MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham

Arsenal (0) 2 Fulham (0) 1

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Saturday, 27th August 2022. Kick-off time: 5.30pm

(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhāes, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard (c), Gabriel Martinelli; Gabriel Jesus.

Substitutes: Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner.

Scorers: Martin Ødegaard (64 mins), Gabriel (86 mins)

Yellow Cards: Ben White, Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 72%

Referee: Jarred Gillett

Assistant Referees: Simon Long, Richard West

Fourth Official: Thomas Bramall

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR: Michael Oliver; AVAR: Lee Betts

Attendance: 60,164

Early days, early dreams. As supporters, we are all a trifle heady at our team’s recent success, but we have to keep our feet firmly planted on terra firma, certainly at least for the time being. It is also good for us to be in the newspapers for the best reasons; we know that Mikel Arteta and the boys are doing the right thing, by the amount of quality players that Arsenal are linked with, all of which will be revealed (or not) very soon. Of the first four matches of this season (including Fulham this afternoon), two have been London derbies, along with the pressure that these games bring, all of which has not an easy passage for the boys by any stretch of the imagination. By the way, at half-time, our ladies team will embark on a lap of appreciation, led by Euro 2022 winners from England, namely Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Lotte Wubben-Moy, along with Copa America winner Rafaelle who hails from Brazil. Additonally, the squad will be special guests at the match here at the Emirates this afternoon.

After the minute’s respectful applause for our late groundsman Steve Braddock, who passed away recently, the visitors started the match here in the beautiful North London evening sunshine. As has been the style of the house for us this season, we got stuck into the match almost right away, suffocating the oxygen of Fulham’s midfielders by moving quickly into position in order to receive the ball from a colleague and advancing on goal in a determined manner. The visitors are looking rather jittery in the opening exchanges, which led to our front runners capitalising on their nervousness in order to test their goalkeeper. The welcome return of full-back Kieran Tierney has given us width and penetration, and his ability to get into wide positions in order to launch the ball into the middle for our strikers must surely bear fruit at some point in the match. We had a penalty appeal denied in the twelfth minute when Martin Ødegaard was brought down by Joao Palhinha, but that incident only served to determine our desire to score. A surefire opportunity to score was wasted when Bukayo Saka picked the ball up from deep and surged forward. He saw Gabriel Jesus in front of him and found him easily enough, as he nipped into the Fulham penalty area, waited for support as Bukayo Saka crossed it but it was cleared by the hapless Fulham defenders. Chances are coming thick and fast now, with Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka all getting narrowly close with their shooting, and it is truly amazing just how the visitors are holding the Arsenal forwards at bay. Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka are just about everywhere in the Fulham half, collecting and spraying balls at will, with Gabriel Jesus constantly knocking on the door. Gabriel Martinelli nearly scored a clever goal from a corner which bounced off the Fulham crossbar after twenty-six minutes, and a couple of minutes later, there was a rare goalscoring opportunity for the visitors as Neeskens Kebano ran down the left wing before whipping in a great ball in for Bobby Decordova-Reid, whose header flew wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s goal, thankfully. Our best effort of the match so far came on the half hour mark when Bukayo Saka peeled away from the visitor’s defence to run in on goal. Tosin Adarabioyo did extremely well to get back but Bukayo Saka turned the Fulham defender before his curled strike was pushed away by former Gunner goalie Bernd Leno. Unfortunately, Ben White collected the first yellow card of the match when he clattered into Antonee Robinson, which was a silly thing to do, really. However, just before the break, Gabriel Jesus received our second yellow card of the game after a frustrating altercation with Joao Palhinha, and despite Arsenal’s seventy-four percent first-half possession (and absolutely no shots on our goal from the visitors) we somehow went into the half-time break honours even at nil-nil. Unbelievable.

Arsenal started the second half here at the Emirates with much expectation from the home crowd, and as such, the boys started the second period as the first half finished, with pressure on the Fulham goal. After some missed chances, most namely Martin Ødegaard’s long-range dipping shot which went straight at Bernd Leno and then a Gabriel Jesus weak effort that was also held comfortably by the Fulham goalkeeper. Just eleven minutes from the restart, saw a most calamitous incident, in which the visitors took the lead when Aleksandar Mitrović picked Gabriel’s pocket just outside the Arsenal penalty area, and the Fulham striker had the most easiest of chances to place the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to score the first goal of the match, which was totally against the run of play, it has to be said. In order to put yet more pressure on the Fulham goal, on the hour, Mikel Arteta substituted Eddie Nketiah for Kieran Tierney, and almost immediately there seemed to be a different feel to the game. To be fair, we responded quickly and immediately set about with the task in hand. The answer to our efforts came in the sixty-fourth minute, when Bukayo Saka turned and ran towards goal before passing square to captain Martin Ødegaard, whose exquisite stepover opened up some space but his shot took a wicked deflection to wrongfoot goalie Bernd Leno and landed in the back of the net for a well-earned equaliser. All to play for now! Aaron Ramsdale made an incredible save from a strong header courtesy of Aleksandar Mitrović, and at the other end, the combination of Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard came close to scoring, and as the match wore on, tired legs saw tough tackles from both sides. With nine minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel played a lovely ball through the defence to send Gabriel Martinelli away on the left side of the box, who cut it back for Eddie Nketiah but his snap shot went straight into the arms of Bernd Leno. A few minutes later, Gabriel, whose mistake led to Fulham’s opener, fired home from close range after Bernd Leno failed to claim a corner; however, there was a call for a foul, but after a VAR check, the goal stood, thankfully. Almost immediately, Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced Gabriel Jesus, and right on the end of ninety minutes, Fulham were denied an equaliser as Aaron Ramsdale made a brilliant save from Nathaniel Chalobah, much to the relief of all concerned. In the five minutes injury time, Rob Holding replaced Martin Ødegaard in order to shore up matters in the defence, and despite one or two difficult moments, we ran out winners by the odd goal in three.

Although there was one or two dodgy moments, we showed immense character to come back from a goal down to take all three points and maintain our one hundred percent record, twelve points from four matches. Also, according to the record books, Mikel Arteta has just overeseen his hundredth Premier League game in charge today, picking up one hundred points in his second fifty (W32 D4 L14) after accruing seventy-five in his first fifty (W21 D12 L17). How about that then! Every man played his part in this victory, every man showed their determination to win, and every man deserves the praise of the football press this weekend. Top of the league? You betcha.

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: Aston Villa at the Emirates on Wednesday, 31st August at 7.30pm. Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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

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