Saturday, 24 August 2013

Arsenal Win 3-1 At Fulham

Arsenal played away to Fulham in the Premier League early kick off this afternoon. They had a very good win away to Fenerbache in midweek and wanted to follow it up with their first league win of the season after losing their opening game at home to Villa last week. It's never easy to get a result at Craven Cottage and Arsenal were going to have to work hard to get that result.

Arsene Wenger didn't have too many choices with his team selection due to a combination of injuries, suspension and a squad which needs additions. He made one enforced change with Carl Jenkinson coming in at right back and Bacary Sagna switching to a central role with Laurent Koscielny suspended after his red card last week. The only other change was the inclusion of Lukas Podolski for his first start of the season at the expense of Jack Wilshere.

The inclusion of Podolski on the left side of the attacking trio meant Santi Cazorla went to his favoured position as the creative force in the Arsenal midfield. It's his best position in my opinion and he gets involved an awful lot more when he plays there and makes things happen for Arsenal. I felt he was going to have an influence on the game from that position and so it proved to be.

I was a little worried who would do all of the defensive work in midfield with Aaron Ramsey, Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky playing there. With a makeshift defence behind them it was vital that Arsenal's midfield could protect their back four. With the rain lashing down it looked like it could be an energy sapping afternoon for an Arsenal team which had only finished their game in Turkey just over 60 hours earlier.

Arsenal made most of the early running and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 14 minutes. Aaron Ramsey took a shot from outside the box and it hit the heel of Olivier Giroud before popping up nicely to leave him one on one with the keeper. Giroud poked the ball past the advancing David Stockdale and Arsenal had the lead they wanted.

Fulham came into the game more once they went behind and created a few good chances of their own. Wojciech Szczesny was at his best though and managed to keep them out on a couple of occasions when I thought an equaliser looked on. Arsenal continued to make chances on the break though and I doubted whether they could keep a clean sheet. 

I felt they were going to have to score more to win and they did just that four minutes before the break. Theo Walcott had a shot from the right well saved and Podolski was on hand 15 yards out to slam the ball home. There was a defender on the line but he was unable to get his head to the ball which flew in over him to leave Arsenal 2-0 up at half time. 

The second half saw Arsenal exert a little more control and the best of the chances went their way with Fulham occasionally threatening. The killer third goal came half way through the half when Cazorla cut the ball back to Podolski on the left and he rifled it into the corner. Arsenal had a three goal lead to protect and looked more likely to add to it than to concede.

Soon afterwards both Rosicky and Giroud went off and were replaced by Wilshere and Nacho Monreal. The team lost a little of their shape but it wasn't surprising considering they had put so much into the game and on Wednesday night too. Fulham tried their best to rally and got a lifeline 13 minutes from the end.

Dimitar Berbatov had a good shot well saved by Szczesny but Darren Bent was on hand to finish it off at the back post. The nerves started to rattle just a little and they weren't helped when Podolski was replaced by Yaya Sanogo with 10 minutes to go. Sanogo might well be one for the future if he can overcome his history of injuries but this wasn't really the game to introduce him.

Thankfully Arsenal saw out the rest of the game and had the better of the chances although Szczesny had to remain vigilant to make sure they kept a two goal lead. The final whistle went after four added minutes and Arsenal had managed to get their points total off the mark. They weren't always in control of the game but a 3-1 win at Fulham is a very good result.

There were times when the defence was exposed a little too much for my liking with no real defensive midfielder in the team yet again. The attacking instincts of the three midfielders meant Fulham got in behind them a few times, but they offered Arsenal an awful lot going forward. Cazorla is much better in midfield than in a wide role that he simply has to start there every time he is available. If that means the club need to buy another wide player then so be it because his talent is not utilised to the full out wide.

Ramsey was excellent yet again in midfield and is making himself indispensable to te team. When Arteta returns the first choice midfield just has to be Ramsey, Arteta and Cazorla which would leave Wilshere and Rosicky on the bench. It would be a great headache for the manager to have and it would give him some great options and a chance to rotate the team too.

It's Fenerbache again in the second leg at home on Tuesday night and barring an absolute disaster Arsenal can then wait for the draw for the group stages of the Champions League. There will be a five day gap to the Spurs game after Fenerbache and the club will have to bring their transfer targets in during that time. The boss has said there will be no new arrivals before Fenerbache and he won't be doing his business at the last minute like he did in 2011 which means they have to be a very busy five days.

The results of the last two games have been great but a glance at the bench in each of those games and the fact that players could not be rotated shows the need for serious reinforcements. Any potential targets will have the knowledge of impending Champions League football to look forward to and can see the club isn't quite in the crisis that seemed about to envelop them just a week ago. It should be a very busy time for Arsenal and hopefully it will be a very good one for the future of the club too.

It was great to beat Fulham today and the prospect of a home game against Spurs next week is a mouth watering prospect. Let's hope the next two games can go as well as the last two ones did.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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