Fulham 1 - Arsenal 0: Our worst summer fears realised

Summer 2007: Arsenal sell their most potent player for a decade and the pundits tip them to drop out of the top four, failing to compete for honours.

The team goes on to contest a season of glorious failure, falling away only as injuries to key players and energy fades against Manchester United and Ch*vski.

Summer 2008: Arsenal allow two of their most potent players to leave and the pundits tip them to drop out of the top four, failing to compete for honours.

The difference this year is, that after yesterday’s defeat against Fulham, you wouldn’t put money on Arsenal having a hope in the Premiership this season.

In trying to be as supportive of our club as I can, I can cite the injuries or the returns from international duty which always seem to hinder us, but the stark facts were there for all to see.

Arsenal cannot defend set pieces, with our captain William Gallas switching off and giving Brede Hangeland the simplest of goals. That said, the entire defence looked at odds.

Why did Kolo Toure play 70 minutes when he was clearly not fit and Johann Djourou had such a good game the week before? What prompted Gael Clichy to put in such an insipid performance?

What future is there for Denilson, if this is how our Brazilian midfielder performs when he has a chance to prove his worth in the first team? All I can say about him is that he made Manu Eboue look good – he lacked the penetration, the steel and the passing acumen to give Fulham any trouble whatsoever.

Why did Alex Song not start or at least come on earlier and slot into midfield, to add some fire to a particularly soggy underbelly? Why not put on the fearless Jack Wilshere on to add some creativity when more senior players failed to do so?

I'm not sure I agree with the majority of Gooners who thought Theo Walcott had a terrible game. He got in some fairly decent crosses early on but the fact that Mark Schwarzer didn't have a decent save to make all game underlines the toothless nature of our entire attacking performance.

It feels this morning as if we’ve lost the title already. It’s not just about the three points – it’s about the failure to beat a side who only stayed up on the last day of the season last year – a team our rivals will dispose of with ease.

Even Arsene Wenger, who usually backs his team whatever the result, could not defend the indefensible: "What we did today was just not good enough. In midfield we were dominated and not strong or quick enough - and we suffered. We lacked a bit more quality in our passing. When you look at the possession we had and what we did with it that is always a sign it is not only down to power but vision and technical quality. That was not there today. I don’t know why.”

It sends out a message not only to our opponents that we do not have the strength in depth, but also to our own players. Do they have the will to win or the courage to overcome such a massive early setback?

Where, last season, victory from the jaws of defeat against Fulham provided a huge injection of belief to the team that led to a season of flowing football, will yesterday’s insipid reverse sap the team of that same confidence that they have what it takes to challenge for the biggest prizes?

Mr Wenger, you have some serious work to do.