Hatem Ben Arfa struck late to grab three points for United, ending over seven hours of match time without seeing a goal at St James’ Park and securing our first league win of the season to boot.
A piece of magic ensured that we mustered two wins within the space of the week to at least brighten the mood temporarily ahead of transfer deadline day tomorrow.
The most impressive thing for me though was the performance. Although the first half was tepid and devoid of any real attacking intent, our possession wasn’t bad and Fulham rarely got a sniff. However when our key players took to the field in the second period we looked more threatening, more urgent and in the end we could and perhaps should have won by more than one goal.
Our problems are in attack. Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi need things created for them and if they don’t get that their contribution is minimal. I actually sympathise with them, especially when you see what happened in the first half where they were left isolated for the most part and on the odd occasion that they weren’t the supply line got a bit greedy and tried something fancy instead of keeping things simple.
In truth the second period started off in much the same vein as the first ended, with Fulham rarely threatening and United lacking bite, but the introduction of Yohan Cabaye, Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy seemed to tip the balance in our favour and gave Fulham more to worry about.
Hatem’s goal was fantastic and Robbie Stockdale in the Fulham goal couldn’t do a thing about it. It sums Ben Arfa up perfectly. An afternoon spent frustrating everyone by trying too much or by making poor decisions was topped off with that goal which gave us the three points. You can watch it again below.
Papiss Cisse hit the crossbar, Cabaye forced a save from Stockdale who then denied Cisse at the second attempt and Gouffran missed a couple of chances but in the end the one goal was enough for United.
We now have two weeks off as the international break kicks in and when we return we have games away at Aston Villa and at home to Hull to contend with. First off though we need to see what kind of squad we have left to utilise once the window closes. I suspect it won’t be too different to the one we have now and certainly won’t be added to but I may be wrong.
That’s for tomorrow though. For now, take a bow Hatem!
P.S; Just a couple of stats for you following on from the game yesterday.
– Hatem Ben Arfa has scored in all three of his appearance against Fulham.
– No team has played fewer long balls this season than……. Newcastle United!