Arsenal 4 – 1 Fulham
Arsenal returned to some semblance of form with a 4 – 1 win over relegation-fodder Fulham. The record books won’t show whether it was comprehensive or flattering; we’ll assume the former in years to come unless we specifically think of the match itself.
Ultimately, the performance doesn’t matter. We came into the game off the back of a calamitous trip to Anfield and needed to get back to winning ways quickly. That happened; three points puts us within touching distance of the top four and clear of Manchester United. That, I’m sure, will change this evening.
Post-match, Unai Emery provided comfort for some; Gary Cahill hasn’t been discussed at the club. Or is he carrying out an elaborate double-bluff? Or maybe it’s a triple bluff…
The result, he contended, was exactly what the squad needed:
We needed to win today. We spoke before in the dressing room about today being one day where we can be consistent here with our results.
Emery didn’t try and tart the picture up; we won, scoring four is great but that serves only to disguise or distract from the weaknesses which remain:
Our challenge now is to improve defensively…we need to take more balance defensively and to improve. It’s one thing for us to work on, to prepare for the second half of the season. We need to do it better in the second half of the season by working with every player in the team tactically – and that’s what we’re going to do.
The Spaniard pointed to the injuries suffered but not the personnel themselves. That is the issue, individually and in combination.
I’ll be surprised if Mustafi and Koscielny are both here next season. The former isn’t good enough while the latter was already exploring a departure before injury curtailed his season.
It’s A Kind Of…
That’s a problem for another day, however. Yesterday, the issue of the high-pressing game not working properly was evident. Fulham, afforded plenty of space, should have tested us more. Sessegnon, in particular, wasted good opportunities.
Their goal, which briefly made the scoreline uncomfortable, saw Guendouzi and Kolasinac take their eye off Mitrovic, and the Serb duly netted to make it 2 – 1 at that point.
2 – 1; two goals we scored and the attack was functioning as we expect. Not purring; Aubameyang missed early chances but there are two issues there. Firstly, it’s a sign of the high standards he sets that we expect him to score every time he gets the ball in threatening positions. The second is that we’re creating chances. If we weren’t, that would be a genuine concern.
Yesterday’s line-up contrasted with those fielded by Wenger. Creativity is not so readily identifiable beyond Iwobi, particularly since Mesut Ozil’s back spasms travelled down to his knee. That’s no bad thing with the wing-backs and Guendouzi prompting as well.
Even Granit Xhaka got in on the act, slotting home to break the deadlock after good work by Kolasinac on the left. The Swiss did little else of note during the game but when you score, does it really matter? I think not.
Lacazette grabbed the second with the kind of finish we love; slammed into the net with no mercy for the goalkeeper. If you’re close enough, you sound of the ball impacting the netting is one of, if not the, most satisfying in football.
At 2 – 1, Emery heard a smattering of boos as the Frenchman was substituted for Aaron Ramsey. Not long after, the Spaniard became a tactical genius again as the Welshman fed off the rebound from Aubameyang’s shot with a sumptuous finish.
And For My Next Trick…
The Gabon striker got his just reward when he finished the scoring for the day. His deflected shot eluded the ‘keeper and nestled in the net. Auba worked hard with little direct reward until his goal. I’m not sure if he got the assist for Ramsey’s goal; who knows how those pointy-headed stats guys figure these things out.
To this point, mention of Iwobi has been scarce and needs correcting. He played well, continuing his recent good form. Does he feel inhibited by the presence of Mesut Ozil in the XI? Overshadowed by the German’s reputation but free of those shackles on his mind, he is blossoming. It’s football so he has plenty of critics who won’t give him credit without saying “but” afterwards.
There shouldn’t be a “but” yet there is. I don’t know if my cod psychology about his relationship with Ozil is right, it’s just a reaction to recent matches where the German has been AWOL.
It was a positive start to the campaign and three points was the bright start to 2019 we needed. Onwards and upwards, as they say.