Arsenal 3 Fulham 3

Olivier Giroud’s double strike was not enough to earn the Gunners a win against Fulham at the Emirates, despite Arsenal taking a two goal first half lead. Dimitar Berbatov grabbed his own brace as the Cottagers arguably played the better football, and despite going behind did not let their heads drop. The same cannot be said for Arsene Wenger’s side who were stunned when Fulham took the lead to make it 3-2. Having opened the scoring, Giroud and Lukas Podoslki had given the Gunners hope of back to back Premirship wins, but Berbatov and substitute Alex Kacaniklic showed that the visitors were more that up for the fight

Arsenal took the lead from a corner after 11 minutes. Walcott swung the ball into the danger zone, where Giroud powered a header past Mark Schwarzer. It came as more of a relief than genuine celebrations as Fulham sensed an unease. Bryan Ruiz had seen an earlier effort deflected for a corner, as Fulham continued to pass and press. Probing Thomas Vermaelen at left back seemed their attack of choice, but strangely enough it was the Gunners who doubled their advantage. Podolski had seen a cross elude all, but with Fulham having ten men on the pitch, the German scored. Kieran Richardson had to be replaced by Kacaniklic after he pulled up with a hamstring injury. With Fulham back tracking, Arteta’s rare forward sortee and cross fell right for Podolski to hit home his fifth goal of the season midway though the first half.

The lead should have galvanised the Gunners, however it was to have to opposite effect as the Cottagers ruthlessly exposed the Arsenal defence in the most elementary of manners. Ruiz’s corner couldn’t have been better placed for Berbatov to head in, as the Arsenal zonal marking was found defective after 29 minutes. Fulham’s football had merited the goal, and five minutes before the break they were level. The visitors once again exposed the Gunners’ makeshift left back. Vermaelen was left wanting. Berbatov took hold of the ball on the right, crossed for the unmarked Kacaniklic to rise unmarked from a deep position to head past Mannone. Fulham deserved their leveller and for the second time in a week, Arsenal had squandered a two goal lead.

Asked to continue in his defensive duties, Mikel Arteta showed his dis disciplined side, but still created options in attack. Arsenal’s best player Giroud headed over from Arteta’s free kick , yet the Gunners had Per Mertersacker to thank for clearing the danger as Fulham threatened to take a half time lead. After Giroud and Ruiz had chances to grab the lead for their sides, Walcott should have put Arsenal ahead again, but having driven with pace, unleashed a shot that was always rising .

The un-thinkable then happened. Fulham took took the lead after 67 minutes. Arteta was unable to contain Ruiz, a penalty was awarded which Berbatov slotted past Mannone. The nerves returned to Wenger’s side and it was not hard to see why. Asked to defend zonally is not the answer as as has proved to be the case, sides pick off the Arsenal defence at will. Enjoying his best Premiership game so far, Giroud was still asking questions of the Fulham defence. His robust direct style was evident as he launched a shot that came of Mark Schwarzer’s upright, but alert to the chance, Walcott picked out Giroud with his cross, and the France striker stretched his neck for a header that Schwarzer couldn’t get to on 69 minutes.

Giroud deserved his hat-trick, and almost created what would have been the winner. He out muscled Steve Sidwell, and let fly with a powerful left foot strike that was on its way into the Fulham net, until Schwarzer got down low with a fine save. It was not to be the Fulham keeper’s last involvement either. Laurent Koscielny stood up to Berbatov defensively as Fulham also went in search of a winner.

It was substitute Andrey Arshaivin who saw his right sided cross handled by Sascha Riether, and referee Phil Dowe didn’t hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot. Up stepped Arteta. His spot kick almost bobbled, Schwarzer had guessed the direction to produce a low save to his left, and the chance for the winner was gone. The same has also been true of Arsenal’s confidence.