The 50-second reality check

There we all were, excited by a faultless pre-season and buoyed by an upbeat Wenger, dreaming of better things.

A minute later and reality smacked us all in the chops. It was at that point I started swearing and the profanities did not relent until unlikely goal hero Alex Hleb swivelled and hit the winner in the dying minutes.

Lehmann’s howler was as bad as any goalkeeping cock-up you’ll ever see, a feeble kick straight to the grateful foot of their number nine, and coming about 50 seconds into the game as it did, it had the usual effect of setting fire to Arsenal’s gameplan.

After that, well – what’s new? We created a fair few decent chances, and partly down to inspired goalkeeping took none of them. Meanwhile, Fulham got round our defence more times than they should have and could have scored more.

But fair play to the lads: despite not playing anything like as well as we need to we kept knocking and eventually a penalty came, dispatched with aplomb by Robin van Persie. Some minutes later pandemonium erupted when Hleb slotted the winner. It wasn’t really deserved, but that’s how things work sometimes. And judging by the huddle at the end there’s not much wrong with the team spirit.

“Sometimes Robin van Persie was a bit isolated” said a relieved Wenger, and I think he’s right – Hleb played quite well but whether his ‘free’ role behind the lone striker is something to stick with remains to be seen.

For me, the team performed much better with the introductions of Walcott and Bendtner. The latter in particular was effective, adding some height to the front line and causing all manner of problems for Fulham.

As for the visitors – they played well, ruffling feather and harrying throughout. The real frustration was their timewasting, which began early and continued tiresomely throughout, culminating in the ludicrous scenes after our equaliser when they wouldn’t release the ball for a quick restart.

So how did we do? It’s too soon to jump to decisions about anyone. Sagna had an impressive debut and Toure looked solid but otherwise there were no outstanding performances, and that pretty much sums the day up. A great result, but with plenty to work on.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.