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Arsenal 3-3 Fulham Premiership Matchday 11 1213 Daily Mail

last updated Tuesday 13th November 2012, 4:45 PM

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Patrick Collins at Daily Mail

Arsenal (2) 3 Fulham (2) 3

Arsene Wenger is an elusive man to categorise.

On his good days, he has the earnest gravity of a philosophy don.

On bad days, he is Basil Fawlty.

At the close of a chaotic afternoon, with three goals conceded and a potentially match-winning penalty squandered with the last kick, Torquay's most celebrated hotelier was threatening to raise his voice.

Martin Jol, on the other hand, was remarkably sanguine.

Expectations were low, since no Fulham manager has ever won at Arsenal.

Defeat is their customary fate.

So when Mark Schwarzer flung himself to the left to knock aside Mikel Arteta's shot, Jol accepted the outcome.

'Maybe we should be pleased after the penalty,' he remarked.

'Certainly the referee was pleased not to see it go in.

' It was easy to agree with his analysis after the events of the final seconds.

Bryan Ruiz, the most effective player on view, untypically surrendered possession with an indiscreet square pass.

The Arsenal substitute Andrey Arshavin collected the offering, scampered into the area and smashed a drive against the arm of Fulham's Chris Baird.

Since Baird was standing scarcely a yard away at the time, the penalty seemed marginally harsh.

But referees have been freely awarding such punishments this season and Phil Dowd - who had an erratic match - followed the pattern.

On mature reflection, he may have acted differently, but Schwarzer's plunge saved him from the consequences of his decision.

Jol was convinced Arshavin played for the penalty by targeting Baird's arm.

'It wasn't a cross, and that was no place to shoot from.

He did it on purpose,' he suggested.

If so, it was a startlingly successful ploy.

Arteta's miss merely exacerbated the mutterings of discontent which continue to rumble around The Emirates.

Year after year of attractive, Champions League football is apparently insufficient reward for the absence of 'silverware'.

They would dearly love a sheik or an oligarch of their very own.

What they have is a club who do things the right way and may well be on the verge of something impressive, but taking their time to get there.

Their frustration is not eased by the manner of their performances.

For the second time in four days, they let slip a two-goal advantage with defending which was comically inept.

And this time, there was no Andre Santos to blame.

Wenger left him out in favour of Thomas Vermaelen.

I suspect he might have picked himself rather than expose the Brazilian to further embarrassment.

And, well as Fulham played their passes in the opening minutes, it seemed as if Arsenal would remain intact.

On 11 minutes, Olivier Giroud rose virtually unimpeded at a corner to score with a fierce header from inside the Fulham six-yard box.

The goal was not untypical, since Premier League defences seem to have renounced marking at corners this season.

Fulham lost Kieran Richardson with a hamstring injury on 20 minutes but were guilty of more embarrassing defending three minutes later when a cross was charged down and Arteta, reacting quicker than any defender, smoothed a pass back across goal while Fulham's central defence stood and slumbered.

Lukas Podolski almost apologised as he drove in the second.

But slowly, improbably, skilful players like Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov started to show their hand.

Berbatov still performs with the drowsy air of a man who has woken from a long nap.

He grows no more animated with the years.

But he can punish incompetence, and he found it in the 29th minute when no Arsenal defender accepted responsibility to attack a Ruiz corner, and Berbatov, with a lazy shrug, headed the goal.

Still Arsenal played as if defending were an optional extra, and in 40 minutes they conceded equality.

It was a fine goal, with Sascha Riether sliding a pass down the right, shrewdly weighted into the path of Berbatov.

The cross was penetrating, and the sub Alex Kacaniklic jabbed his head at the chance to send it bouncing inside a post.

Arteta prompted ceaselessly, yet was culpable for the goal which gave Fulham the lead.

Santi Cazorla played him into trouble, Ruiz dispossessed him in the area, and Arteta pulled the attacker down as he sought to retrieve.

Berbatov yawned as he rolled in the kick.

Some tenants of the most expensive seats in England started to leave at this point, thus missing the soft equaliser, when Giroud was allowed ludicrous time and space to head the equaliser.

But the rewards ended there, the match ended in sensation, and Arsenal were again frustrated.

Wenger spoke of 'taking the positives', but he was nearer the truth when he remarked: 'I don't think defensively it was an historical performance.

' Fawlty was coming to the surface.

And if Arsenal continue to defend like this, he will be a difficult man to keep down.

Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Coquelin (Ramsey 55), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott (Arshavin 84), Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Andre Santos, Jenkinson, Chamakh.

Booked: Ramsey

Goals: Giroud 11, 69, Podolski 23.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Ruiz, Baird, Sidwell, Richardson (Kacaniklic 24), Berbatov, Dejagah (Duff 85).
Subs: Stockdale, Senderos, Petric, Karagounis, Rodallega.

Booked: Sidwell.

Goals: Berbatov 29, 67, Kacaniklic 40.

Attendance: 60,093

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

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