Welcome to our coverage of Robin van Persie versus Fulham. Arsenal being a one-man show, that's what it says here. Theo Walcott, as ever, getting no credit whatsoever for his continued excellence.

Anyway, this should be a home banker, because struggling Fulham - two points off the relegation places - have a terrible record at Arsenal, who are looking to make it six league wins on the bounce. They've never won a match at Arsenal in 25 attempts, losing 22 of them. Since returning to the big time in 2001, they've played ten games at either Highbury or Ashburton Grove, losing eight, and drawing 0-0 twice. The game before that - in their relegation season of 1967/68 - saw them on the wrong end of a 5-3 goalfest. Here's what the Observer's legendary John Arlott had to say about that match:


This match was decided before it began, in the training which gave Arsenal the higher output of effort and, in the sapping last stages, the greater stamina.

Through an afternoon of edged wind and sluicing rain, Fulham contested the issue with spirit and, often, invention. They might claim that they lost only through defensive errors. But, crucially, when the spray spurted from tired heels, though they still had ideas and opportunities, they flagged. Arsenal did not.

Arsenal also held three major tactical advantages. Ure, in his last appearance before his long suspension, and McLintock dominated the play from their defensive fringe into the build-up area; Radford. deceptively numbered seven, was dominant in the air; and Neill sternly controlled their central defence.

Fulham's new Scottish centre-forward, Gilroy, should serve them well: he has the stuff of football in him, and the quality of subtlety. Only nine minutes from the start Dempsey, moving up, coldly headed in a right-wing corner and posed Arsenal an altogether unexpected problem.

Arsenal worked steadily and at length Sammels, breaking clear on the left, crossed low, Graham dummied and left Radford clear to shoot the equalising goal. Five minutes more and Sammels chipped a free kick from the right over an ill-positioned defensive barrier and Radford, from an inch above the eyebrows, rapped the ball in clear of Seymour.

A pass of superb control from Haynes sent in Conway for a simple shot to equalise and then, as Fulham drew breath, in the minute before half-time, Seymour came to the edge of the penalty area to scoop up Sammels' gentle chip, fumbled it horribly to Addison, and left him free to stroll on and tap into goal.

Arsenal started the second half at full effort and Fulham never truly cleared the ball from their own area before Sammels crossed and Addison, left clear by defensive slackness, headed an easy goal.

For almost a quarter-hour the Fulham goal was in constant jeopardy. Briefly the pressure was eased when Haynes began a movement which ended with Barrett's sharp cross and Clarke's poised volley, from an awkward angle. for their third goal.

For the last half-hour, Arsenal were always moving in hard on the marginal ball. Ten minutes from the end, McLintock calmly measured his cross from the left and Radford, perfectly positioned, slid it under Seymour to put the issue beyond doubt.

Another eight goals today, please!

Arsenal: Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Andre Santos, Song, Ramsey, Arteta, Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin.
Subs: Fabianski, Diaby, Koscielny, Frimpong, Gervinho, Chamakh, Benayoun.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Ruiz, Dembele, Zamora.
Subs: Etheridge, Johnson, Kasami, Gecov, Hughes, Frei, Briggs.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

Kick off: 5.30pm.

One thing worth remembering: Arsene Wenger and Martin Jol once nearly came to blows on the touchline. "He obviously hadn't seen the size of my fists," smiled Jol after the brouhaha, a feature of a north-London derby in 2006. The only non-sanctimonious response to this being: more please!

The teams are out. So much so, that we're off! Fulham get the ball rolling, kicking the ball towards the North Bank. Finsbury Park, Gillespie Road, up to your actual Seven Sisters, innit. Within a minute, van Persie has won a corner down the right, but it's a complete waste of time.

2 min: A fine atmosphere at the Emirates. Arshavin skates down the left at speed, and nearly finds the man of the moment, van Persie, in the middle with a low ball. But it's cut out by Hangeland.

4 min: Arshavin and van Persie exchange passes just outside the Fulham area. Arshavin finds himself one on one with the keeper, and slots home low and hard. Great finish, but it's all for naught, because the Russian is marginally offside. Not by much, but it's enough, and a great decision by Flag Operative.

6 min: Fulham's first interesting sortie into Arsenal territory. Ruiz sashays down the right and into the box, near the byline. He pulls the ball back, low and hard, for Dempsey, who takes a snapshot from ten yards, but the ball's blocked by Djourou the nanosecond it leaves his foot. Super-solid defending by Arsenal, if you don't count Andre Santos giving Ruiz the run of the place.

7 min: Van Persie finds space down the inside-left channel, romping into the box. He cuts the ball back for Ramsey, rushing in. Ramsey aims for the top right, and his effort is going in, until Schwarzer claws away brilliantly. It's a corner, from the right, and it's plucked from the sky by the keeper, who has had a very handy 30 seconds or so there.

9 min: A nice, flowing, open start, eh?

11 min: Fulham pass it around awhile in the middle. Some crisp passing, though they don't really get anywhere. There goes that atmosphere! Very quiet all of a sudden.

14 min: After that free-flowing opening ten minutes or so, nothing much is happening now. May as well fill in the time with the following from reader AB, a textbook example of how to crowbar criticism of former Arsenal star Ashley Cole into any social situation: "Theo Walcott's a great player and his book is a masterpiece. It's not my favourite footballer autobiography though, which is Ashley Cole's 'My Defence'. Whenever Ashley says 'my' as in 'I picked up my handbag and it felt too light actually, for a man of my worth' he says 'me', as in 'I'd been parked outside Chezza's house in me convertible white Roller for three days before she said 'yes''. 'Me'! I'm sure 'me' is totally hip hop but on the page it just sounded as Yorkshire as it comes without throwing a sack of ferrets in the River Aye-Up. It made reading the whole book on the whole a bit odd. which let's face it would have been the case if he hadn't used 'me' ha ha ha."

15 min: Ramsey has a whack at goal from 30-odd yards. It's a pretty poor business, all told.

18 min: Andy Murray, like Joe Baker an occupant of the Arsenal/Hibernian subsection on the Big Fitba Venn, is the stands today. He's just been pictured re-tying one of his shoelaces, or maybe scratching the back of his ankle, I'm not totally sure. It's suddenly turned into that sort of game.

20 min: Walcott cuts inside from the right and has a pop from the edge of the area, but Hangeland is quick to block. Meanwhile, everyone's writing essays today. "It seems to be widely held wisdom that Arsene Wenger would get trounced in a physical fight with almost every other manager in the Premier League, particularly the brave, strong British ones, but also the big, fat ones like Martin Jol," begins Angus Chisholm. "I'm not so sure. For one thing, Wenger would have to be one of the fittest managers in the division physically, despite his age, while standing at an imposing height. For another thing, whenever given the chance to demonstrate his ball skills he shows impressive touch and control which belies a considerable degree of hand-eye co-ordination which I think would be absent in many of his counterparts. Finally, his intelligence and cunning would surely stand him in good stead. I think he'd give an excellent account of himself." Fair points, well argued. But can you see him hitting someone across the back of the head with a nearly empty bottle of Bell's? There's a fair few managers I can think of who would, which automatically pushes him halfway down the list.

21 min: Minor points of excitement at either end of the park. First Zamora turns Vermaelen and shoots just over from the edge of the area, level with the right-hand post. Did Szczesny tip that over? Not sure. Zamora doesn't get the corner, anyway. Then Arshavin has another dribble down the left, and claims a penalty as he's robbed of the ball upon entering the area, but the referee isn't having any of it, quite reasonably.

24 min: Ramsey doesn't have his shooting boots on, it would seem. Walcott zips down the right, and into the area. He'd be within his rights to have a dig himself, albeit from a tight-ish angle, but unselfishly decides to cut the ball back for Ramsey, who is rushing into the box with no white shirts bothering him. From 12 yards, he blazes 12 miles over the bar. Awful.

26 min: Walcott is beginning to show his class. Once again he enters the box from the right, and this time decides to have a go himself. He hammers an effort straight at Schwarzer, who parries in a not particularly certain style back out to Senderos. The ball clanks off the Swiss player's shins for a corner, but nothing comes of it.

28 min: Ruiz looks to knock the ball past the hapless Andre Santos down the right. The Arsenal man is sliding in, a hideous misjudgement, and handles the ball just before it flies past his head. That's a booking. Zamora comes up to give the referee a mouthful, God knows why, and joins Andre Santos in the book. What a clown.

29 min: Riise has a shot from distance. Vermaelen sticks a leg out to stop the piledriver. He's successful, though appears to have hurt his knee while doing so. I'll keep you posted, or perhaps totally forget about it, in which case assume Vermaelen is OK.

32 min: A bit of space for Andre Santos dowm the left. He gets to the byline. The ball loops up under a challenge. Schwarzer claims. It's not quite catching alight, this game. "I've always reckoned Wenger would be the most dangerous premier league manager in a fight," argues Alex Hanton. "It might just be me but he's always had the look of a man who's kept a retractable spring-loaded blade mounted on the inside of his wrist every game for the past 15 years. Not planning anything in particular. Just waiting." Yes, but would he be prepared to hit someone across the back of the head with a nearly empty bottle of Bell's? The blade's no good if he's been hit across the back of the head with a nearly empty bottle of Bell's.

35 min: Mild flurries at both ends. First Dembele sees a decent effort on the turn from the edge of the area deflected out for a corner. From it, Hangeland heads weakly wide left of the target. Then there's a crisp bit of Arsenal triangulation down the inside-left channel, which ends with Arshavin hooking a shot wide right from a position just to the left of goal, 12 yards out. Again, this isn't a terrible match. But it isn't a particularly good one, either.

38 min: A free kick for Fulham, 30 yards out. They try a training-ground number, Murphy, Dempsey and Ruiz the performers. It doesn't come off, though for a second there was a big gap down the right. Andre Santos's turf. Hmm. "Didn't Wenger grow up in his parents' pub in Alsace?" asks Justin Kavanagh. "Surely he'd be well able to take care of himself in a barney with an empty bottle in his hand?" Are you sure this how licensees act in the Alsace region of France? Bowling around the snug in a menacing fashion, brandishing a broken bottle of claret?

42 min: More room for Dembele, just outside the Arsenal box, this time just to the left of goal. He gets a powerful shot on target, but Szczesny is behind it all the way, and palms it out for a corner. From which Murphy swings the ball in from the left, allowing Hangeland to head just over the bar. It's been mainly Arsenal, this game, but Fulham are slowly coming into it.

45 min: Ramsey sprays a delightful ball from the centre circle, down the inside-left channel. Van Persie brings it down wonderfully, but can't do anything with it, Baird and Senderos right up in his grille. Meanwhile, with all this talk of fighting and blended whisky, it was only a matter of time before our old pal from Glasgow, Ryan Dunne, turned up for a chat about the Teddy Bears. "Some good points on Wenger's fighting chops!" he chirrups. "A bit like that scene in Fight Club, when Abraham Lincoln is cited as a formidable opponent, given his reach (which Wenger has) and the unparalleled scrappiness of the skinny (ditto). That said, being Glasgweigan, I still imagine Lord Ferg being the most fearsome managerial boxing opponent (we breed 'em tough at the Glorious Glasgow Rangers, and one imagines that Fergie got Boxing Hall of Fame's Hugh McIlvaney to pen his autobiography for a reason)."

45 min +1: Etuhu is booked for a lunge on Arteta down the left. It looked a bit harsh, the ball taking most of the impact. From the resulting free kick, Mertesacker heads Arteta's free kick just wide right.

HALF TIME: Arsenal 0-0 Fulham. And that's that for the half. Not a great deal to report, really. "In Alsace, they can take a man's eye out at ten paces with a well-aimed champagne cork," reports Russell Richardson. "Or possibly an over-fermented Riesling or Crémont."

HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT with erstwhile Fulham chairman Tommy Trinder:


A fantastic glance off camera at 1 min 08 sec, his patience already wearing thin.

And we're off again! Arsenal get the ball rolling, in their quest to make it six wins in a row. Here's Hubert O'Hearn, arguing that if Arsene Wenger was roaming about his parents' bar in Alsace looking for a brawl with a broken bottle of claret in his hand and a wild look in his eye - and we can't stress enough that this is a purely hypothetical situation - he'd do well to put the weapon down. And replace it with "a champagne bottle - more heft and a larger surface."

47 min: A quiet start to the half. Arsenal would do well to up the tempo. "Big 'Eck would down half of that bottle before cracking it over Wenger's bonce," opines Nick Trim, philosophically. "Ferguson would probably want to finish of his 800-year-old bottle of expensive booze first before using it. Finally, Andre Villas-Boas would probably be hard to hit with all that crouching tiger hidden P45 he does."

48 min: Walcott tears down the right, his low ball causing Senderos and Schwarzer no little bother at the near post. They manage to clear eventually.

51 min: A lot of pretty Arsenal passing, not much in the way of end product. It's quiet at the Emirates, a real contrast to the start of the first half. "The winner of any managerial fight club would be David Moyes," writes George Hasenecz, decisively, "and he would meet Owen Coyle in the final. Coyle wears shorts all year round."

53 min: Andre Santos is a terrible defender, but he looks great going forward. He robs Murphy down the left, and powers into the Fulham half, drifting into the centre and taking a shot from the edge of the box that's on target but deflected wide. The corner is not worth describing, which makes life a whole lot easier for me.

55 min: Fulham spring forward and win a corner down the left. Murphy swings a dangerous ball into the six-yard box, but it's headed clear with confidence by Djourou. The ball comes back at Arsenal, though, again through Murphy on the left. Arteta plays everyone onside, and Dempsey bottles out of a challenge with the advancing Szczesny on the edge of the six-yard box. The ball sails out of play on the right, but it was there to be converted were Dempsey braver. Speaking of bottles, here's Andrew Robinson: "According to Wikipedia, Alsace wine comes in tall bottles, which could be more useful than claret. But Wenger, obviously, is full of zen, so he'd sense his opponent coming at him from behind, and deal with him calmly and with precision." You didn't see him flinging those water bottles around at the start of the season, did you?

58 min: A strange end-to-end game at the moment, both teams reaching each other's area with ease, then throwing away possession with loose passes or aimless crosses. But there's a sense that something could happen soon.

60 min: And something nearly does happen! Van Persie gains a yard down the inside-right channel, in the Fulham area. He drops a shoulder and turns inside Hangeland, unleashing a low shot goalwards. The keeper's beaten all ends up, but Baird is back on the line and clears. Brilliant forward play, excellent defending.

63 min: Again Arsenal going nowhere with the passing. "I think this MBM should get forwarded to WWE," writes Hubert O'Hearn, or HO'H, if were going big on capital letters all of a sudden. "Next time Vince McMahon sends the wrestlers over to the UK he can stage a Football Managers Battle Royal. You know who wins don't you? Tony Pulis. Know what's under that cap? Brass knucks." So he's got to take the cap off, and put the knucks on, before he can even think about throwing hands? Wasting precious time, surely. Before you know it, he'd be hit across the back of the head with a nearly empty bottle of Bell's.

65 min: COULD THIS BE HISTORY IN THE MAKING?! Arsenal 0-1 Fulham. And what a hopeless own goal this is. Murphy dinks a diagonal ball, right to left, into the area. Level with the left-hand post and ten yards out, Riise chests down - the hint of an arm - but before he can make another contact with the ball, Vermaelen slides in and slashes a totally inept clearance into the bottom-left corner. To reiterate: Fulham have never, ever, ever won at Arsenal.

68 min: Zamora races onto a pass down the inside-left channel, and whips a lovely shot with the outside of his foot into the net past the advancing Szczesny. It won't stand, though; he's a yard offside. Still, the Arsenal backline was static, and all over the shop to boot. "Look, I'm fed up with all this baseless speculation and lazy journalism," thunders Alex Hanton. "Clearly this debate is going to run and run until you get whoever you have covering the game to go to the post-match presser armed with an empty bottle of Bell's - as a journalist I assume he'll have several handy - lunge at Wenger and see how he responds. P.S. I'm guessing with a retractable wrist-blade to the face but I'm open to being proven wrong."

70 min: A double change by Wenger: Ramsey and Mertesacker off, Gervinho and Diaby on.

71 min: An immediate impact, of sorts, by Diaby: a hack from distance that's deflected out for a corner. Nowt comes of the set piece. Arsenal look visibly deflated.

73 min: A brilliant leggy run by Diaby down the inside-right channel so nearly opens Fulham up. He's somehow diverted away from the dangerzone, the ball clanking out off a Fulham leg for a corner on the right. From which Djourou crashes a wonder header goalwards. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Schwarzer meets it with a wonder save.

75 min: A couple of changes, one for each side. Chamakh replaces Arshavin, Kasami replaces Ruiz. Here's "a true story" from Alec McAulay:

Tommy Trinder in cabaret: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Trinder's the name.
Orson Welles, at an expensive table, brooding: Then why don't you change it?
Trinder: Is that a proposal?

77 min: Senderos is booked for upending... er... for upending Arsenal Player. The free kick's just to the left of the D, and three or four yards behind it. Van Persie skelps a curling free kick just wide left of goal. Not that close, on second viewing; Schwarzer had it covered anyway. Arsenal are getting very frustrated.

79 min: Zamora is replaced by Johnson.

80 min: "Come on Arsenal," the home crowd holler. For all of seven seconds. There's too much tension in the air to sing, you sense. A proud home record is on the line here: P25 W22 D3 L0.

81 min: Brilliant twisting and turning down the left by Gervinho. He slips the ball into Andre Santos, who stands one up to the far post. Van Persie chests it down, but blasts over from close range.

82 min: REDEMPTIVE GOAL!!! Arsenal 1-1 Fulham. That proud home record should be fine now. Walcott drifts down the right, and plants a cross onto the head of own-goal villain Vermaelen, who redeems himself by heading down and into the left-hand side of the net, with Schwarzer rooted to the spot. So simple! What was Fulham's defence up to, though? There was nobody near the big defender, who will be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

85 min: Arsenal have their tails up now. Van Persie races onto a pass down the inside-right channel but his flick only finds the side netting.

87 min: Gervinho is in acres down the left, latching onto a deflected shot, everyone else on the pitch totally wrongfooted. He cuts a low ball back into the centre, Andre Santos taking a shot that clanks off of... well, what, exactly? Was it Dempsey's hand? It certainly looked like it, though no replay's been shown yet. That was either a very good refereeing decision, or a very bad one. How about that for analysis? Thanks, my Guardian!

89 min: Right, that looked like a brilliant decision by Decisions Man. The ball whacked Dempsey in the armpit, you can't be giving penalties for that.

90 min: Dembele bombs down the left, then slips a ball ahead for Johnson. The Fulham striker looks to waste time, and the spectacularly dense Andre Santos obliges, by needlessly clattering into him and conceding a free kick. This will waste the first of the four added minutes to come.

90 min +1: The Andre Santos Minute passes without incident, all of it played out down the Arsenal end. Fulham can't do anything with their free kick.

90 min +2: A corner for Arsenal down the left. Van Persie tries to nudge it home at the near post, but can't get anything on it, and Schwarzer snaffles.

90 min +3: A long ball into the Fulham box. That it's come to this for Arsenal. Still, at least they seem to have salvaged that home record.

FULL TIME: Arsenal 1-1 Fulham. And that's that. A fair result, you have to say, and it's all thanks to Thomas Vermaelen. Fulham still haven't won at Arsenal in their entire history, but they'll be happy enough with that. Arsenal less so; with Manchester United also drawing at home, it's been a good day for Tottenham Hotspur, who won at West Brom. Finally, we should point out that, on the touchline, Wenger and Jol shake hands warmly. No nose-to-nose row, no fight, no broken bottles of Bell's. Probably just as well, eh.