Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Gnabry, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ju-Young Park
Arsenal stayed top of the Premier League after two Santi Cazorla goals secured a 2-0 win over Fulham at the Emirates this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger started the same team that began against Villa on Monday night, meaning Serge Gnabry kept his place and Nacho Monreal recovered from his ankle problem to continue at left back.
The Gunners began brightly, playing the early minutes in the Fulham half, and could have scored in the 4th minute. A beautiful move saw Wilshere slip in Ozil, he put it past the keeper with his right foot but the shot trickled towards goal and was cleared before Giroud could tap it in.
After that, however, the game settled down and seemed to be played at a slower pace which suited the visitors. Gnabry again had sight of goal but skewed a first time left footed effort wide after being set up by Giroud.
The pair reversed that a few moments later when the young German played it into Giroud on the edge of the box. The HFB turned but couldn’t quite get the ball out enough and curled his shot over and wide.
There were warning signs from Fulham though and Arsenal were thankful to Wojciech Szczesny for keeping the scores level. Sagna headed away a Berbatov cross, it fell to Sidwell who hammered on the volley towards the top corner, but the big Pole stuck out a hand and got it away.
It prompted a good spell from the visitors who passed the ball around with real confidence and again Szczesny was called into action when Dejagah was put through down the inside right channel and into the Arsenal box.
Arsenal worked their way through it though and threatened when they won a free kick just outside the D. Cazorla’s free kick hit the wall, it rebounded to Sagna who smashed it at goal with his left foot. The keeper parried it away to Giroud whose shot was again saved but the flag was up for offside.
As Arsenal pressed for a first half goal, Fulham almost scored at the other end. Berbatov played in Kacaniklic on the break, and only for a poor first touch and smart goalkeeping again by Szczesny it could have been very costly.
Gnabry had another effort from distance, again though he failed to hit the target with the ball flying high and wide, and the half played out scoreless.
There were no changes on either side at half-time but the visitors were obviously encouraged by their first half and started brightly in the second. After winning a corner there was some dangerous head tennis which Arsenal only got clear at the 4th or 5th attempt.
Giroud saw a shot easily saved by Stekelenburg before Gnabry again tried to force the issue, cutting inside a number of defenders before unleashing a left footed shot which the Fulham keeper pushed away.
Arsenal were pushing for the opening goal and almost got it when a Cazorla free kick found Sagna at the back post. The right back slid in and saw his effort cleared off the line, and Gnabry’s follow up shot was blocked from close range.
But moments later it was 1-0. Cazorla combined with Giroud, the Frenchman played it to Wilshere who rolled it back into the path of the Spaniard who finished into the right hand side of the net from around the penalty spot.
Five minutes later the Spaniard doubled Arsenal’s lead. A Monreal cross was headed out by Hangeland, it fell to Cazorla who took a touch and unleashed a left footed dribbler which left the keeper unsighted and crept in to make it 2-0.
The game settled down after the two quickfire goals and Arsene Wenger responded by bringing on Lukas Podolski for the impressive Gnabry, and the elder German’s first touch of the ball was a shot which was blocked out for a corner.
Less than a minute later he forced a great save from Stekelenburg, a rasping effort touched on to the post to deny him once more. Arsenal sat deep, inviting Fulham on to them, and looked to hit on the break but neither side could find any end product.
We defended well, Koscielny and Monreal making good, timely interventions, and almost fashioned the chance that might add some gloss to the scoreline. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Ozil in the 87th minute and Fulham took advantage of some sloppy Szczesny play, shooting over the bar when Flamini was robbed in midfield.
Darren Bent then showed why Sp*rs paid £16m for him by putting the ball wide from 8 yards with Szczesny stranded. Not only did he miss, he injured himself in the process.
Oxlade-Chamberlain headed over a Cazorla injury time cross, but in the end Arsenal held the lead, took three points, and remain top of the table.