The way I see it – Fulham v Arsenal

Last updated : 03 March 2006 By Jason Hogan
.... And whilst I'm fully aware of the fact that some accidents often have more far reaching, dire or quite literally even, grave consequences, the root cause of most accidents are often the same in that they stem from a human error in judgement, a failure to heed words of warning or signs of danger or even a mixture of all three.

Of course, accidents do tend to be one-off individual events however and (touch wood) nine times out of ten, people do tend to live, fight another day and learn from their experiences.

But what happens when someone fails to learn from their mistakes and what happens when someone continues to ignore to heed words of warning or fails to acknowledge danger signs? Well anyone who chooses to do that will surely find themselves in a position where their quality of life is affected in some way in the end. And when that happens, it becomes progressively difficult to put it down as something that happens by accident anymore.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not a social worker, a psychologist, a deep thinking philosopher or for that matter a Mister Know All. But, without a shadow of doubt, I am an Arsenal fan who in a sense, has effectively spent the whole of this season seeing that very scenario played out, almost game by game, before my very eyes.

Last Saturday's defeat at Ewood Park was just the latest in a fairly long line of examples. Once again, we dared to venture north of the Watford Gap, once again we put in a limp-wristed display devoid of any imagination, spirit and just about anything else that you care to mention. And, not for the first time by any means this season in the Premiership we got we bloody well deserved – nothing.

And not for the first time, what was Arsene Wenger's post match reaction? It was along the lines of "we didn't deserve to lose" and "we gave everything". In fairness to Arsene, there have been times this season when that argument has been valid and the games we played away at Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and in particular, West Brom are ones instantly spring to mind.

However the damning facts are that the Blackburn defeat was our EIGHTH away from home this year and the tenth in the Premiership overall. When a club with the record we have over the last ten years or so, suddenly goes into a season and ends up losing that many games by the February, can you say that it's all happened by accident? Can you say that we are in a false position? And can you say that we would deserve a spot in the top four? To be honest, I would have to say no to all of the above.

So, what do you do when you see something happening and you realise it's not an accident? Naturally, you begin to start looking for reason as to why it all happened in the first place, whether things actually had turn out the way they have or whether the whole thing could have been avoided in the first place.

That is where I find myself right now, fellow Gooners and not only do I feel rather annoyed about that but I also feel a little bit guilty about it at the same time. I have never really been no different to any other Arsenal fan in the sense that I had a more than a few concerns regarding the comings and in particular the goings at Arsenal over what is now the best part of two years.

But in spite of that, I was preaching to most of my Gooner mates, saying that we needed to take things step by step this season, put any misgivings you have to one side get behind Wenger and back his judgement unconditionally because it was the least that we all owed him. In the end I've come to realise that I am guilty of pretty much the same thing Arsene is – misplacing my trust.

For me, it's finally got to the stage where there have been too many things that have gone on at Arsenal in recent times that quite simply do not add up. The warning signs were there, flashing long and loud, way before this season began really and deep down I always knew it.

Come to the summer though, even if we have managed to scrape into the top four, there are plenty of things that need to be addressed and the ongoing saga with Henry is only the tip of the iceberg, believe me. I think Wenger and the board need to be seen to be to taking these issues (we all know what they are) on and dealing with these issues head on because they will be foolish in the extreme to believe our immediate future does not depend on it.

Now it's time for me to look at the Arsenal's trip across London to Craven Cottage where we will face Chris Coleman's Fulham.

It seems as though I have said this time and time again about Fulham but I really do believe that they have underachieved in the Premiership. When you look at the players they have got particularly from midfield upwards they should, potentially be finishing regularly in the top ten.

As it is, The Cottagers currently lie in 14th place in the table. The main reason for their relatively lowly position is largely down to the fact that, they have yet to gain a victory away from home in the league. However, that fact does not reflect how the way they have often played away from home though.

They have been in with a shout of getting results from lots of matches away from this season only to come up frustratingly short. For example, I saw them play at Old Trafford the other day and I have to say that they were seriously unlucky not to come away from that game with something. I also saw their trip to the Reebok last week and once again they deserved to come away from that game with at least a point.

What cost Fulham in both of those games and indeed so many others over the course of this season, was sloppy defending. Take last week's game at Bolton. Even I winced when I saw the goal that won the game for Bolton. Kevin Nolan really had no right to score it really but having chased down a lost cause, he managed to muscle Zat Knight out of the way, fight his way past another weak challenge from Bocanegra (or at least I think it was) and then finish with a shot through the keeper's legs.

I'm no big fan of Chris Coleman but having seen what happened at Bolton for myself, I couldn't help but feel a little bit of sympathy for him because it must drive a manager mad when a lot of hard work and sweat ultimately ends up counting for nothing purely because of elementary defensive errors.

Despite their problems on the road, Fulham have been excellent at home and it's where their attacking talent has really come into its own. The likes of Malbranque, Radzinski and Boa Morte really don't need much of an introduction but the two men that really impress me every time I've seen them play are Brian McBride and Heider Helguson.

McBride has been one of the most underrated performers in the Premiership. When you talk about real pros this guy really is the epitome of that. He's not the quickest but he is great at holding the ball up and excellent in the air.

The same could be said of Helguson. Having been a real star at Watford I'm surprised that it has taken this long for him to finally get his chance to burst onto the scene with a Premiership club and pound for pound he has been one of the buys of the season so far.

With both sides having lots of attacking potential and also the potential to concede goals, this has the making of a real cracker. Fulham, knowing that the Arsenal defence isn't always the greatest in the air, will surely try and get the ball out wide and get crosses in to utilise the aerial strength of Helguson, McBride and maybe even Collins John too against. The Arsenal will try to exploit Fulham down the channels.

The Cottagers will feel that they are due a result over us having not quit got the rub of the green in past meetings on their own patch and I'm sure they will be up for this one big time. As for Arsenal, well, it's got to the stage where it really is put up or shut up time.

Injuries have played a part in what has happened to us this season, no doubt about it. But the fact is everyone is jockeying for some sort of position at this stage in the season. The gloves are off now and if Arsenal are going to salvage something from their league campaign this year then they cannot waste anymore time feeling sorry for themselves and they need to start delivering away from home - now.