On cloud nine
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Fulham 1-5 Arsenal
An early start on Sunday for a chance to get nine out of nine wins in all competitions at Craven Cottage. A 12pm k.o. for a London derby against Fulham, a team who haven't won in the league since the end of August; but with Arsenal's inclination for giving opponents good chances, still a team with enough quality to cause problems.
After the glorious victory in midweek against those European giants Carrier Bag, Arsenal headed into this fixture on something of a high and brimming with confidence - but as the team news broke, I for one started to feel bit queasy. No Ozil, sickly again, (this time with a back spasm), Mustafi, Welbeck, Mykitaryan, and Iwobi back in, Sokratis, Ramsey and Aubameyang benched.
Squad rotation? Maybe, long trip midweek etc, but personally I like continuity in line-ups, difficult as it is with the best player at the club on the biggest wages falling foul of a 'sniff' here and a 'tweak' there for random away games. If Arsenal are going to play quality football consistently, rather than fudge wins, then a settled line up is key. At times it feels Unai Emery is still searching for that perfect balance, but after 15 games including pre-season shouldn't he be close to knowing that by now? Harsh? Maybe... perhaps it's a new era thing!
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Lacazette
Fulham surprised everyone with a back three, whilst at the other end most Arsenal fans were having nightmares about Mitrovic taking Mustafi to the cleaners (shudder!). For the away side it was back to a 4-2-2-2 formation, with Torriera and Xhaka screening the back four.
Despite starting the game quite calmly in possession, passing well out of defence it was Fulham who had the first real chance; Bellerin making the error of playing a blind pass to Xhaka which let in Vietto, his shot deflecting off Holding, Leno saving well (good reactions from the German so early in the game). For Arsenal the main threat was coming down the left hand side. Time and time again Iwobi and Monreal were finding space where the Fulham full back was supposed to be covering - only the final ball preventing the Gunners taking the lead.
The game burst into life in the 28 minute; Lacazette, who had survived a quite horrific challenge from Mitrovic earlier (Robbie Savage "Nothing much in that" absolute *&@t), managed to turn and swivel in the box to lash home assisted by Monreal on the left.
1-0 to The Arsenal. A great move and a quality finish. What followed was sustained Arsenal pressure and two very good chances for Mykitaryan, which should have seen an increase to the lead. Fulham were relying on breaks or Arsenal errors.
It was one of those errors which led to the equaliser in the 43 minute. Monreal who was out of position giving the ball way in a dangerous area, and two passes later André Schürrle was clipping the ball past Leno. 1-1. A proper 'face-palm' moment which came from nothing...
To go into the break 1-1 after controlling most of the first half and restricting the home side to pot shots from outside the box was, to be frank, 'a right sickener!' Arsenal had bossed the half, and for 98% of it were defensively solid, so to switch off when they did was criminal. Much for Unai to ponder as he trudged off to the dressing-room.
No changes at the break, and despite the home fans' best efforts you could feel Arsenal had decided to 'up the gears' - this was Fulham from the bottom three remember, and they had just poked Arsenal in the eye 2 mins before half time. Lets' get ready to rumble - it was time for Arsenal to get brutal.
The first chance came from Bellerin, who warmed the keepers hands with a rasping drive after good work from Iwobi again; a minute later and the lead was restored. Danny Welbeck winning a header and finding Lacazette with his back to goal; his quick turn and shot seemed to wrong foot everyone finding the bottom corner. A sweet strike, 2-1!
You could feel the intake of breath as the home fans heads dropped. Fulham did have a chance on 60 minutes as their substitute Kamara missed a free header to equalise, but in that moment the game ended for the Cottagers. With Aubameyang on for Welbeck, and Ramsey on for Iwobi, what followed has to be a 'goal of the season' contender already. I could try and describe it, but there is too much to say about the move - see the goal here
Suffice to say it's one of those moves which the old Arsenal were famous for. Starting in the bottom corner, the move went the whole length of the pitch; Ramsey starting the move combining with Bellerin, then Lacazette and Bellerin again, the Spaniard with a cheeky back heel on the halfway line, then heading the ball on to Mykitaryan who fed Aubameyang, his low cross connecting with the sweetest back heel from our welsh Messi! 3-1 - and what a goal! Breath-taking stuff, eight passes, end to end. Aaron Ramsey celebrated with a shrug of the shoulders; "...and they won't give me £300,000 a week"
At 3-1 this game was well and truly over, and the away fans were enjoying themselves, treating everyone to a new Torriera chant:
"Torriera whoaho, he comes from Uruguay, he's only five foot five"
Lacazette was on a hat-trick, Aubameyang was looking hungry, and Guendouzi was getting ready to join the party. On 78 minutes it was 4-1 as the home support headed for the exits. Bellerin drilled in a low cross, and the ball was controlled and buried into the net in one quick turn by Aubameyang - "Anything Alexandre can do I can do better".
Had Fulham seen enough? Er, no! Securing a place above Spurs in the Premier League table was the cherry on the icing on the very large cake, and in the 90th minute Ramsey turned provider. Finding space in midfield, the Welshman played in Aubameyang to make it 5-1. A sublime finish.
"We've got our Arsenal back!"
You can't complain about a victory like that, with some great goals and performances all over the pitch. I thought we defended quite well overall, and played the ball out of the back with confidence. In midfield both Xhaka and Torriera did their jobs, and up front Lacazette worked tirelessly. There will be a lot of talk about Ramsey, the contract and that goal, but as good as it was I think you have to look at his performances to date this season rather than that flash of brilliance today. Remember he started on the bench for a reason.
Leno: Made one really good early save, looks really comfortable as our current number one. 8/10
Bellerin: One error in defence nearly cost the team early but great for the rest of the game. 8/10
Mustafi: My fears were never realised. Defended well and kept Mitrovic in his pocket. 7/10
Holding: Another strong performance. 8/10
Monreal: Bad error for Fulham goal but worked hard all game. 6/10
Xhaka: Kept it simple and only gave the ball away once. 6/10
Torreira: He's only five foot five, will have a lot of bruises, great hardworking display. 8/10
Iwobi: The main threat for Arsenal in the first half, faded a bit in the second. 7/10
Mkhitaryan: A bit quiet but could have scored. 6/10
Welbeck: Ran a lot. 6/10
Lacazette: Two great goals, tracked back and always a threat. MOM 9/10
Ramsey: What a cameo, superb goal and an assist. 9/10
Aubameyang: Two great finishes. 8/10
Guendouzi: Came on and took control of midfield like any young kid could! 7/10
Above the Spuds in the table, and now a great big international interlull before we take on Leicester at The Emirates.