The way I see it - Arsenal v Fulham

Last updated : 28 November 2003 By Jason Hogan

On Tuesday night I sat on that very same sofa late into the night in a similar state of shock - though this time I was beside myself with delight and instead of coming to terms with disappointment I found myself struggling to put a magnificent night into perspective.

Looking at Wednesday's papers, the headlines were dominated by Thierry Henry. Given that he scored two of our goals and set up two more I can understand that but what pleased me more than anything was that I got to see the Arsenal put on the sort of performance I had been looking for them to produce - a TEAM performance.

I don't need to tell any of you how depleted we were on Tuesday night but in spite that, NOBODY in the team hid, NOBODY copped out and NOBODY was less than 100% focussed on the job they had to do.

From a personal point of view, the man that I was most pleased for was Edu. It had nothing to do with the stray pass that led to Inter's goal or even the fact that he atoned for that by scoring the fourth goal. I feel that he has really been unlucky not to become a more permanent fixture in the Arsenal midfield and last night was by no means the first time that he has made a telling contribution to Arsenal's cause in recent times.

I was also pleased for his midfield partner, Ray Parlour. He was our captain on the night taking over from the absent Dennis Bergkamp and if anyone deserved to have the honour of leading the side on such a glorious night, then it would be him.

Whilst I am in such a generous mood I think that that it's only right that I give a big mention to Pascal Cygan. Now I freely admit that there is not a harsher critic of this lad on the planet than me and if you were able to bottle all the things I have said about him, you could sell it to strip paint off walls!!!

However you have got to give credit where it is due and I thought he was excellent alongside his colleagues in the back four and any worries I had about him being the weakest link proved unfounded on the night.

And, last but not least I think that Kanu deserves a mention. Again I have give credit where it is due. His role was arguably the most unsung particularly in the light of Henry's brilliance but I cannot honestly remember the last time that the lad played with such a defined sense of purpose. I hope the Nigerian can keep it up because he is probably going to be crucial to us (particularly with Wiltord on the sidelines) over the next couple of weeks.

Now that some of the smoke has cleared however, I think that the post match sentiments of Henry and Wenger were spot on. Winning in the San Siro will not count for a thing if we do not finish the job at home to Lokomotiv Moscow in a fortnight's time. I'm gutted that I haven't been able to get a ticket for the game though.

Still, that's in the future, the next task at hand for Arsenal is facing Fulham on Sunday.

When Jean Tigana was ejected from the Fulham hot seat there were a whole host of names linked with the vacant manager's post.

Everyone from George Graham and David O'Leary to the Archbishop of Canterbury was linked with the post. In the end the job was of course given to Chris Coleman.

Now at the start of the season every TV pundit had tipped Fulham to be in the bottom three by the end of it. Well, it would be safe to say that the so-called experts have had to eat a lot of humble pie since then.

The Gunners will not be playing a team that is currently lying in the bottom three on Sunday - Fulham, in fact are in the top six and I can tell you all that they are not there by accident.

When the Cottagers went to up to Old Trafford a few weeks back and turned over the ManUre (yeah, the pun was intended by the way) I was honestly not overly surprised.

You see, the one thing I have noticed about Fulham since they have been in the top flight is that they have a football style that's easy on the eye and it's a style that is never compromised regardless of the opposition they are up against.

In the past, that honest refusal to compromise their footballing philosophy meant that they became their own worst enemies sometimes but I think that Coleman has instilled a little more organisation into the team and he has done that simply by giving his players a clear, uncomplicated idea of what is expected of them.

As a team they have certainly flourished as a result and seem to be genuinely coming to terms with what the Premiership is all about.

One of the main individual catalysts for that has been Steed Malbranque. This lad was brought in from Lyon at a cost of £5 million and as every day passes he is looking more and more of a bargain. He has great close control, movement and a more than decent eye for goal. I remember thinking before we played Inter that we could do with a player like him and I think that says it all about how much I rate him.

He is not the only major talent at Loftus Road. I am glad that Sean Davis has finally come to his senses and revoked his transfer request. I always felt that a move to Boro or Everton would have been no more than move sideways for him given that Fulham have at least the same potential as those clubs right now.

It also seems as though Luis Saha is finally showing the sort of goalscoring form that shot him to prominence when he first joined Fulham. The only thing that goes slightly against him is that he doesn't appear to have total belief in his ability all of the time. He has the ability to at least be knocking on the door for the French national side in my opinion.

Last season, the Arsenal won home and away against this lot though we didn't have things all our own way by any means. We were lucky to beat them at Loftus Road and only a very late goal prevented Fulham getting a point at Highbury.

I think that the Gunners will be in for a testing afternoon against this lot. Like I said they will not compromise their style of play and as ManUre can testify they have the sort of game that can be highly effective particularly away from home.

Still, if there was a moral that came out of Tuesday night's game for Arsenal, it was that having good, even brilliant individuals means nothing if it's not interwoven into the framework of a good team. That (above all) was the secret of our success on Tuesday night and if we are going to get our title back we will need to display that team ethic more often.

Let's hope that the Gunners can carry on this weekend where they left off in the San Siro.