“We’ve got our Arsenal back!” were the chants as the Gunners walked out of Craven Cottage on Sunday with a 5-1 victory over Fulham. That thrashing of the Cottagers was not only our 9th consecutive win in all competitions, which by the way is something we haven’t done since 2015, but it also meant that we were going to move above Sp*rs on the table, and definitely finish in the top 4 by the end of the weekend.
I won’t lie though, the team news surprised me a bit, with the likes of Özil not making the squad and Aubameyang being dropped to the bench, but shortly after seeing these changes I learned that Özil was struggling with his back again, and Aubameyang was coming back from an illness that kept him out of Thursday nights victory in Azerbaijan. That meant that Mhkitaryan could come in again and fill that #10 role, while Welbeck, who has been showing some form of late, could grab another start in the Premier League in place of Auba. With Ramsey being dropped to the bench as well, this meant that the hot-in-form Alex Iwobi could once again prove why he should be starting more regularly. One thing I was worried most about was Mustafi starting instead of Sokratis. The German didn’t have the greatest of games last weekend and was going to be tasked with handling a tough striker in Mitrovic, who has been scoring quite a few goals this season already. I think I speak for a lot of Arsenal fans when I say that I was genuinely worried about this. Thank God he proved us wrong on the day and put our doubts to bed.
It was a pretty open game in the first half. Both teams were putting on the pressure and attacking the other, running from box to box, which made it quite entertaining to watch. Fulham were right up in our faces though, recording more shots than us at the end of the half, but a lot of those chances were created because we struggled to play out from the back. I was growing quite frustrated with the way we were foolishly giving away possession, and it felt like we couldn’t pass the ball out of our half. One of those Fulham shots early on, deflected and forced Bernd Leno, who was making his first Premier League start, into a quick reflective save. However I could sense that we found a weakness in Fulham’s defence on the left, and Arsenal were constantly getting in behind with Iwobi, which made me think it was only a matter of time before a goal came from exploiting that vulnerability on the left side. And so we did.
Iwobi found himself in space and had the ball on the left, holding it up well while waiting for Monreal to make the overlapping run before passing it to him. Monreal then cut it back into the box where Lacazette took a touch, turned and then fired it into the bottom left corner of the goal, leaving the keeper no chance. Arsenal looked dominant for the most part after that, until Monreal, who created Arsenal’s goal, essentially created Fulham’s equalizing goal before the break. The Spaniard struggled to play the ball out from the back and gave possession back to Fulham, who sliced our defence open, allowing Schurrle to chip the ball over Leno to make it 1-1 going into half time. Emery stormed off to the dressing room after the whistle blew and you could tell the team were about to get kak’d out for letting the lead slip.
Arsenal started the second half off very strongly, applying the pressure on that left wing again which, after a cleared cross in the box, fell to Bellerin who I was urging to shoot. The Spanish full back did just that and forced a tremendous save from what was quite a powerful shot. I was literally tweeting about that shot when all I heard was the commentator scream Lacazette’s name after he scored the second. Ecstatic with the goal but angry with myself for typing so slowly, I put down my phone for the majority of the half because I didn’t want to miss a moment like that again! Great finish from the Frenchman to put us in the lead and take his tally up to 4 goals in the Premier League so far. The game carried on and between the 60th and 70th minute Unai Emery decided that he was going to make two inspired substitutions, bringing on Aubameyang for Welbeck first in the 62nd minute, and then Ramsey on for Iwobi on the 67th minute mark. The Welshman quickly got into the thick of things, and immediately after he was brought on, he started and finished one of the best team goals this season will have to offer. Watching the likes of Lacazette, Ramsey, Bellerin, Mhkitaryan and Aubameyang collaborate with flicks, tricks and the most fluid of passes took me back to that beautiful goal we scored against Norwich a few years ago. This goal wasn’t better than that one in my opinion, but my word… what a beautiful sight to see. It was at this point where the Arsenal fans started chanting “We’ve got our Arsenal back!”, because we hadn’t seen such an attractive team goal in quite a while. Is this what Emery Ball has to offer? Because if so, then I can’t wait to see what else we have in our locker.
A few minutes later saw Mkhi lob a beautiful ball across the field to Bellerin who looked up and found Aubameyang waiting in the box. Aubameyang received the ball, took one touch, swiveled around and volleyed it past the keeper. This goal was almost a mirror image to the first goal Lacazette scored, and you can’t help but wonder if this was something they’d been working on in the training ground. 4-1 to the Arsenal with just over 10 minutes to go and the 3 points looked a certainty. It was at this stage I realised that we would be level on goal difference with the Spuds if it ended this way, and I was hoping and praying we’d score just one more to edge past them. The players must have sensed this as well, as a beautiful throughball from Ramsey gave Aubameyang the chance to make it 5, which he coolly took and put Fulham to the sword. Full Time and the score was 5-1 to the Arsenal which saw us leap frog Sp*rs and finish off the weekend in 4th.
That was probably one of the best performances we’ve seen from this team so far. I loved every bit of it. Torreira and Xhaka were outstanding in the midfield, the former of the two racking up some impressive defensive stats. Welbeck and Iwobi were great at their pressing and providing us with width. Iwobi also showing us some great glimpses of his skill. Bellerin played superbly, and I’m extremely happy that Mustafi had Mitrovic in his pocket at all times. Aubameyang caused the most damage, with 2 goals and an assist and Ramsey scored what could arguably be a contender for goal of the season. But the player who rightfully received the man of the match was Alexandre Lacazette. Laca’s work rate, dropping deep, running off the ball and 2 goals above all made him the most influential player on the day and I’m so glad we have him as our main striker now.
Great way to end the weekend! Sitting in the top 4 above Sp*rs is a glorious feeling. Unfortunately we’ve been hit with another International Break, which will most likely be the second last Interlull of the year, but maybe we need a breather after winning 9 games in a row. I just hope we can carry on with this streak when we face Leicester City again on the 22nd of October.
Come on you Gunners!