From a football perspective, I was glad to see the back of 2018. The smidgen of optimism I had built up due to England’s World Cup run and our 22-match unbeaten streak was pulverised by our 5-1 loss at Anfield. So even though the 4-1 score line flattered us, it felt awesome to start the New Year with a win and a goal haul.
After the Liverpool game, the spotlight was going to be on the defence. Emery lined up with a back three of Mustafi, Sokratis and Koscielny with the impressive Maitland-Niles and Kolašinac deployed as wing-backs. Despite the line-up, again, our defence looked like a relegation ensemble and Fulham were unlucky not to be two ahead. A simple through ball to Ryan Sessegnon on 16’ left him one on one with Leno, but he placed his effort wide. Then on 24’ he missed a gilt-edge chance from six yards out. God only knows what Aubameyang and Lacazette do to the defence in training.
Lucky for us we weathered the storm and our attack, the part of our game which continues to hold true, put us ahead. Alex Iwobi took his assist tally to four with a great ball to the advancing Granit Xhaka who lofted the ball past the keeper.
Arsenal 1 – 0 Fulham
The Nigerian continued to impress linking well with Kolašinac down the left and would have had a couple more assists if the Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico wasn’t having such a good game. Despite the nervy start we managed to see out the half, registering a first half lead for only the second time this season.
Half time: Arsenal 1 – 0 Fulham
After not scoring in December and a few early substitutions you could feel the desire from each fan for Lacazette to get a goal. His hard work and tenacity have been a highlight of our season and it doesn’t go unnoticed. On 55’ he got his break after some delightful passing down the left him with a tap in. With our defensive record you knew that goal would be needed.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Fulham
The game went flat after the second goal and Ranieri seized the initiative in true tinkerman fashion. The recently maligned Aboubakar Kamara and Jean Seri came on and immediately put us under pressure. They got their deserved goal on 69’ after Koscielny’s hospital pass into Torreira left the Uruguayan vulnerable to the tackle. Seri pounced to steal the ball, fizzed it wide to Sessegnon who played a wonderful pass for Kamara to tap home.
Arsenal 2 -1 Fulham
Emery responded by bringing on Aaron Ramsey for Lacazette and was greeted with a chorus of boos. Much has been made by the boos, but I think it was less driven by contempt for the manager and more by frustration for Lacazette who fans want to see get the limelight his play deserves. He was continually hauled off by Wenger and now by Emery despite appearing to be the glue that holds our attack together.
The manager did however get the substitution spot on got it spot on as Mr. “right place right time” Ramsey was there to finish off Fulham on 79’. The ball broke to him in the box after hapless defending and he calmly slotted it into the top corner. Aubameyang then got his customary Emirates goal on 83’ to seal the rout and the much needed three points.
Full time: Arsenal 4 – 1 Fulham
Man of the match: Alex Iwobi
I thought he was excellent. If he can just find his composure in the final third on a consistent basis then we have a real player on our hands.
A much need morale booster
With us unlikely to sign any player of note in this January transfer window, this game was a great morale booster. Last January we were spoilt with the signing of Aubameyang, but this year will be different with the ever reliable Ornacle, reporting we are unlikely to make any significant purchases. I hate to use an old Wenger cliché, but if I was the owner and I had just sanctioned a £350k contract, I would want to see some return from that investment, before I splurged on new players. Yes, Kroenke needs to invest, but it needs to be patiently and smartly. We simply can’t afford to throw money at mediocre players like Man Utd have done over the last few years. I trust that with time, Mislintat and co will get it right.
Next up: Blackpool in the FA cup. Time to wrap Aubameyang and co up in cotton wool.