Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 1 Fulham

Arsenal (0) 1 Fulham (0) 1

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Sunday, 18th April 2021. Kick-off time: 1.30pm

(4-2-3-1) Mat Ryan; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Granit Xhaka; Mohamed Elneny, Dani Ceballos; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Pablo Marí, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah

Scorers: Eddie Nketiah (97 mins)

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 69%

Referee: Craig Pawson

Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Richard West

Fourth Official: Simon Hooper

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Constantine Hatzidakis

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions

After the glorious victory over Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals of the Europa League three days ago, we are now back to our bread-and-butter matches in the Premiership, doing our normal day-to-day work and concentrating on the next game, which today just happens to be another London derby, this time against Fulham. We should forget the difference in Premiership placings, and focus in on the task in hand, which is obtaining three points; nothing less will do. Let’s go!

Within less than a minute of the start, Gabriel Martinelli almost scored when Alexandre Lacazette neatly lobbed a ball into the Fulham penalty area for him to run onto, and his subsequent flick (that went past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola) went narrowly short of the far post; this missed chance merely set the stage for our domination of the first half. A couple of minutes’ later, after even more good play by our forwards, Emile Smith-Rowe pulled the ball back for Gabriel Martinelli, and his subsequent low shot on the spin was parried away by the Fulham goalkeeper. At our end of the pitch, Mat Ryan (who replaced Bernd Leno in goal today), was brought into action when he caught a simple cross from Ivan Cavaleiro; he distributed the ball quickly and the pressure on the Fulham goal continued. Emile Smith-Rowe was unlucky not to score when his long-range shot flew over the Fulham bar after Gabriel Martinelli made a scintillating run into the visitors’ penalty area and slotted the ball across to the young Arsenal striker. Although Fulham did have their moments (including a near-miss when a wicked deflection from the inside of Rob Holding’s leg sent the ball spinning just inches from the near post, leaving Mat Ryan helpless), the lion’s share of possession was ours, and it seemed that it was a matter of time before we scored. When Mohamed Elneny brought down Ademola Lookman in the centre circle just after the half-hour mark, it was looking as if referee Craig Pawson was going to reach for a card, but thankfully he thought twice, which could have been a lucky escape. Five minutes before half-time, Dani Ceballos scored a fabulous headed goal, but unbelievably VAR decreed that Bukayo Saka’s foot was in an offside position, so the goal was cancelled out. Despite one or two good attempts on the visitors’ goal, the first half finished goalless, sadly.

Right from the restart, we were snappy and quick to the ball; in fact, Alexandre Lacazette went inches wide with a very strong shot which was passed to him after an excellent move by Dani Ceballos out on the left flank. Twice over the course of five mintues, Granit Xhaka was hurt in unfortunate tackling incidents, and after treatment, which saw him going off the pitch briefly for assistance, he returned to the fray. Nine minutes after the half-time break, Bukayo Saka broke in from the right, and as he fell awkwardly near the byline, his subsequent shot hit the outside of the post. A couple of minutes later, Craig Pawson gave a controversial penalty decision, when Gabriel just caught Mario Lemina when he made a swing for the ball inside our penalty area; despite our appeals, VAR upheld the decision, and Josh Maja scored from the spot. Immediately we came back at Fulham, and after Dani Ceballos was brought down outside the visitors’ penalty area, the resulting free-kick taken by Alexandre Lacazette bounced off the defensive wall. We played with purpose now, keen and both desperate to grab the equaliser. Hector Bellerin was unlucky not to score, when his header went inches wide; that was his last act of today, as he was replaced by Nicolas Pépé, and also Thomas Partey came on the pitch for Mohamed Elneny with twenty-two minutes of the match remaining. A couple of minutes’ later, Alexandre Lacazette went down with an injury, and was replaced by Eddie Nketiah. We applied immense pressure on the visitors’ goal, with Gabriel Martinelli going around the goalkeeper before hooking the ball across to Nicolas Pépé, whose header looked a certain goal, but Alphonse Areola got a touch and Tosin Adarabioyo cleared off the line. With Eddie Nketiah going close with a superb lob over the goalkeeper and the bar from close range (after an excellent pass by Bukayo Saka), it was starting to look like it was going to be a case of one of those days, sadly. We were pressurising Fulham with wave after wave of relentless attacks by our strikers, and it seems somehow incredible that we had not scored an equalising goal. Our frustrations started to show as the minutes ticked down towards the end of the match, and as a result, silly fouls were being committed, when in any other point of the match, that would have not been the case. With a minute to go of normal time, Gabriel Martinelli ran into the Fulham penalty area, and his strong left-footed shot was parried by Alphonse Areola, who was having the match of his life today. In the seven minutes’ injury time, we started to throw literally everything at the visitors, but luck didn’t appear to be on our side, in fact, the harder we tried, the more it started to slip away from us. Then, with seconds of the match remaining, our goalie, Mat Ryan, who came up into the Fulham penalty area as a last-ditch effort, flicked a header over to Granit Xhaka, who whacked it across the goal; Fulham goalie Alphonse Areola, completely surrounded by our players, just about got a touch but behind him was Eddie Nketiah, who did the simple task of tapping it into an empty net, and so the match finished as a draw. Thankfully.

Well, that’s it then. Back to where we were a week or so ago. And now of course, this result today merely confirms what we have expected all along, that unless we win the Europa League, it is almost certain that we won’t be playing in European competition next year. Sure, we played at a quick pace for large chunks of the match, but we petered out, giving Fulham the opportunity to make headway in the game, which they did of course, courtesy of a hotly disputed penalty. Despite all of the fine efforts by our strikers, who kept going right up until the end of the match, all we could get from a game played at home to a side that are currently languishing in the relegation area, was a draw. And Alexandre Lacazette limped off the pitch with a suspected hamstring injury. Unpredictable as ever. 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: Everton at the Emirates on Friday, 23rd April at 8.00pm (Premier League). 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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Lacazette contract, Joe Willock loan and Fulham team news

Alexander Lacazette

Should the Frenchman get a new contract or not? That is probably a debate for another blog to delve deeper into.

Last summer I always felt that only one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Lacazette would get a deal.

Financially it made sense for Aubameyang to get the deal and Lacazette to be sold.

With 2 years left on his deal and 2 years junior; Lacazette would raise more important transfer funds.

Injury to Gabriel Martinelli – who would have acted as Aubameyang’s deputy – led to Lacazette staying last summer.

Roll forward 12 months and Aubameyang has had a horrendous season whilst Lacazette has stood up as a leader.

So do the club give Lacazette a new contract? Does it make sense to keep both him and Aubameyang? Could Aubameyang leave this summer? And what promises has Florian Balogun been given?

Eddie Nketiah will likely leave. I would expect Arsenal to get £15m+ for him. Some important transfer funds.

That would leave Arsenal with 4 first team strikers in Lacazette, Aubameyang, Martinelli and Balogun.

One of the two senior boys will surely be gone this summer?

Joe Willock

Another goal yesterday for Joe Willock on loan at Newcastle. I am pleased for the lad.

Few people have been saying we should “bring him back” and “should never have let him go”, but the loan move was exactly the right thing for his career and what he needed.

Joe has been in and out of the Arsenal team now for a couple of years. Never really doing enough to deserve a run of consistent starts.

And then Emile Smith Rowe broke through this season and began putting in performances levels ahead of Joe.

Willock will have a good Premier League career.

His work rate and ability to ghost in the box will prove an asset for lower-mid table teams. But ultimately he does not have that little bit extra to make it at Arsenal if we want to chase a Champions League spot.

Joe’s good form proves that he is a Premier League quality player, and I am sure someone like Newcastle, or other similar level teams such as West Ham or Leeds would look at bidding £15m+ for him.

Important funds raised that can be invested elsewhere.

Fulham Team News

Arsenal will still be without Martin Odegaard an Aubameyang for today’s game against Fulham.

Aubameyang is still suffering the affects of malaria, whilst Odergaard is still recovering from an ankle injury.

David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are both still out as they recover from knee injuries.

Everyone else is fit.

Keenos

Match Report: Slavia Prague 0 – 4 Arsenal

Slavia Prague (0) 0 Arsenal (3) 4

(Arsenal win 5-1 on aggregate)

UEFA Europa League, Quarter Final, Second Leg

Sinobo Stadium, U Slavie 1540, 100 00 Praha 10-Vršovice, Czech Republic

Thursday, 15th April 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Granit Xhaka; Dani Ceballos, Thomas Partey; Nicolas Pépé, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Mat Ryan, James Hillson, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Magalhães, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Folarin Balogun, Miguel Azeez.

Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (18 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (21 min, 77 mins), Bukayo Saka (24 mins)

Yellow Cards: Gabriel Martinelli

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 39%

Referee: Cüneyt Çakir (Turkey)

Assistant Referees: Bahattin Duran (Turkey), Tarik Ongun (Turkey)

Fourth Official: Arda Kardesler (Turkey)

Referee Observer: Laurent Duhamel (France)

VAR Team (UEFA): VAR Abdulkadir Bitigen (Turkey); AVAR Mete Kalkavan (Turkey)

Attendance: A minimal amount of attendees (circa 300) due to coronavirus restrictions

For tonight’s crucial match, both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Ødegaard failed to travel to Prague as neither passed a crucial fitness test; sadly in the case of the former, he has been diagnosed with malaria and has spent some time in hospital this week being treated for the disease, which he contrated whilst on international duty with Gabon. We wish him a speedy recovery. However, Emile Smith-Rowe is fit and resumes his place in this evening’s starting line-up. Let’s go!

The match started brightly with both sides testing each other’s goalkeepers quite early on, and as the players of either team were acutely aware, nothing less than a victory here will suffice. On our first foray into the Slavia Prague penalty area after fourteen minutes, Emile Smith-Rowe scored what appeared to be a perfectly decent goal, but after a VAR check, the goal was denied; however, just three minutes later, justice was served when Nicolas Pépé deftly crept sight unseen into the penalty area, moved into a superb position in order to receive an intelligent pass from Emile Smith-Rowe before rounding the goalkeeper and cracking the ball into the roof of the net. Just two minutes later, we were two goals ahead when Bukayo Saka was brought down in the Slavia Prague penalty area, and Alexandre Lacazette converted the subsequent penalty with great aplomb. Incredibly, on our next sortie on the Slavia Prague goal, Bukayo Saka jinked and juggled in the penalty area from the right wing, literally ghosted past a couple of Slavia Prague defenders, and as a large space opened up on the edge of the penalty area, he just simply picked his spot, wrong-footed the keeper and slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. A superb goal, from a wonderful young player with a big future in front of him. Now, with the luxury of a three-goal cushion, we were playing the football we would like to play, being in complete control of the proceedings. However, the home side were not exactly feeling the love out there anymore, and were caught by the referee putting a few cynical and unnecessary tackles in on our chaps, and one suddenly got the impression that as the match advances, there may well be a couple or three players that will end up in Cüneyt Çakir’s book, or even worse. We’ll see. Towards the end of the first half, Slavia Prague appeared to wake up a bit and started to string a few good passes together, but really nothing to threaten Bernd Leno, and as the whistle blew for the end of the half, there was only one team out there tonight, and it was not Slavia Prague.

With no changes from Mikel Arteta to the team line-up for the second half, the match started farily sparkily enough, with Arsenal consolidating their lead by good game management, and sensible play. The home side were doing whatever they could to try to score, but every time they advanced into within twenty yards of our goal, the Arsenal defence sprung into action and neutralised the threat adequately. As predicted, Slavia Prague started to get frustrated, and the match got a wee bit scrappy in places with silly tackles and off-the-ball incidents on our players, but thankfully nobody appeared to react too badly. Alexandre Lacazette should have scored, but his legs were taken out from under him by way of a sliding tackle, but incredibly a penalty appeal was denied by the referee. Emile Smith-Rowe made way for Mohamed Elneny after sixty-six minutes, and the match returned to as it was earlier, with Arsenal controlling the game extremely well. With thirteen minutes of the match remaining, Granit Xhaka and Nicolas Pépé combined down the left-hand side before Nicolas Pépé slotted the ball to Alexandre Lacazette in the middle of the penalty area. He took his time, controlled the ball, rolled it under his foot, side-stepped a defender, and whacked the ball past the hapless goalkeeper and into the net, to score our fourth goal of the night. Just after the goal, Mikel Arteta made a triple substitution; Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey were replaced by Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli and Cédric Soares with just twelve minutes of the match remaining. And still we kept coming, hungry for more goals. Gabriel Martinelli was desperately unlucky not to score after some great build-up play; Nicolas Pépé was replaced by Folarin Balogun with just two minutes of normal time remaining in order to rest tired legs and to give a much-talked about young man a run-out in the final minute of the match, which ended up with us victorious by four goals to nil on the night, five goals to one on aggregate. Perfect.

What a night, what a performance! And a semi-final appearance against Villareal, who happen to be managed by Unai Emery as well. Three goals in six minutes utterly broke the spirit of Slavia Prague, and as a team, it was totally different to the one we saw in London a week ago, with a good team performance, superb game management and an unstoppable desire to win. Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette and Emile Smith-Rowe were outstanding tonight, with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka more than holding their own in midfield too. Makes you wonder why we don’t play like that more often! A superb evening for everyone concerned.

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: Fulham at the Emirates on Sunday, 18th April at 1.30pm (Premier League). 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.