Arsenal’s 3-3 draw at the Emirates last weekend to Fulham will have hurt Arsene Wenger but Mikel Arteta won’t be forgiving himself in a hurry after giving away a penalty at one end and missing one at the other.
The Spaniard has been Arsenal’s best and most regular player so far this term – in his first 6 games he had the highest pass accuracy rate on the continent at 94% completion.
He’s been solid and unfazed by his positional change, replacing Alex Song as Arsenal’s most defensive holding midfielder. He’s scored goals when it counted, two in his 14 appearances.
Despite his advancing years, the 30-year-old has looked sharp and keen this season. But Saturday just wasn’t his day.
A sloppy challenge on Bryan Ruiz, after the attacker had gotten the better of him on the edge of Arsenal’s box – the Spaniard dragged him down in the area and gave away a penalty.
Arsenal had gone from 2-0 up just before half-time to 2-3 down on 67 minutes and looked to had gifted Fulham three points that they should have easily been able to hold on to.
Dimitar Berbatov’s first-half goal had made for an edgy and uncomfortable second half for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Then, just two minute after Berbatov had effortlessly scored the penalty, Olivier Giroud got the Gunners back on level terms with a strong header from a corner.
Arsenal had 21 minutes plus stoppage to find a winner – the tension building around the ground, as the home fans willed their team to find the net. But it wouldn’t come.
Giroud had an opportunity to snatch a late winner with another header but it sailed just over the bar – he couldn’t get the right angle to control it – followed by Arteta’s shot on 91 minutes saved by Mark Schwarzer.
Then, just as the win looked beyond them, Sascha Riether handled the ball in Fulham’s penalty box – a soft penalty but awarded nonetheless by referee Phil Dowd.
A big call, a big chance – 94 minutes played and the final kick of the game – Arteta’s chance to atone for giving the game away. He didn’t take it – he slotted the ball low into the right hand corner but it was too close to Schwarzer who parried it away.
His head in his hands, the referee blew the final whistle. It just wasn’t his day.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald