Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz were magnificent for us last weekend at Arsenal. I know we keep talking about that pair but it’s hard not to when they keep performing as they have been.
There were some doubts as to whether they could play together but they’ve proved in the games at Reading and at Arsenal that they certainly can. Both of them are very intelligent players and fantastic footballers and I think they’re just beginning to get to know each other’s game. It’s going to take a bit of time but it looks good for the future. We’re far from a two-man team, however – everyone is stepping up and putting in good performances.
Fulham are certainly the team to watch if you want to see goals this season and Saturday’s game at Arsenal was no different. Again it was another good away performance but if you score three away goals at the Emirates, you would expect to come away with a win. I’m sure before the game Fulham would have happily taken a draw but to be have again dropped points from a winning position must rankle with Martin Jol.
That said, it looked like Arsenal would secure the win when they were given a penalty in the dying seconds. First of all, it was never a penalty in a million years – there was no way Sascha Riether could have got his arm out of the way. But thankfully justice was done and Mark Schwarzer pulled off a magnificent save. You wouldn’t even say Mikel Arteta had missed the penalty as that doesn’t give credit to Schwarzer for the way he leapt to his left and pushed it round the post. He’s been fantastic for us all season and he’s definitely someone you want behind your back four.
So we’re scoring a lot of goals, but we’re also conceding a fair few as well. In the last five games, we’ve scored 11 goals but let in 10. It’s pleasing and disappointing in equal measures so there are things Martin will want to work on, on the training pitch.
The game before the Arsenal fixture saw us draw 2-2 with Everton. This time it was Fulham who snatched a late equaliser after seeing it happen to us a few times recently.
Everton are a good team. They’re strong and well drilled and it was never going to be easy. But we didn’t let our heads drop and we dug out a result. I was pleased to see Steve Sidwell step off the substitutes’ bench and get the equalising goal. He would have been disappointed to have been dropped in recent weeks and that was a little reminder to the Manager about what he can do.
This weekend, Chris Baird is suspended so the Manager has a tough decision to make in midfield, particularly if Mahamadou Diarra misses out again with injury. We don’t have a massive array of options in the centre of midfield so we may well see Giorgos Karagounis make his first start in the clash with Sunderland.
I’m surprised to see the Black Cats struggling this season, particularly with Martin O’Neill at the helm. It’s a great time to be playing them and it’s a game we should be confident of winning.
In my old position of left-back, John Arne Riise will be up against Adam Johnson. Johnson is a good player so Riise will need to get close to him and stop him crossing the ball. Johnson’s not the quickest but he’s got good ability and good technique and he’ll need to be watched.