Matches against Fulham haven’t been very easy for the Gunners in recent times and there was always a danger that a European hangover might have affected our performance.
Fortunately, nothing bad happened today as we managed to maintain our brilliant away form from the 2012/13 season. It was the eighth consecutive victory in away matches in all competitions and the sixth in the Premier League. Arsenal haven’t lost or drawn an away game since the 3rd of March, the defeat in North London Derby against the Spuds. Furthermore, Arsenal haven’t lost outside London in all competitions since 4th December 2012, which was a defeat against Olympiacos (we did lose against Bradford in Capital One Cup but that one came after penalties).
Arsene Wenger made a couple of changes to the team that had won in Istanbul in an impressive manner. Jack Wilshere was dropped to the bench in favour of Lukas Podolski while Koscielny – who was both suspended and injured – was replaced with Bacary Sagna. Carl Jenkinson took the Frenchman’s place on the right full-back while Santi Cazorla moved into the hole so Podolski could occupy the place on the left wing.
On a boggy pitch at Craven Cottage, Riise had one of the first attempts of the game. Jenkinson committed a foul thanks to poor attempt to clear the ball. Riise fired a low free-kick but the ball went wide. It was Theo Walcott who had the first chance to score for Arsenal and it was the first big opportunity of the match. Rosicky sent a lovely ball behind hosts’ defensive line and Walcott tried with a left-footed shot, but Stockdale made a great save to deny our top-scorer from the last season. In 14th minute, Arsenal got their goal. Ramsey tried with a long shot, but it was a very weak attempt. Fortunately, the ball came to Giroud who cleverly toe-poked the ball over Stockdale. It was 3rd goal of the season for the French striker.
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It seems that goal woke the hosts up and we didn’t have to wait too long before they responded. Taraabt received the ball on the left flank, behind Jenkinson’s back and fired a low shot that was deflected by Szczesny. The ball fell onto Duff’s foot but the Irishman’s shot, as well as Arsenal’s lead, was brilliantly saved by Szczesny.
It was tough time for the Gunners but, despite all the pressure Fulham applied, they managed to control the game and utilised counter-attacks to exploit poor defending, especially on Riise’s flank. One of those counter-attacks would and should have ended better but Walcott hesitated too much with the final pass and Gibbs’ shot went just wide. Three minutes later, it was Walcott who was leading the counter-attack again, he fired a shot himself, Stockdale deflected his shot to the edge of the penalty box but there was Lukas Podolski who showed once more what kind of howitzer he has in his left foot. His drive was unstoppable and who knows what would happen with Hangelaand’s head had he managed to put it in the way of the ball.
Arsenal could have scored the third goal before the break from another counter-attack, but Podolski sent a low cross that ended in goal-kick. Still, Gunners and Gooners had to be very happy with two-goal-margin at the half-time.
Taraabt opened the second half with a dangerous low shot but Szczesny made another superb save. On the other side of the pitch, Walcott tried with a header and Ramsey couldn’t put the deflected ball home.
The third goal of the game came in the middle of the second half. Cazorla played a cut-back for Podolski on the left side of the penalty box and the German hammered the ball into the net to make it 3:0. Thirteen minutes to go, two DBs in the Fulham attack – Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent – created a goal for the hosts. Berbatov took a shot from our left side of the penalty box, Szczesny deflected his shot but only to substitute Bent who scored his first goal for Fulham since he had joined Cottagers from Aston Villa. Bent has scored for six different clubs in the Premiership and Fulham are the fifth club that Bent scored for against Arsenal.
Arsenal had more chances to score the fourth than Fulham had for their second. Yaya Sanogo – who made a debut for Arsenal in Premiership in the second half – was very close to scoring but Walcott’s low cross didn’t find him. Walcott himself had a great chance to score in injury time but his shot went directly into Stockdale.
This was an important victory for the Gunners, especially in light of forthcoming North London Derby. We did ride our luck in some occasions, it’s true, but overall it was a good performance in which we could have found a lot of positive details.
on the importance of the win against Fulham…
We had a good week because we played a tough game against Fenerbache and a good game today. We played in the way we wanted to play because we created chances. At the start of the game Szczesny made a great save but after that we feel we were always in control of the game.
on whether he was concerned about the team’s midweek excursions….
You never know how you respond to a game of that intensity. Maybe the positive result we got there helped us today. The mental side counterbalanced the fatigue. I was a bit worried when they got it back to 3-1 but overall we saw the game out well.
on Arsenal’s style of play…
We adapted our style of play a bit today but we were very dangerous every time we won the ball back. It was impressive because we had a good mixture of patience and speed in our game and that was positive today. I changed the shape of our team today because I rested Jack. We played with four defenders and six offensive players so we had to make it tighter with numbers but of course when we had the ball we were always looking dangerous.
I am pleased for him because he hasn’t started much recently more because of the balance of the team than his performances. I am pleased because he plays with a lot of spirit and he can score goals. Everybody in the squad loves Lukas and I want to keep him. When a player doesn’t play he is not happy and recently he did not always start but if you look at his and Giroud’s goalscoring record it’s very good.
on Giroud’s fine form…
His second season is always better than his first one. You could see as well technically today that he was quite impressive. His physical presence up front is very important and I think he looks like he’s much more confident than last year.
on if he’ll rest players against Fenerbahce…
No. [We’ll] just try to win it on Tuesday. For us it’s important to finish the job and get the focus right. We have made a big step but it’s not over the line. Now we want to finish the job because that’s a big part of our season. The group stage of the Champions League is highly-important. I will not rest players on Tuesday night, certainly not.
on if results alter his transfer plans…
No. We will be a bit less under media pressure maybe but that will not change exactly. I know exactly what I want to do and that will not change.
on if Cabaye being left out of the Newcastle squad has anything to do with Arsenal…
on if he’s made another bid for Cabaye…
on if he’ll strengthen before the Fenerbahce game…
Before the Fenerbahce game? No.
on if he’ll strengthen before the weekend…
Before next weekend? It’s possible. Honestly, I’m not the only one that can decide that because the clubs who sell the players [are involved too]. We are on the market, you know that. I know we expect news from us. We will try to give you some but at the moment, nothing to announce.
on Ramsey growing in confidence…
I’m happy for that. During the transfer period, people are so much focused on who is coming in that they forget how good our players are. Somebody told me there was an interesting article somewhere in a newspaper. I personally didn’t read it so I don’t give you any guarantee but they [apparently] said “We don’t bring players in. But at the other hand, the English players don’t get the chance to play in the Premier League.” If you look at our team today, you had Jenkinson who gets a chance, you get Walcott who has started with us, you have Ramsey, you have Wilshere, you have Gibbs – all [British] players who get a chance with us. You should give us some credit for that sometimes.
Ramsey is a young player. A year ago, he was highly under scrutiny. People had major doubts but I think he deserves huge credit for having moved forward the way he did. We deserve some as well because we continued to develop him and believe in him.
Jenkinson Sagna Mertesacker (c) Gibbs
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