Arsenal failed to overhaul Manchester City into third place after a disappointing 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage. It was a largely disjointed and lackluster performance from the gunners, meaning Arsenal will have to qualify through a playoff to reach the Champions League group stage and capped off a very disappointing season for the gunners.
Steve Sidwell opened the scoring, which was canceled out by Van Persie’s ninth consecutive away goal. The Dutchman’s goal also meant he matched Henry and Ronaldo’s record of 18 goals after the 1st of January in one season. Zamora headed Fulham back in front but substitute Walcott denied a final day win for Fulham.
The gunners made four changes to the side which lost to Aston Villa last week, most noticeably Chamakh starting with Van Persie for only the second time this season. Arsenal started the better team, keeping the ball and passing it around nicely. It was the gunners who created the first chance, Nasri with a free header, but it lacked any power, and was consequently plucked out of the air by Mark Schwarzer in the ninth minute. Andy Johnson found himself one on one with the goalkeeper five minutes later, but was given offside to the disgust of the home fans. A Sagna cross then found its way to the far post, where Gibbs was waiting, who powerfully aimed it at Schwarzer’s left hand side, but a brilliant low save denied the English youngster a first premier league goal of the season. A Zamora flick on released Johnson who took on a snapshot, which was easily saved low down by Szczesny. Arsenal went 1-0 down in the 25th minute. Zamora made a run down the right, made his way into the box and his cut back found Steve Sidwell, who slid the ball through Szczesny’s legs. This goal came against the run off play, after Arsenal had the better chances and dominated possession in the first 25 minutes. However, just 4 minutes later, Arsenal were level. Abou Diaby made a strong run past the Fulham midfield before exchanging passes with Chamakh. Diaby then drilled a pass to Van Persie, who took one touch, then expertly slotted it into the bottom corner. This was nothing more than Arsenal deserved, who then looked to press on to find a lead. However, Fulham created the closest chance of the match without scoring. Murphy broke into the box, Szczesny came out but missed the ball, leaving Murphy with an open goal at his mercy but a stunning Vermalean tackle on the line denied Fulham a goal to put them in front. The ball rolled across the line and out for corner.
This was brilliant defending and was glimpses of the old Vermlean which is what Arsenal have sorely missed. There were no further chances in the first half. The second half started the same as the first half had ended. Fulham created the better chances, however none of these chances materialised. A Nasri free kick 25 yards out was palmed away by Schwarzer after it was heading for the top corner. Moments after this, Fulham retook the lead. A Greening cross from the left found Bobby Zamora, who’s bullet header left Szczesny with no chance. Arsenal were playing very poorly and nearly conceded again, when a loose ball in the box found Zamora, who’s cut back was smothered by Szczesny. However, this is when Arsenal started playing better. A cross from Van Persie was dropped by Schwarzer at the feet of Chamakh, but he couldn’t poke the ball goalwards, and it went wide. Wenger’s frustration was shown as he made 3 changes at once, something he rarely does.
Arshavin, Walcott and Eboue all came on. 6 minutes later Fulham were down to 10 men. Vermalean was taken out by Gera after a clearance and was shown a straight red card for his late, studs up challenge. However, Arsenal couldn’t capitilise on their man advantage until the last minute. Walcott’s bursting run created space for him to shoot, his shot came of the post and in from the right hand side of the area about 10 yards out.
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