If the situation had ominous vibes of being a trap game for Arsenal — which they did for me — that angst was lessened when Arsenal announced their lineup. Trossard makes his return to the starting lineup after a short spell with a groin injury and Gabriel Jesus makes a long-awaited return to the bench.
Arsenal were facing a short turnaround time from Lisbon, more travel away from home, recent struggles conceding simple goals and set pieces, and an attacking front running short of ‘natural’ striking options. But the anxiety evaporated entirely within 20 minutes of the game.
Arsenal’s attack was back to their high-flying ways, lead by Leandro Trossard collecting three assists. Arsenal could have scored five in the opening forty-five minutes, but have to settle for three. Shame I guess.
Xhaka, who posed an attacking threat all afternoon, looked like he unlocked things first with an exceptional pass in behind for Martinelli to run on to. Gabi’s ensuing ball was turned into Fulham’s own net but VAR call things back for a toe offsides.
After that, Arsenal started to make the chances stick. Gabriel comes up from the back for a corner kick and heads home his second goal versus Fulham this season. A well-placed body from Ben White keeps Leno on his line and Gabriel is a monster in the box to get up and put Trossard’s corner away.
Five minutes later, Arsenal punish Fulham again, this time though Martinelli. Trossard files left, gets on the end of a Xhaka ball and plays a peach of a lofted cross to the back post. The intervening defense is really poor and Gabi heads it past Leno with ease.
Ten minutes later Arsenal almost add a team-goal of the season contender as they unleash a devastating movement, but Xhaka is let down technically with his final touch.
In a half that simply called for a third goal to kill things off and tie a bow on a spectacular half, Martin Ødegaard answers the call. In stoppage time he chests a ball down in the box, calmly amongst traffic, touches it around flailing defenders, and smashes it into the back of the net.
Up 3-0, the second half became a formality. Arsenal continued to create a few chances, they also conceded a few, but it was all carried out with relative ease.
In the 70th minutes, Arteta has his team up by three and seizes the opportunity to make two early subs — Reiss Nelson and Kieran Tierney for Saka and Zinchenko. The team has done the job, time to get key legs a bit of well-earned rest before two more matches in the coming week.
If the second half was a formality, there was nothing formal about the party in the stands when Gabriel Jesus’ number went up on the board. A spectacular time for him to return to action as Arenal gear up for their run in and Jesus looked sharp. A few examples of his ability on the ball, a pirouette away from a defender to spring an attack he probably should have score on, and he leaves without injury.
Good substitutions continued as Vieira and Tomiyasu come in for Martinelli and White. Arteta prepping to finish these last two matches strong before the break and final stretch.
Arsenal leave Craven Cottage with three points and one of their best performances since the season resumed.
Bust down the cottage doors and spoil the Fulham party. Fulham are putting together a promising season for their fans, but Arsenal were having none of it.
It was a day for Arsenal’s attack to shine brightly. One of the more comprehensive and devastating attacking displays of the Arteta era. Arsenal haven’t killed off many matches with a three goal first half, almost a staple of Pep’s City sides. Seeing Arsenal walk into a match that could have been a trap and put Fulham to the sword is a major statement.
You can’t say enough adjectives to describe Arsenal’s first half performance. It’s probably the best play we have seen from them since the World Cup break, and it’s coming at the exact right moment.
Considering the fact that they have continued to win more matches, it’s impossible to accuse Arsenal of being in a slump lately, but perhaps you can say they’ve been stuck in third gear. Rediscovering that fifth-gear attack bodes well for the closing months. Getting Jesus back to lead it? Even better.
Arsenal got just about everything correct, aside from the additional three goals they could have scores, but who is going to complain about that. 55% of the ball, 15 shots, and a clinical display in box.
This is why teams play a low block against Arsenal. Fulham attempted to push a little higher, I commend them for it, but Arsenal punished the spaces.
Three in a half, Trossard looking like the signing of the January window, a five point cushion retained, another immaculate away performance, Jesus returns, key legs only play ~70 minutes… a perfect Sunday afternoon.
Leandro Trossard – MOTM
Trossard becomes the first player in the Premier League history to tally three assists in the first half of an away match. He also returns a touch of Arsenal’s inevitable identity. His movement was sharp, he comes deep, he filters wide, he gets himself on the ball in a variety of angles, and his final ball was splendid. What a signing he has been for this team. The type of signing you’ll talk about for years if Arsenal get the job done.
If Xhaka sensed a growing danger from Vieira, his response to the threat was perfect. Composed in his spaces, calm on the ball, he demonstrated a return of ‘early-season’ Granit. The Granit that collected goals and assists at a rate he has hardly produced his entire career. He had the flicks, he was seeing the passing lanes, and he was back in the box and looking to create. Arsenal need that back.
Gabriel and Saliba
Lumping them together. As a pair, they have been scrutinized in recent weeks for conceding simple goals. Even Arteta commented on the failings. With Mitrovic in the building — a striker known for his ability to finish clinically with a half-chance — it could have been a match that punished the pair. Instead, they illustrated their ability to play with technical quality, battle physically, and inject a dose of athleticism to put it to bed. They were far too strong from Mitrovic to handle, and far too pacy for Fulham to spring many attacks. A strong, strong display to keep the clean sheet.
Ødegaard missed the first leg of Arsenal’s Europa League stage versus Lisbon due to illness, but his performance today ends any concern of lingering effects. His goal was splendidly taken and filled to cool composure, but everything he does in between is what sets him apart. Without casting aspersions on Vieira, this is what’s separating Vieira from being a staple of the lineup. Ødegaard is a defensive ending, high-touch controller, and creates in the final third. He continues his breakout campaign, one I believe will land him a “Breakout Player of the Season” award, and adds another goal to his name. Wonderful 90 minutes from the captain.
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