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Baptism of fire for Fulham

Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
by Kaleem Aftab
at Craven Cottage

THE fortunes of Arsenal have changed for the good since the arrival of former player Miguel Arteta in the manager’s hot seat. In winning the FA Cup and Community shield the team have become more solid at the back and clinical up front.

And now Arteta is showing an eye for a transfer as his new signings, Willian from Chelsea and Gabriel from Lille, were the shining lights as Arsenal took a comfortable win at Craven Cottage with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“Gabriel and Willian were both very good,” Arteta said.

“For Willian, he knows the Premier League well and I knew he would settle quickly. For Gabriel it was a big challenge, he has not played football in the last six months and he was a handful today.”

In stark contrast, Scott Parker chose not to use any of his new signings, picking 10 of the 11 players who started their play-off victory a month ago. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that this game was a familiar tale for Fulham, playing well and attractive on the ball until frail defending saps the life out of them.

Fulham started brightly with Aboubakar Kamara almost scoring an opportunist goal. Then Arsenal scored with their first mass foray into Fulham’s half. Aubameyang’s ordinary cross led to panic in the Fulham defence before the ball arrived at Lacazette to slot home.
The start of the second half was game over. Gabriel rose unchallenged from a corner, the ball bouncing off his shoulder and through Marek Rodak’s legs. Just before the hour, Aubameyang wrapped things up with a lovely curling finish into the far post.

“We have to defend better,” lamented Parker. “When you step up from the Championship to the Premier League it’s a massive jump as you have seen today. We have to evolve and buy players that will improve us.”

The last time Fulham were in the top division, they were criticised for throwing caution to the wind and trying to integrate too many new players too quickly. Parker has a more pragmatic approach, but the defence needs remodelling.

Arsenal are certainly the dark horses this year, and Arteta now has a happier problem: “Selection is getting more difficult now we are back to 18 in the match day squad, and those on the bench and at home will have to raise their level.”


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