EPL 2006: Day 3 (Arsenal 4 – Fulham 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 25th, 2005 • 10:09 am

I don’t think many Arsenal fans ever expected to hear a TV commentator say, “Cygan is on a hat-trick” — yet that’s exactly what happened yesterday! Incredible, but true. It’s not that he didn’t deserve his two goals. They were both good, well-taken goals. But this is the much-maligned Pascal Cygan we are talking about here. He only got a first-team place because Philippe Senderos needed a breather after the two recent losses against Chelsea and his struggle to cope with Drogba’s physicality. And Cygan is not exactly known for his scoring ability.

Still, it was fun to hear the Highbury crowd sing, “There’s only one Cygan!” and cheer each and every one of his emphatic clearances towards the end of the game. It’s always pleasant when such a large crowd manages to establish a feeling of spontaneous “intimacy” with its team’s players.

Apart from this, however, it has to be said that the final score line was rather flattering, and that the game was actually much more even for long periods of time. In fact, when Lauren missed a early penalty kick and Jensen managed to score a freak goal to give Fulham the lead, I am sure that I was not the only one who was reminded of that infamous 2-4 home loss against Charlton four years ago. (Jensen was one of the Charlton scorers on that day.)

To the Gunners’ credit, they stuck to their task and managed to claw their way back into the game. But it is also obvious that Thierry Henry only managed to score his two goals because he was given a lot of space by the Fulham defence. I am certainly not blaming Fulham for trying to give us a real game of football. But ultimately this victory didn’t reveal anything new about this Arsenal team, anything that might convince us that they have what it takes to compete with the really big teams domestically and in Europe. It’s pretty pointless for Arsène Wenger to complain about Chelsea’s negative playing. It’s the way that such big teams play, and he needs to find a way to cope with such situations on the pitch.

Another aspect of the game that was decidedly unpleasant was the number of yellow cards collected by Arsenal players. It was very frustrating to see Reyes, fresh from a deserved 3-game suspension, once again trying to take the law into his own hands and exact “revenge” on a Fulham player for an earlier challenge. Once again, he fully deserved his caution, and Wenger is going to have to do something to help the young man mature into a more composed striker. Reyes is going to endure many more unfair, nasty challenges in his career and he will have to learn how to respond to them in a professional manner.

As for Dennis Bergkamp, he certainly didn’t have the excuse of youth! What on earth was he thinking when he grabbed the flag of that assistant referee, was fortunate to escape with only a caution, and then promptly took the opportunity of the very next action on that side of the pitch to run back towards the assistant referee and argue some more? He was indeed very fortunate not to be sent off, and he should definitely know better.

So, all in all, it was obviously a pleasant evening with lots of goal chances and a good result, but it would be foolish to think that this particular game provided the answers to all the questions that have been raised about Arsenal since the beginning of the season. It was “only” Fulham at Highbury, after all, and a victory was the minimum requirement.

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