© Getty Images
Nobody, from pundits to passionate Fulham followers, were brave enough to predict that performance - including me. I should have known better in writing us off, football regularly turns round to make fools of us all. What a pity we couldn't bury that horrible statistic of never having won a competitive game at the home of Arsenal. But what a morale-boosting showing from the boys, and a priceless point to sneak us one place further away from the drop zone.
Stylistically we remain a million miles away from Jol's vision of total football, but the side showed guts, application and commendable professionalism in blunting Arsenal's recent turbo-charged rise up the table. Widespread narcolepsy for neutrals tuning in to the live TV coverage may well have set in before half-time, effectively reducing Wenger's wonders to our level however was just what the doctor ordered. Yes, it was Roy's Fulham of old, boring the opposition to death.
How did it all come to pass? Jol's inspirational team talk? Bryan's selection in the starting line-up? A freak alignment of the planets? Simple. We were playing in our true colours for the first time this season. Dump the all white please, I don't care what Kappa say - we are Fulham and we are 'the Black and Whites.' Mess with the footballing gods and you will be struck down!
Getting behind this out of the blue showing some interesting factors come to light. We've all spluttered at the inexplicable absence of our expensive summer signing, but Friday the truth finally slipped out. Ruiz has a knee injury. Fine. A pity, but nobody is expecting our athletes to go out and put themselves on the line for 90 odd minutes in the most competitive league in football. But I do have a question. If Ruiz has never really been 100% since hopping over the North Sea, why the hell has he been allowed to go out on international duty? I'm not saying we might have held out for that final 13 minutes had Ruiz still been on the park, but the boy knows how to keep hold of the ball, and how to use it. We lost something when he was subbed.
Secondly, and on the same theme, I reckon the club have been soft-pedalling on Bobby's fitness too. The big man has a hip injury. You clearly see him feeling it before our goal went in, and right after he was signalling the bench to come off. Could it be from putting his big frame out of alignment in trying to cushion impact on his ankle? We know he still gets an ache from it after Mr. Henry's calling card of September 2010. I can believe it too. I took a full-bloodied cricket drive onto the shinbone many years ago fielding close to the bat. As soon as the cold weather kicks in it to this day gives me a dull throb just to remind me.
What's the betting BZ does not take the field in Enschede Thursday? Ever since Sa did his hamstring in Poland a month ago, Jol's been working on the edge due to lack of cover in the striking department. The next transfer window can't come soon enough. Whether it's Gignac, Maynard, Rodallega or Kobe Bryant, Fulham badly need another target man up front! Especially with AJ on the way out.
The other factor to cloud our progress over the autumn has of course been the additional burden of Europa League games, lest we forget the crowded fixture list we've been forced to adopt since high summer. Arsene wasted no time bemoaning Arsenal's lack of appetite for our derby after their CL game with Dortmund in the week he felt had left the Gunners 'heavy legged.' Wenger was also honest in praising our side's efforts, while even the media for once gave credit to the shift Fulham put in, rather than concentrating on Arsenal's below par performance.
So we've avoided defeat in our last three away games. Not so bad for a side that doesn't travel. But it's still mainly draws we're accumulating, not victories, and with Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all to come before we see Arsenal again in the New Year, precious points will still be hard to come by through December. At least we should see Kelly, Sidwell, Sa and Simon Davies off the list of crocks within the next 10 days.
In the run up to Saturday's late kick off I followed the Sunderland Wigan game on the internet. As I predicted last week, Wigan did a number on Brucie's woeful outfit. The result underlined what a major opportunity we passed up in not going for the win up there, and it's just a matter of time before Bruce becomes the season's first managerial casualty. Well done Wigan. They have a prospect in Irish striker Conor Sammon - just £600,000 from Kilmarnock - and I like the way Martinez wants his team to play the ball out from the back. I wouldn't mind seeing him in charge at the Cottage one day.
Call it a curse or a cracking awayday, we've a return with Twente Thursday night, and plenty are making the trip, so I'll catch you later in the week with a preview. They'll be tough opponents, just one league loss in the Eredivisie so far this season.
In the meantime, let's enjoy for a few days longer the notion we managed to do a better job on the Arsenal than Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. COYW!