The way I see it - Fulham v Arsenal

Last updated : 25 September 2009 By Jason Hogan

There was a perception in the press and the media that Saturday's home game against Wigan was almost tailor made for us after the happenings that occurred on our recent trips to Manchester. In other words, the Wigan game was very much a game where if we had won 3-0, the press would certainly have reviewed the game in such a way as to suggest "Well, we expected you to win 4-0 anyway".

Still, if it's one thing that I have grown to learn it is that lazy, humdrum, half-hearted sound bites are good as far as we are concerned because in my experience such sound bites are indicative of the fact that Arsenal have won.

The Arsenal put in a decent performance I thought. And in the form of Thomas Vermaelen we may just have found one of the things we have been crying out for. I have not been the only Gooner in the world that has yearned to see someone come in at the back who can be of influence in the air both defensively and offensively. Well so far, the boy from Belgium certainly threatening to be the kind of player we have been looking for.

Whilst the second of Vermaelen's two goals on Saturday was obviously more spectacular, I thought his first effort captured the essence of the sort of thing I want to see more of. I just loved the way that Thomas attacked Van Persie's in swinging corner and his willingness and determination to make the ball his.

It was all so simple yet highly effective. It's amazing how many games descend into tight, drawn out slog and making the most of set pieces, particularly in games that are not as free flowing and easy for us, is a good habit to get into.

The kids eventually saw off West Brom on Tuesday though we were made to work for it. The Baggies were more than a match for the youngsters in the early going and but for the agility of young Szczesny things could have been a little different.

The dismissal of Arsenal old boy Jerome Thomas certainly didn't help their cause - and nor did the introduction of Carlos Vela either. The young Mexican certainly gave us an extra cut and thrust on the night, having had a hand in the first goal scored by young Sanchez Watt and then scoring the decisive second himself.

The word on the street is that Vela isn't ready to play a part in Saturday's game but it is nice to see him return to some degree of fitness and I have a feeling the boy may have a fair old part to play for Arsenal, particularly in Europe, later on in the season.

Now it's time to look at Saturday's game at Craven Cottage where the Gunners will face Fulham.

What a season Roy Hodgson and Fulham had last term. To finish seventh and qualify for Europe was up there with anything achieved by anyone, anywhere in this country last year.

I would certainly have loved a penny for the thoughts of the Fulham fans just a little over a year before when Hodgson came in. If you had told them then that they would go on to survive relegation and finish high enough the following season in the league to qualify for Europe, they probably would have thought I had escaped from Broadmoor or had just been freed courtesy of Care in the Community.

Their success last season was underpinned by invariable stubbornness and being difficult to beat particularly at home. And the Gunners were one of many that came unstuck down by the River Thames last term.

In fact come to think of it, BOTH of last term's league games against Fulham failed to elicit fond memories from Arsenal's point of view. We were beaten at the Cottage of course and to be fair, having been at The Grove to see the game for myself, the Arsenal could have had no complaints had Fulham gone on to nick a win in that game as well.

Looking back at last year's corresponding fixture, the truth was despite being undermanned (Denilson and Eboue started the game as our central midfield partnership for example), the fact was that the game turned out to be living proof that you can't blag your way to victory in the Premier League too often.

Fulham won that day because of one simple fact - they were more honest than we were. They played the game with the right attitude and endeavour whereas we did pretty much the opposite.

They didn't exactly beat us playing like Barcelona but then, they didn't have to. They simply came out, worked hard, played direct, turned our defence around and showed a willingness to pounce and profit on every single mistake we made.

In contrast, Arsenal approached the game like testimonial for long periods and even when we did exert a little pressure on Fulham in spells, there was never really any real conviction to anything we did.

The game was effectively not just about honesty. It was a lesson in what happens in life if you're not prepared to get off your backside and make an effort. It's always easy to talk about what you want but sometimes you have to ask the questions "What are you actually prepared to do to make sure you get what you want and how far are you prepared to go to get it?"

Listen folks, I normally talk about some of the men we need to watch out for but I won't this time. This game is massive for us at the Arsenal and not just because all the teams above us in the table have games that are winnable to varying degrees.

I think that this game is truly pivotal for our own self esteem and establishing a mindset to carry forward into future games like these where the opposition are considered as being one of the lesser sides. Its games like these and our lack of diligence and all round professionalism in them that have continued to undermine our progress more than anything for quite some time now.

I don't know what the real targets and ambitions are within the club any more than any other fan. I'd love to be a fly on the wall and gauge what the real mentality is within the camp. But if we play as half heatedly as we did at the Cottage last year, then get your heavy coats out, my fellow Gooners, it's going to be a long hard winter.

It's up to the lads to make sure that the future is one of hope and optimism and not one that could be bleak and gloomy. Let's see how much the lads really want to shape their season for the better and how badly they really want it. We will know an awful lot more by around 7.30 on Saturday night.