Once again, Fulham’s defense was quite porous today and were proven to be the reason for their downfall as a result. It’s already too late to sound the panic button on this issue and Slavisa Jokanovic has seemed to try too many combinations already. Somewhere along the line, acceptance will have to be given that this defense is downright awful regardless of personnel. But that is a subject for another time.
However, the first half was actually an encouraging one for Fulham as both sides were looking to establish their style of play from the word go. The home side wanted to use their press in midfield and attack and test new goalkeeper Bernd Leno and the back four as to how well they can pass from their own territory. Meanwhile, Arsenal wanted to take advantage of Fulham’s fullbacks being pushed too far up the pitch and run find every possible way to get the ball into their channels.
Surely enough, the goals came from those exact moments. In the 29th minute, Alex Iwobi was released down the right-hand side and gave a short pass to a streaking Nacho Monreal inside the penalty area. From there, Monreal picked a good low cross to Alexandre Lacazette and scored off the turn to make it 1-0. Fulham’s back line once again conceded, but it’s not like they did so without having the rest of the XI perform quite well in attack.
In particular, Luciano Vietto was excellent in hounding Arsenal’s ball carriers and was able to generate good counter-attacks as a result. In particular, he was able to stimy one possession that went on to the feet of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. From there, the holding midfielder gave it back to Vietto who was streaking near the penalty area and put in a lovely ball to Andre Schurrle who went on to chip it past Leno. With a 12-4 shot advantage and a 0.79-0.64 expected goals advantage in the first half, you would have thought that Fulham would have themselves a historic outing at Craven Cottage.
That wasn’t to be the case as Arsenal played the same way as they did to generate their first goal. Early on in the second half, Hector Bellerin unleashed a volley just outside the box that was terrifically saved by Marcus Bettinelli. But what was to come a few minutes later was the true deathnail. Off of a throw in, the ball was pinballed for a while until touch by Danny Welbeck found Lacazette, moved to his right and unleashed a screamer from distance that Bettinelli couldn’t reach.
The goal sent shock waves throughout all ends of the football ground and Arsenal never looked back. Fulham weren’t not trying in attack thanks to their amazing 21 shots towards goal. However, you would like to think they would be much better than their one goal and 1.34 expected goals on the day. If anything, Arsenal were able to defend with two banks of four and were as patient in putting an end to Fulham’s possessions. Once the Gunners emptied their bench, the strength of their depth really began to show.
In their third goal, Arsenal were able to put an end to a Fulham attacking move inside their own penalty area, which started good give-and-go play between Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin. From there, Henrikh Mkhitarian got involved in the act and found picked a lovely pass towards a flying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inside the penalty area. From there, Aubameyang passed it back to Ramsey who back heeled his attempt inside the left-hand post. The route was truly on.
Mkhitarian and Bellerin got in the act once again by moving the ball towards the right hand channel and the right back was able to find Aubameyang inside the penalty area. Like Lacazette in the first half, it was simply a matter of turning around his defender and putting one past Bettinelli with ease. To put the cherry on top, Aubameyang beat the offside trap so whell while receiving another lovely pass by Ramsey, that all he needed to do was carry the ball into the penalty area and slot it home with ease.
Ok, enough words from me. We all the narratives that will come from today’s game and not a single stat will sugar coat the fact that Fulham were beaten so easily. All that can be said is another international break is coming up and Cardiff and Huddersfield are coming up soon. Points will be there for the taking, but time is running out for the club to collect said points. Let’s come back by month’s end to determine whether or not this club has what it takes to last in the Premier League.