Sunday’s scintillating victory at Craven Cottage made it nine consecutive wins in all competitions and left us only two points below Manchester City. I don’t want to get carried away, but if you offered me that before the season, I would have bitten off your arm and possibly the shoulder.
The performance was confident, clinical and controlled. Despite having to play an early kick -off away from home, after an arduous Europa League journey, Emery refused to play it safe and started with a 442 and change in personnel. The electric Alex Iwboi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan started as narrow wingers and the deserving Danny Welbeck partnered Alexandre Lacazette in attack. With one less midfielder it was no surprise that we finished the game with only 51%. More importantly it revealed for the first time, that Emery trusts his players to work a plan that doesn’t involve possession. That hasn’t been the case since PV4 left.
There was pattern and automatic with our attack that has been missing in recent weeks. Nacho Monreal, Iwobi and Welbeck were linking excellently down Fulham’s right and created a succession of great opportunities. After a series of well worked attacks, the deadlock was broken on 29’. Monreal showed great aggression and desire to complete an overlap and was picked out by Iwobi. The Spaniard then slid an excellently weighted pass into Lacazette who sublimely trapped the ball and unleashed a swivel shot giving the keeper no chance. The Frenchman created the picture in his mind before Monreal released the ball emphasizing the confidence oozing through his play.
Unfortunately, our great work in the first half was undone with an uncharacteristic mistake from Monreal. Our most dependable professional gave the ball away, and with two passes, Andre Schurrle was put through and chipped passed the oncoming Bernd Leno.
Half time: Fulham 1 – 1 Arsenal
Despite the setback, the team started the second half with the same swagger and it wasn’t long before the ruthless Lacazette demonstrated again why he was worth every penny. On 49’ the ball bounced his way on the edge of the box and he showed no hesitation in rifling his shot, low and hard past the keeper to make it 2-1.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang replaced Welbeck on 62’ and Ramsey replaced Iwobi on 66’. The pair had earned their starts and they did not disappoint. Emery will have a selection headache, barring any injury catastrophes. Although the dynamic duo had been replaced, it only took a few minutes for the substitutes to exert their influence when Ramsey scored a contender for goal of the season. A move that involved, nine rapid passes between five players, from one box to the other, was completed with a cheeky back heel flick from Ramsey leaving the crowd in awe.
The theatre didn’t stop there and on 79’ Aubameyang and Bellerin replicated the play from our first goal, but this time from our right-side. Bellerin cut the ball back to Aubameyang who performed a similar trap and swivel shot to make it 4-1. The Gabon man was intent on matching his comrade and secured his brace on 91’ after being put through by Ramsey.
As long as we keep these guys fit, we will have a good season.
Full time: Fulham 1 – 5 Arsenal
Man of the match: Alexandre Lacazette
A brace and a dominating performance from the Frenchman. He means business this season.
A special mention must go to Lucas Torreira. The tenacious defensive midfielder made the formation switch possible and diligently went about stifling Fulham’s attacks. We have a special talent on our hands.
It was essential to get this win before the international break, but the next five games will give us a real indication of the level of the team. Four of the games are against top ten opposition, including a game against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Next five Premier League fixtures:
Crystal Palace (A)
I’d take ten points.