Fulham 1 – 5 Arsenal
There is a certain satisfaction in winning away from home which brings with it an added spring in your step. When you score four or more in these matches, it adds a zip to your step. Don’t let anyone drag you down by claiming “it was only Fulham”; you can only beat the opposition which is in front of you.
A brace each from Lacazette and Aubameyang each was topped off with the finest team goal since Jack Wilshere finished off that move against Norwich.
Aaron Ramsey’s goal, half-a-minute after he arrived as a second-half substitute, was exquisite. The move from the right side of the pitch in our own half through midfield and into the Fulham area had everything we want from our players. Quick feet, quick thinking and accurate attacking. Don’t let anyone kid you; that will be the goal of the season.
It was a better performance overall as well. I don’t think the scoreline flattered us. Fulham weren’t good and their weaknesses emerged in our strengths. An outstanding save from Leno aside, the first-half largely passed them by. Fulham offered little genuine attacking threat despite having 21 shots according to the statistics. Four, apparently, were on target and I’m struggling to remember them, to be honest, so god knows where the other 17 finished up. The garden of number 26, I should imagine.
You may think it was the best performance of the season; Unai Emery doesn’t. Pigeonholing isn’t his style; “I don’t think of this performance like it is the best,” he said before finishing up with something about “humility in the process”.
Me either. Football is about bragging rights and we’ll enjoy the moment of Tottenham make their best start to a Premier League season and still find themselves below us.
No Fatigue Here
All the talk beforehand of tiredness from travelling was rendered irrelevant as Arsenal quickly settled into the game. Mkhitaryan in the central role was involved heavily from the start, finding space and time to prompt as well as firing a rasping drive over a bar.
Meanwhile, Iwobi continued his good form from recent games. Neither showed signs of fatigue nor in fairness, did any of those who featured in Baku on Thursday.
The Ramsey goal, sandwiched between Lacazette’s pair and Aubameyang’s, provided a bridge to the past. It contained the spontaneity of the previous regime which lives on in spirit.
The other four? You could almost feel the instructions being barked on the training ground. There’s no necessity for the players to forget their instincts amid the structure of Unai Emery’s tactics.
However, we look more coherent in our play without the ball and that has to be a good thing. Defenders knowing where they are supposed to be – and more or less being there – is beginning to sink in. A big contribution to that is Lucas Torreira’s presence. His defensive diligence is rubbing off on Granit Xhaka with the pair working to cover the full-backs when they engage in a swashbuckling run forward.
The benchmark has now been set. We’ve seen how the team can play when it comes together so the real test is kicking on from here and making this the norm.
Some are suggesting this is an ‘under the radar’ title challenge; it’s a bit soon to make those claim, I’d say. We’ve clawed our way back into the top four. Before the heady heights of the top of the table are marked as territory to conquer, keeping our place in the top four is surely the order of the day?
There’s nothing wrong with ambition. However, temper it with reality; finishing higher than last season is realistic. I wonder could we go to Anfield or the Etihad and grind out a goalless draw?
The boss agreed:
We lost the first two matches against Manchester City and Chelsea. When we are winning now, continuing in matches, we need to be in the same way. I think our mentality: calm, work, enjoy and enjoy working, together as one thing with our supporters like today. But improving individually, improving collectively and also finding our best performance in each match and the combinations with the players and the system also. Because, we need to continue improving and we can.Unai Emery on whether the title is a realistic aim
There was plenty to enjoy about the game yesterday: carving Fulham open on the left for Lacazette’s first; that finish and Aubameyang’s were the goals of strikers full of confidence. But more than anything, it was the absence of
We had Holding’s stray pass into space close to Xhaka which was poor, exacerbated by the Swiss being slow to realise what was happening. However, Leno and the back four were comfortable on the ball and confident passing it between each other. That’s a step up from before and something we need to maintain going forward; it underpins everything Emery is trying to achieve.
Whether we scale those heights remains to be seen. However, for a fortnight at least, it feels like we’re making genuine progress.