Result: Arsenal 4 – 1 Fulham
Competition: Premier League
Date: 1st Jan 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Subs: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Ramsey, Torreira, Saka, Nketiah
Arsenal got their 2019 off to a great start with a flattering 4-1 win over Fulham at home. Arsenal went ahead through a Xhaka goal in the first half but could have conceded goals to Fulham who fluffed their lines in front of goal.
It was in the second half where the game opened up – Lacazette doubling the lead before Kamara striked back for Fulham. Ramsey made it three before Aubameyang put the icing on the cake with a fourth after missing his share of chances through the match.
Arsenal started their first match of 2019 looking to bury the memories of the Liverpool game with two chances within as many minutes. The best of the two featured a counter attack which ended with Iwobi cutting back for Aubameyang who could only hit the ball high into the stands with his attempt.
The intensity dipped soon enough as Fulham sat deep and Arsenal found it hard to pass out of the back with the visitors’ forward line pressing high.
Alarm bells rung around the Emirates when Fulham countered on the 14th minute. Fulham sliced through the midfield with a pass to Sessegnon in acres of space on the right wing. His curled attempt towards the far post went just wide – a warning to the Arsenal team who have been operating in second gear.
Sessegnon had another chance at putting the Cottagers ahead when he evaded Kolasinac at the far post to meet a cross. His missed attempt to connect with the ball was another let off for Arsenal that continue to have lapses in concentration at the back.
However, Arsenal punished Fulham for their profligacy by hitting back with a Xhaka goal. So used to long range pile drivers from Xhaka, audiences had to be content with a simple tap in by the Swiss international as he sauntered into the box unmarked to meet Iwobi’s looping cross. 1-0 Arsenal.
Fulham did not let their head go down and continued searching for an equaliser. More loose defending by the Arsenal team saw Mitrovic rise high above the defenders to head the ball on target. Leno was on hand to save the ball on the line and spare his teammates’ blushes.
On the 39th minute, Arsenal almost scored a second in a similar fashion to the first thanks to quick feet by Iwobi who dribbled past his defender and crossed in from the left. Aubameyang was the recipient of the pass this time, choosing to head the ball but could not find the target. A wasted chance to go into the second half two goals in front.
The team had to settle with a one goal lead going into half time. It was a positive performance going forward while discussions on covering gaps in defence and midfield a definite topic in the manager team talk.
That talk must have concluded with Emery deciding that more bodies were required in midfield as Torreira came on for Mustafi. Arsenal’s reversion to the back four did not help the team settle – players looked confused by their new positions on the field while Fulham pressed high up the field.
It did not take long for Arsenal to find their feet as fantastic link up play between Iwobi, Kolasinac and Aubameyang cut through the Fulham defence. Kolasinac laid off the final ball for Lacazette who had the easy job of scoring from the middle of the box unmarked. 2-0 Arsenal.
Fulham’s substitutions of Kamara, Fosu-Mensah and Seri cranked up the pressure on Arsenal and they finally found a way with a goal by Kamara on the 68th minute. Seri won the ball from Torreira in the middle of the pitch and the ball found its way to Sessegnon on the left who cut back to an unmarked Kamara who sidefooted the ball at the far post. 2-1 Fulham.
Emery responded by bringing on Ramsey for Lacazette to secure the win for the Gunners on the 74th minute. And secure the game he did, scoring not long after coming on to settle the nerves. It all came from another tantalizing cutback from Kolasinac. Aubameyang’s shot rebounded off the post and fortuitously found Ramsey who curled the ball into the top corner to make it 3-1 Arsenal.
Guendouzi later threaded an excellent ball for Aubameyang who outran his marker but was denied by the goalkeeper who stood his line and smothered away Aubameyang’s chip for a corner. Aubameyang finally got his goal from the resulting corner – Sokratis laying off for the Gabon striker to shoot from the right hand side of the box. His attempt was deflected and looped over the Fulham players to nestle into the far post. 4-1 Arsenal.
The game ended comfortably and set the Gunners back on course to chase Chelsea for fourth place as the latter are now only 2 points ahead albeit with a game in hand.