So, we didn’t lose at the Veltins Arena after all. We are one point closer to qualification of the Knockout Stages of the Champions League and we avoided the unpleasant feeling of consecutive defeats. We ought to won in Germany given that we (finally!) took a lead and scored (twice!) in first half an hour of the game. At least it is an improvement, along with the second consecutive excellent performance by Vito Mannone. However, throwing away a two goal advantage is something that I hoped we left behind us in 2011. Instead scoring at least one more goal while Schalke were on the ropes, we slipped into a draw. We allowed too many shots from the Germans and the gap between our midfield shields and defenders was frustrating. Just take a look at Farfan’s equalizer – 4 Schalke players somehow avoided laws of algebra and outnumbered 8 players in yellow shirts. This time we can’t play “Blame it on Andre Santos or Ramsey!”-game since they weren’t playing (Santos came in too late to screw things up). Vermaelen is still far from his best form and it’s something that I don’t like about our captains ever since Paddy Vieira – they can’t encourage troops to keep the lead when opponents are coming close. I hate to say that, but Verrader was probably the best one since Vieira when it comes to encouraging the troops to hold the lead. Wenger had to react better after Schalke scored the first goal and give a chance to Arshavin instead of a slightly tired Wilshere. Walcott scored a goal but he failed to put good cross in a couple promising attacks.
Tomorrow we are facing Fulham. They were – along with Swansea – one of the most entertaining teams last season outside Top 4 and they are performing in same fashion this season. scoring plenty of goals along the way. They lost Dempsey and Dembele to the Spuds but they got ex-Spud Berbatov, one of those players that committed a huge crime against his talent by being lazy, Colombian Rodallega and Croatian veteran Petrić. They can score a lot of goals while their defense is protected by one of the most consistent defenders in the league Hangelaand and one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the league Australian Mark Schwarzer. However, there is one Fulham player that I admire more than the others – Bryan Ruiz. The Costa rican forward was brilliant while playing for Twente and he has already made more assists this season than he did during the previous one. He is excellent free-kick taker and that should be something that Mannone should know, as well as our defenders, when they make fouls. Fulham was one of two teams that didn’t concede a goal from Verrader last season (that other club was Manchester City) – we scored two goals in fixtures against Fulham via headers from Vermaelen and Koscielny.
It will be interesting to see what kind of midfield Wenger prepared for tomorrow. Wilshere is banned due to red card, in Diaby’s injury prone dictionary a week is a period of at least 20 days and Ramsey wasn’t selected against Schalke. If Ramsey gets his chance to play in central midfield at last, he might and should use that chance to make statement. In previous match against Fulham, Ramsey gave a decent performance and made a wonderful assist for Koscielny’s goal. Arteta and Cazorla will need his help, especially if Jol tries to pull the same trick FAnchester United did against us when Ferguson told Rooney to mark Arteta. This time, the man in charge could be Baird who got transformed from a central defender to a defensive midfielder. Considering all that, we will a need very good performance from Vermaelen at left-back. Apart from his defensive tasks, he will have to help midfielders, Sagna and Podolski to create space in the opponents’ final third. It would be nice to see a first goal at Emirates from Cazorla – he should not hesitate to shoot when he has the space and opportunity. Podolski should think more about his performances on the pitch and talk only with his goals or we will have another case of the “Curse of No.9 at Arsenal”-flood in the papers. Walcott’s crosses will probably be better than they were in Germany and that is good news for Giroud.
The last match against Fulham at the Emirates ended 1-1 with Vermaelen being on score-sheets of both teams. We had difficult time trying to open up their defense but in the end we were unlucky to get only one point. In the reverse fixture we lost 2-1 despite having 1-0 lead. The main reason why we lost was due to the injury crisis in resulting in a patchy back-four. We were playing without natural full-backs (Djourou and Coquelin had to fill in, with former being sent off in the process) and Vermaelen which was exploited by Ruiz and Dembele.
Despite the fact we are facing a really good team, I hope for a convincing victory. Somehow I believe our creative force will have more space since Fulham plays an attacking football.