bullied/tormented by Altidore once he came on.

In the middle of the park, Parker tried valiantly but his fellow midfielders gave little support, Taarabt tried hard and offered the most endeavour but again with little end result.  Dempsey was his usual energetic self, but at times was frustrated with lack of movement around him.  Berbatov was interested for the first 20 minutes or so but his finishing was woeful, after that he was a peripheral figure for the rest of the game.  Bent came on for Dempsey in the79th minute but hardly had the ball.

So what, if anything, do Arsenal have to look out for at the weekend?

Fulham looked like an ageing team, they were slow in movement and thought and really struggled to cope with Sunderland’s counter attacking and we can certainly do that better than the bottom team in the league.

With all respect to Johnson, if he can create as much damage as he did from the right hand side, Gnabry, Rosicky or The Ox should have a field day.

And if Senderos/Amorbietta couldn’t control Altidore they certainly will have bigger problems with Giroud.

Man for man our midfield is much younger, faster and technically competent than Fulham.

The biggest threats are likely to come from Taarabt and Dempsey, if they can get their radars synchronised in time.  Our midfielders will have to be wary of these two.

Berbatov was slow and ponderous every time he had the ball, he certainly isn’t any kind of answer to any need we might or might not have for a new striker.  Give me either of Giroud or Bendtner every day of the week, both work far harder and don’t act as ‘ball hogs’.  I’m sure Berby will fit nicely in the pockets of either of Kos or Mert.

Bent looked overweight and lacking in fitness and must soon end his fortune in scoring against us.

In short and based on this performance from Fulham,  I would regard the game as one where we should get all three points quite comfortably.  Always discounting untoward influences of course.

COYG

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31 comments to Scouting preview ahead of the next game: Fulham

  • obatiku abiodun

    You are s good spy… You dont talk about their tactics… Thank u… We shall be expecting 3 -1 in favor of arsenal and the scorer of that one goal will be bully bulky bent. Nice work …

  • nicky

    Andrew,
    Not having visited Craven Cottage, is there any truth in the old tale I once heard that from one of the stands, you could turn your back on the pitch and choose to briefly watch the annual Universities Boat Race as it passed?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The boat race certainly passes the ground and as the stands are separate it is quite possible that you could see the river through the gaps in two corners from some seats. I’m not sure that there is a view from the riverside stand though. So the answer is probably yes but only fleetingly. I would doubt that the police would allow a home game on boat race day though.
    The Cottage is a nice friendly ground and worth a visit if you ever get the chance and the Away end rocks when Arsenal play there.

  • Andrew,
    Are you sure about the size of the playing area, I thought all premier leauge pitches had to be the same size now 114yds * 74yds (105m * 68m) – Premier League Rule K21

  • Paul Southcott,

    Great question that has been bothering me for a long time too.

    In my PE class back in early secondary school, the size of football pitches I was told were cast in stone. I cannot recall the numbers but they are similar to the one you quoted.

    I have had a few debates with other footy fans when they claim that some football pitches are smaller/bigger than others. If they are right, then it has to be pretty unfair and a great negligence on the part of the FA. The pitch is a piece of flat land with grass on it; every club should be able to have the same size.

    The fact that it is in the premier league’s rule book makes me think that it is mere perception (optical illusion?) based on heights & angles of view of the spectators and the TV cameras which vary depending on the stadium size or the distances between the spectators and the pitch.

    Or the PL has allowed the most fundamental of its rules to be violated without doing anything about it.

    I am looking for enlightening perspectives from others please.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Bootoomee,

    I think not all pitches have the same size in the PL. If I remember correct Highbury itself was smaller than the pitch we now have at the Emirates. I think we now have the maximum PL/Uefa sized pitch.

    The problem is with old stadiums like Craven Cottace or QPR’s Loftus Road is that they cannot just move the stands away from the pithc to make them bigger.
    I thought that these clubs get dispensation from the standard pitch size. But in case they rebuild the stadium or partly remove stands to build new ones, they have to use that occasion to make the pitch bigger and bring them closer to the standard pitch size.

  • Walter,

    Thanks.

    I still think that it shouldn’t have been allowed though. If they could make all the stadiums full seater, they could make the clubs expand their pitches to the right size.

  • Gord

    With respect to Mannone. Google News showed me a headline yesterday, suggesting Mannone was being pursued by ManU to backup whoever their goaltender is. I didn’t read the article as it wasn’t about Arsenal, probably not accurate anyway. Not that I read transfer articles at the best of times.

  • Mick

    @Bootoomee
    When Stoke came into the Premier League I believe I am correct in saying that they deliberately narrowed their pitch to make it easier for Dulap to hurl his long throws into the danger area near the goal. The extra space at the side of the pitch enabled him to get a good run up and thus gain extra pace and distance on his throws. A bonus was the negative effect on the technical footballing teams such as Arsenal as play was condensed into a smaller more congested playing area.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I have just found a link to a site giving the pitch dimensions of all Premier League teams for this season:- http://www.openplay.co.uk/blog/premiership-football-pitch-sizes-2013-2014/?oo=312

    The Cottage pitch isn’t as small as it seems at 110 * 75 yards, the Emirates is 114 * 74. The largest are City at 116.5 * 78 and United at 116 * 76 yards and the smallest is Upton Park at 110 * 70 yards

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Manone was excellent last weekend against Fulham. He went to Sunderland for regular playing time, I can’t see why he would want to become a bench warmer again.

  • Nice one Andrew I’m having a dream as Fulham might be the team we are gona score 6 passed them and at least try to catch up with Man$ity goal wise’ because in the next coming months it may come to goals scored hope it does not.

  • Gord

    It’s been nice to read how well Mannone has been doing. And it is also nice to get a real report from you Andrew on him.

    —-

    A few people writing articles lately have talked about difficulties getting to/from games. In the news from Google, I ran across train news for the FA Cup Game against Coventry:

    http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/extra-train-laid-coventry-city-6513473

    I hope it is of use to someone.

    It won’t help me, I’m in western Canada.

  • Mick,

    Thanks for that great example.

    That’s precisely why I think all clubs should be forced (maybe over a year or 2) to comply with the same standard. I had difficulty accepting the notion that clubs have stadiums with different pitch sizes and I had been assuming that my eyes were ‘deceiving’ me on how small some pitches are for a very long time because I just couldn’t believe that organisations like the FA and FIFA that regularly penalise actions like “2 fingers” insult and corporate crested pants would EVER allow the game to be played on assorted field sizes. The idiots clearly have their priorities wrong. Surprising right?

    How can anyone blame Stoke for doing what they did? The FA & PL allow it despite having a statute that states that all pitches must be of certain dimensions. Freaking idiots.

  • Andrew Crawshaw,

    I’m very proud that, as always, Arsenal is one of the few clubs that have conformed to the prescribed 114 by 74 yards dimensions.

  • AL

    No surprise really that Arsenal is the only team(from those listed above) whose pitch conforms to the standards. As we say here, Arsenal always does things the right way.

  • Mike

    @ Gord

    As a Gooner exiled in Coventry I get the train down to the Emirates for every match. Booked well enough in advance I can get the last train back from midweek games at 23:30 for the princely sum of £7.50. Sadly because of demand it’s the normal price of £23.50 for the Coventry game. But there is a silver lining in that for the first time in my life I actually booked a first class train ticket as they had reduced the price of those to £24…..a bargain when you consider you can pay up to £253 for a return ticket!!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Al,
    something I really like about Arsenal and that makes me proud of our club.

  • Gord

    @Mike

    Sounds like you got a bargain. Enjoy the first class trip!

    The price you talk about a return ticket sounds more likely to be what train fares are here. The train rides that go through the Rocky Mountains are supposed to be very nice, but most people around here seem to drive everywhere. I live 450 km from Edmonton, and most people here would just drive (about 4 hours). Back in high school when I was living in Dawson Creek (where the Alaska Highway begins), there were people who drove the 610 km to Edmonton to watch Edmonton Oiler ice hockey games (Gretzky, Messier, …).

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The Stadium of Light (Sunderland) and Carrow Road (Norwich) are the only other Premier Grounds at the 114 * 74 yard size.

  • Gord

    Injury report at Arsenal.com

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-on-theo-surgery-and-team-news

    We may have Rosicky back for Fulham, nobody else. Surgery went well.

  • AL

    Yes Walter 🙂

    Gord
    That would be fabulous if we can have Tomas available, with Theo out we need all our options available and TR gives our attack a little bit of urgency whenever he is on. Shame about the lack of retrospective action against the offender…..

  • WalterBroeckx

    A double fracture was mentioned. And nothing given, nothing done….sigh

  • Gord

    Nose broken in two places, and no investigation? Of incident or referee behavior? Bleech!

    I wonder if Arsenal players have “casts” made of their faces, just in case a mask needs to be made, in advance?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A Darth Vader mask to go with the heavy breathing ? Should scare the shit out of the opposition !

  • Mike

    @ Gord

    I have experience of your neck of the woods mate. I have a friend who lives in Fort Sakatchewan and workks in Fort McMurray……he doesn’t do the drive everyday though 🙂

    I have to say from my own experiences in that part of the world, your roads and countryside make driving slightly more pleasant than here lol

  • Gord

    Hi Mike.

    I’m in Grande Prairie. We have 4 line highway almost all the way to Edmonton now. The road to Ft.McMurray is much more hazardous, as much of it is 2 lane only.

  • AL

    It’s infuriating

  • Mick

    @Walter
    Not only was nothing given or done by ref or FA, as far as I am aware the assault hasn’t even warranted even a small mention in any media outlet I have seen or heard.
    Imagine the uproar if it had been Flamini breaking Wayne Rooney’s nose!

  • OMGArsenal

    Gentle Gooners everywhere……the FIFA Laws are very clear about maximum and minimum requirements for national,professional and international matches as well as amateur Football pitch sizes.It also states that these dimensions can be changed according to the stipulations below. They do this in order to accomodate regions of the world that have trouble getting enough terrain to make a full sized pitch :

    LAW 1 – THE FIELD OF PLAY
    Dimensions
    The length of the touch line must be greater than the length of the goal line.
    Length (touch line): minimum 90 m (100 yds)
    maximum 120 m (130 yds)
    Width (goal line): minimum 45 m (50 yds)
    maximum 90 m (100 yds)
    All lines must be of the same width, which must be not more than
    12 cm (5 ins).
    International matches
    Length: minimum 100 m (110 yds)
    maximum 110 m (120 yds)
    Width: minimum 64 m (70 yds)
    maximum 75 m (80 yds)

    You can go online at FIFA.com and access the Laws as a PDF file here: http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/footballdevelopment/refereeing/81/42/36/log2013en_neutral.pdf

  • Valentin

    Because of the new regulations introduced last year or maybe the season before, Stokes had to revert to the original size of their pitch.
    I am not really worried about the size of the pitch, more by the quality of the grass and it’s length.
    Arsène complained about the fact the grass was cut way too long. Mourinho used to instruct the Chelsea groundsman about it. No cutting the week before Arsenal comes in. Sam Allardyce copied him. Reviving the old Wimbledon Crazy gang trick that nobody was using anymore.
    Garry Neville mentioned that it was one of pet peeves. With longer cut grass, it is more difficult to pass effectively the ball. However teams that just hoof the ball or play counter attacking football are less affected.