Result: Fulham 1-5 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 7 October 2018
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Arsenal starting XI: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette
Subtitutes: Martinez, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Aubameyang
Arsenal registered their ninth win in a row, and in the process climbed to third in the Premier League, as they hammered Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage.
Alex Lacazette grabbed a brace before substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang killed the game with great goals off the bench.
The home side had threatened to make a game of it when Andre Schurrle equalised two minutes before half-time but Unai Emery’s men, as is becoming a trend, moved up the gears after the break to seal the points.
London’s glorious autumnal sunshine, the antique terraces and a perfect pitch certainly made for a wonderful setting as the two sides kicked off.
Quite often these early afternoon kick-offs can be sleepy affairs – Arsenal have certainly delivered performances worthy of the walking dead in previous encounters – but this was anything but. From the outset the action was end-to-end.
Mkhitaryan, starting in place of the injured Mesut Ozil, set the tone with a long-range sighter inside two minutes. It flew over. In reply, Vietto, pouncing on a loose ball by Bellerin, fired a deflected effort that required a fantastic stop by Leno who’d initially been wrong-footed. Losing possession moving the ball out of defence was something that would eventually come back to haunt us.
As the game settled down, the Gunners started to take control with much of our good work stemming from Torreira and Xhaka repeatedly winning second balls in the centre of the park. The Uruguayan was particularly decisive. He snapped into challenges, made incisive interceptions and his quick passing freed our attacking players to surge forward.
Iwobi, Lacazette, Welbeck and Mkhitaryan all looked threatening but their end product in the opening 25 minutes was lacking. Thankfully, Unai Emery’s players are a persistent bunch and their efforts were duly rewarded just before the half-hour mark when Lacazette applied a killer finish to a tidy move.
The Frenchman had done well to win a long ball by Holding in the build-up and then darted into a dangerous area where he was found by Monreal’s low cross. He spun on a sixpence and hammered low inside the near post. (1-0)
With confidence flowing, more chances followed. Within two minutes the Torreira-Xhaka tag team found Welbeck in space but this time Bettinelli rescued the ball from the feet of Mkhitaryan as he tried to tap in from close range. The Armenian then tried his luck from the edge of the box and saw the ball zip just over.
At the back, we looked relatively comfortable on the ball, however, as we’ve experienced numerous times this season we’re still capable of conceding at any time. One lofted pass by Holding proved a bit too ambitious and lead to a Schurrle half-chance that he blasted high and wide. It was a warning we did not heed.
Two minutes before the break, Monreal gave the ball away trying to play out from from the left-back position and immediately we were left exposed. Vietto picked up the free ball, played a pass that left Holding stranded and Schurrle applied a neat dinked finish to outwit compatriot Leno. (1-1)
The Gunners came racing out of the traps after the break and within three minutes we’d restored our lead. The commentators were still purring over a fine stop by Bettinelli, he’d just produced an unbelievable save to deny Bellerin, when Lacazette caught the Fulham keeper out at his near post for the second time.
The goal stemmed from Welbeck winning a header in the Fulham area and when the ball bounced invitingly for Lacazette he didn’t hesitate in thrashing home a first-time effort from 25-yards. It rustled the net in a blink of an eye. (1-2)
A chance came and went for Kamara as the home side threatened a second equaliser of the afternoon before Aubameyang was sent on for Welbeck and Ramsey replaced Iwobi.
The changes took effect immediately as the Welshman, who’d been on the field for just 38 seconds, applied a top notch back-heeled finish to tuck home an Aubameyang cross. It’s hard to describe quite how lovely a goal – both Ramsey and Bellerin produced delicious skill to keep the move flowing – so it’s unsurprising the scorer was mobbed by his teammates (1-3).
Emery, prowling the touchline, bloody loved it. And so did the travelling Gooners who sang, “We’ve got our Arsenal back, we’ve got our Arsenal back.”
Having registered an assist, Aubameyang decided he wanted in on the scoresheet. On 79 minutes Mkhitaryan spread play to Bellerin who picked out the Gabon international at the near post. The striker set himself with his first touch, shielding the ball from Le Marchand, before spinning and coolly slotting home with his left foot. (1-4)
In stoppage time, the former Borussia Dortmund striker collected a Ramsey through ball, weighed up his options and fired another unstoppable effort into the bottom corner. Lovely stuff. (1-5)
Fulham needed the final whistle. When it came, Emery was quick on the pitch to congratulate his players. His plan really seems to be coming together.