LONDON — Arsenal – Fulham was a good spectacle to start the 2020-21 Premier League, as the new boys caused problems but Arsenal’s quality shone through in a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the goals for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s side got the job done with minimum fuss against a spirited Fulham side.
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After winning the FA Cup and Community Shield in August, Arsenal have momentum and have started the Premier League season as they mean to go on.
3 things we learned: Arsenal – Fulham
1. Gabriel settles in superbly after shaky start: Aside from a communication mix up early on which saw Bernd Leno have to save well, Gabriel was solid. The Brazilian defender is the imposing center back the Gunners have wanted and he looks like being a bit of a bargain buy from Lille for $34 million. He scored a header on his debut, looked calm on the ball and slotted in seamlessly. The early signs are very promising.
2. Fulham can take positives: Scott Parker still has plenty of new players to bring into the mix and there was enough promise shown, especially in the first half, to show that they can stay clear of the relegation zone this season. Defensively they were a little sluggish and they missed Aleksandar Mitrovic up top as he battles through injuries. With goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, right back Kenny Tete and left back Antonee Robinson not in the squad, Parker is still assembling his team and will be keen to shore things up in the back knowing he has plenty of creativity in the team. Some lovely moves showed promise.
3. Arsenal’s abundance of grit will please Arteta: This wasn’t a silky Arsenal display but it was one they were mostly in control of. They worked hard for this win and have a shape and system which is working really well with Tierney as one of three center backs and Maitland-Niles and Bellerin as wing backs. Elneny and Xhaka have plenty of grit and Dani Ceballos does now too. All in all, Arsenal are more workmanlike now and that means they will grind out more wins this season. Arteta’s Arsenal aren’t free-flowing (even though they love to play out from the back) but they get the job done. That is a good trait to have.
Man of the Match: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – A fine goal and everything he did oozed class. He just gets better and better.
Fulham started well as Aboubakar Kamara almost made the most of a mistake at the back from Arsenal but Bernd Leno saved well.
A slick move down the right from Denis Odoi saw him cut inside but Leno saved his shot easily and just as Fulham looked the most likely to score, Arsenal took the lead.
Lacazette was in the right place at the right time as a shot deflected into Willian’s path and even though he was denied by Marek Rodak under close pressure from Tim Ream, Lacazette was on hand to tap home.
Fulham stuck to their task, to their credit, and Neeskens Kebano had a powerful shot blocked. But Arsenal were a threat as Bellerin crossed but just missed everyone, then Mohamed Elneny had a shot blocked by Ream and Willian hit the foot of the post with a free kick as Arsenal were in the ascendancy as half time arrived.
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Arsenal pretty much wrapped up the win just a few minutes into the second half.
Willian’s corner from the right found Gabriel who nodded home a header for a debut goal, as Fulham’s marking was awful and the Brazilian beat Michael Hector easily.
Soon it was 3-0 as Lacazette did superbly to hold the ball up for Willian and he pinged it wide to Aubameyang. The Arsenal skipper then ran at goal and curled home a textbook stunner into the far top corner.
Arsenal threatened to run away with things later on as Rodak made a fine reflex save and Aubameyang was denied following a goal-line clearance from Hector.