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Arsenal 2, Fulham 1: Class tells

05 December 2010

Sami Nasri's spin and finish past a despairing Aaron Hughes gave the Gunners all three points.

Sometimes you lose because you don’t play well. Sometimes you get unlucky. And sometimes, it happens because the high-budget team you’re facing gets that one or two plays from a star that a smaller-budget team just doesn’t have in its own arsenal.

There’s no real need to belabor the whys and hows of Fulham’s defeat at the Emirates on Saturday. The Cottagers left without a point because of two sublime goals from Sami Nasri, in which he walked around a total of five Fulham players with the deftest of controlled touches and finished both slaloming runs in lethal fashion. You tip your cap, congratulate the winner and move forward.

Overall, this was a solid effort, especially on the road, even though Arsenal already had lost thrice at home this season. It didn’t look headed in that direction in the first 20-25 minutes, when Fulham were very fortunate to trail just 1-0, but after taking advantage of a collision in Arsenal’s central defense to craft a lovely equalizer, Fulham were more or less equal with their high-profile hosts and a defeat probably was a bit harsh on balance.

At least it was better to feel the pain of disappointment rather than the lingering pangs of disgust as in prior weeks, but the Cottagers remain north of the relegation zone merely on goal difference and really need to take the three points when Sunderland visit this week ahead of a trip to rejuvenated Liverpool after that.

If reports of Fulham’s coffers being open for the January window are true, this team could be in much better shape in another 6-8 weeks, but they need to keep banking the odd point or three here and there during this triage phase. There’s no truly terrible team in the league this season, so that means that a couple of legitimately OK ones will go down. Much like the 2007-08 season, when Brian McBride’s long-term injury really compromised Fulham, there’s no injury credit to be had. If you’re bottom three, you drop, and for a team of Fulham’s modest resources, there’s absolutely no guarantee of a quick return.

I don’t believe, at the end of the day, that Fulham will go down. With Dembele and (assumedly) Zamora eventually back and a couple of solid winter signings, the Cottagers should have enough quality to stay up. It’s not a lock, though, which makes these early winter days feel even darker and colder.

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