Some days the tight calls go your way, some days they don’t. Referees can be fickle, VAR can be VAR and you can’t rely on either to get you results. You have to take luck out of the equation.
Must rational people can accept that, on two crucial calls during the Fulham match, Arsenal were unlucky. On another day and with another official, one or both of those calls could have fallen in our favour.
That that is the case is scandalous enough as it is but, by now, we are used to that fact. There is every chance that marginal calls will go against you.
You must, therefore, do enough to ensure that those outliers don’t become decisive. Against Fulham on Sunday it’s difficult to make the case that we did that.
I absolutely understand that two key decisions in a single game is a lot for any side to have to overcome and, in the end, perhaps we did well to earn a point but, against a side like Fulham, who had a non-penalty xG of just 0.11 at the Emirates, there is an undoubted feeling of disappointment.
After some good performances in wins over Sheffield United and Slavia Prague, it wasn’t unreasonable to hope that we might be able to produce something similar against Scott Parker’s relegation strugglers. Alas, this side is rooted in mid-table for a reason.
As it has done on many occasions this season, our finishing let us down and you could make a case that we lacked the sort of urgency and intent required to make life difficult for the visitors, who didn’t really offer any real threat or show much sign of wanting to come out and play.
Some of that will be because of fatigue and some of that will be because of the players on the pitch. Mikel Arteta has to rest his key players, only a fool doesn’t understand that. Whatever the manager says, our eggs are very firmly in the Europa League basket and so dropping Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari to the bench was as much about sparing tired legs as it was a tactical change.
Sadly, those who came into the fray weren’t able to maintain that promising level of performance and the result was the sort of late scramble we used to see in the Arsene Wenger years, when the opposition scored with a single shot on goal while we toiled for 70 minutes to find a way through.
The continued absences of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kieran Tierney, and Martin Odegaard means we started the match at something approaching half-strength and the performance for the first hour was perhaps the perfect embodiment of that fact.
In the end, Fulham will doubtless be upset they couldn’t come away with all three points but it would have been a travesty had they done so. Arsenal should have won the game comfortably and, indeed, probably had enough good chances. An expected goals tally of 2.93 attests to that.
The reality is that we only managed a point. It wasn’t the best performance you’ll ever see from an Arsenal side but it wasn’t especially bad. It was very much a performance that reflects not only our season but also our current situation with injuries and the European focus.
When you perform as we did for the first half and trust the players we did to get the job done, you leave a fair amount open to chance and, today, chance turned around and gave us a great big boot up the backside.
If we want to give a decent account of ourselves between now and the end of the season, we can’t afford to do that.