Fulham (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 3
Craven Cottage, Stevenage Road, Fulham, London SW6 6HH
Saturday, 12th September 2020. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(3-4-3) Bernd Leno; Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Hector Bellerin, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Willian Borges da Silva, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pépé, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Sead Kolašinac, Matt Macey.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (9 mins), Gabriel Magalhães (49 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (57 mins)
Yellow Cards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 55%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant Referees: Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR David Coote; AVAR Stephen Child
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Here we go again, the start of yet another Premiership season, so soon after the end of the last one. Today, we see first team debutants Gabriel and Willian appear here in our blue away kit at Craven Cottage, as well as a revitalised (and match-fit) Bernd Leno in goal. Let’s go!
Within minutes of the start, a terrible backpass from Ainsley Maitland-Niles played on Aboubakar Kamara who broke through into our penalty area; thankfully Bernd Leno was on hand to make an excellent save at the Fulham striker’s feet. All this was soon forgotten when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang crossed over from the left, which saw Granit Xhaka scuffing the ball that precariously bounced around the six-yard box. Goalkeeper Marek Rodak made a save, but Alexandre Lacazette was on hand to tap the ball in the net for our first goal of the 2020-21 season. The early goal merely consolidated our desire to win the match, and despite Fulham attacking our defence, we were able to win the ball back comfortably and press high into the home side’s half. Willian was desperately unlucky not to score when his well-taken free-kick hit the post after twenty-six minutes, and although we didn’t score on this particular occasion, one had the feeling that Arsenal would get the ball in the back of the Fulham net at some point. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was also unfortunate not to score when Marek Rodak went down quickly to save his snap shot, after an inch-perfect pass from Kieran Tierney, and as the first half slowly ebbed away to its conclusion, it was becoming obvious that Arsenal were slowly dominating the proceedings here in south-west London.
Four minutes after the restart, we scored a worthy second goal, and a memorable one it was too. From a Willian corner, debutant Gabriel scored with a header from less than a couple of yards from the Fulham goal. The replay showed that the ball came off his shoulder, but who cares? They all count. Our confidence was there for all to see, and just before the hour, an incredible inch-perfect pass from Willian found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left-hand side. He simply gathered the ball, controlled it and placed it sweetly into the top corner with his golden right foot. An absolute classic goal, and one surely destined to be contending for the “Goal Of The Season” awards next year. Now we showed our true worth. Arsenal’s organisation, their running off the ball, their accurate passing, was a sight to behold. Although Fulham tried desperately to get back into the match, we simply neutralised them and gained control. By rights, we should have scored a fourth with twenty mintues of the match remaining, when Hector Bellerin was deemed to be offside when he had a superb effort saved off the line, and a couple of minutes later, Willian was substituted for Nicolas Pépé. Michael Hector headed a surefire Arsenal fourth goal off the line (via the foot of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Dani Ceballos replaced an injured Granit Xhaka with twelve minutes left on the clock. Alexandre Lacazette was substituted by Eddie Nketiah after eighty-six minutes, and with the job done, it was just a case of holding everything together for the three points, which the boys easily did.
So many good things happened on the pitch at Craven Cottage, it’s hard to know where to start. Three excellent, well-taken goals, and two superb debut performances from Gabriel and Willian, and in the case of the former, a strong confident goal on this, his most important day. Always good to get three points tucked into the top pocket on the first day of the season, let’s hope that there will be many more!
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, 19th September at 8.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.