Despite going down to 10 men inside 12 minutes with the sending off of Steve Sidwell, Fulham can take heart from our defensive performance as we frustrated Arsenal in the 1-0 defeat in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday.
The possession statistics suggest that the away side took control for most of the game as Arsenal’s 71.2 per cent seemingly dominated matters but, in reality, it was a lot closer than that. Our 285 attempted passes compares badly to the Gunners’ 768 but that is hardly surprising given that we spent 78 minutes with our backs against the wall, and the Heatmap (below left) shows Arsenal rarely made it into the Fulham box all game.
Defensively, Fulham (12) conceded three more fouls than Arsenal (9), but our total of 17 tackles made was also three more than our opponents. While Sidwell’s first tackle resulted in his red card, Eyong Enoh’s three tackles and six interceptions played a key role in keeping Arsenal at bay, and Bryan Ruiz took on the defensive duties to drop back and help out in central midfield when the Whites were down to 10 men.
Bryan’s Heatmap (below right) shows how the Costa Rica international covered almost every blade of grass at Craven Cottage in an effort to close down Arsenal’s midfield. His three tackles and four interceptions helped to disrupt the Gunners’ flow and he was also responsible for nine duels where he won the ball back for his side.
Thanks to the wall in front of them, Arsenal - however dominant in possession - were not able to break through the Fulham defence too often as they were restricted to just three shots on target and 11 in total, which saw them score just once through Per Mertesacker’s header.
The Whites also proved that we were dangerous on the counter attack. Having more corners – seven to Arsenal’s three – Fulham ensured that we carved out just as many shots on target while coming in with only four less total attempts. We were also caught offside eight times, compared to Arsenal’s three, showing that despite having to battle against the numbers, our attacking intent still remained strong.
We found the most space on the wings, despite having less players on the pitch, and put in a impressive 21 crosses – with Ruiz coming up with seven. Indeed, the average positions (shown in the image below) of the Arsenal attackers was all very central with even Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla tucking in and leaving space for Urby Emanuelson, Stanislav Manolev and Alexander Kačaniklić to attack from the flanks.
Emanuelson, in particular, compared favourably to the opposition when you look at his stats: winning seven duels to get the ball back, the Dutch winger also had two successful dribbles and played the ball into the final third of the pitch five times. If things had worked out slightly differently, the Whites could well have stolen a point on the counter.