Fulham (0) 0 Arsenal (3) 3
Craven Cottage, Stevenage Road, London SW6 6HH
Sunday, 12th March 2023. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Jesus, Emile Smith-Rowe, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Matt Turner.
Scorers:Gabriel (21 mins), Gabriel Martinelli (26 mins), Martin Ødegaard (45+2 mins)
Yellow Cards: Martin Ødegaard
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 55%
Referee: David Coote
Assistant Referees: Dan Cook, Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: Thomas Bramall
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Peter Bankes; AVAR Darren Cann
For this afternoon’s match at Craven Cottage, we are seeking our fifth consecutive Premiership victory, and as we have the best away record in the Premier League, (winning ten of our thirteen matches this season), it is vitally important to continue in this manner. Mikel Arteta has made five changes to the side which drew with Sporting Clube de Portugal in the Europa League last Thursday. Aaron Ramsdale has returned, replacing Matt Turner, but sadly there is no place for Jakub Kiwior in the squad today. Fabio Vieira is on the bench, alongside Jorginho and Reiss Nelson, also Thomas Partey, Gabriel, our captain Martin Ødegaard and Leandro Trossard, all of whom return to the starting eleven. It is also heartening to see Gabriel Jesus is back on the substitute’s bench after returning from injury.
The match certainly got off to a lively start when Andreas Pereira caught Gabriel in the opening minute of the game and to say that our man is not happy about it appears to be an understatement, especially as the referee took no action against him. The resulting free-kick went nowhere, and although there are no chances appearing for either side, there are certainly some hefty challenges going in on our players. Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo beat Gabriel Martinelli in a one-to-one challenge on the wing, and shortly afterwards, a Granit Xhaka low cross (or was it a shot in disguise?) was held well by our former ’keeper Bernd Leno. Aleksandar Mitrovic controlled a difficult ball into our penalty area, beat Ben White and his shot went skywards and into the crowd; but in doing so, he committed a foul and the free-kick was given to us. From the free-kick, we took the lead when Granit Xhaka passed the ball to Gabriel Martinelli, who curled in a shot which was parried by Bernd Leno off Antonee Robinson and somehow the ball ended up into their own net; sadly VAR decreed that Gabriel Martinelli was offside and therefore it was cancelled out. It mattered not, as a couple of minutes later, we took the lead when, after just twenty-one minutes, Gabriel ran unopposed in the penalty area and powered in a header in from Leandro Trossard’s corner. The match then became one-way traffic in our favour after Gabriel’s goal, and indeed, we almost scored a second when a long-range shot from William Saliba went narrowly over the bar. Five minutes after our first goal, we did indeed score a second when Leandro Trossard put a lovely ball in from the left hand side for Gabriel Martinelli to easily nod the ball into the Fulham net unchallenged. Two goals, two headers! Superb. Our dominance over the home side is there for all to see, and we are just stroking the ball around, seemingly at will, playing lovely football this afternoon. Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard came very close in adding to our tally, and with five minutes to go to half-time, it appears to be a matter of time before we score another goal (hopefully). With a minute or so before the break, Gabriel Martinelli had a shot from point-blank range pushed away by Bernd Leno, and in the two minutes injury time, literally just as the referee David Coote was about to blow his whistle, we grabbed a third goal when our captain Martin Ødegaard had all the time in the world to control the cross from Leandro Trossard and take a couple of controlling touches to steady himself before whacking the ball into the back of the Fulham net. Men against boys. And as the wonderful Clash sang back in 1977, Complete Control.
The home side started the second half into life and they almost scored with the first attack of the new half but Andreas Pereira shot wide from a cross courtesy of Harrison Reed. The Fulham players shouted for a penalty because of a possible handball against William Saliba but it was not given by the referee. David Coote stopped play for a William Saliba head injury just as Gabriel Martinelli was bursting away down the left, but it became clear that he accidentally clashed with Aaron Ramsdale. Our centre-back looked okay after treatment, and went back to the game looking well. Leandro Trossard appeared to want a goal to go along with his many assists but his effort from just outside the penalty area was saved by Bernd Leno quite easily. An excellent Aleksandar Mitrovic volley from the edge of the box was blocked by William Saliba, and although the home side are looking better in this half, we appear to be containing them. However, a superb save from Aaron Ramsdale kept out an effort from Bobby De Cordova-Reid from a narrow angle, and then Tosin Adarabioyo powered a header less than a minute later which bounced off our crossbar. With twenty minutes of the game remaining, Reiss Nelson and Kieran Tierney replaced Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko to try and tighten things up a bit, and then our captain received a yellow card for a silly infringement; the resulting Fulham free kick went nowhere, thankfully. A few minutes later, accompanied by a cacophony of noise from our supporters, for his first appearance since before the World Cup, Gabriel Jesus replaced Leandro Trossard; additionally, almost anonymously, Gabriel Martinelli was substituted for Fabio Vieira. After some interesting play, less than two minutes later, our substitutions for the day ended when Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced a seemingly fatigued Ben White for the remainder of the game, which amounts to just seven minutes or so. Thomas Partey shot for goal with a thirty-yard free-kick but it was deflected wide of the Fulham goal for a corner, which was easily cleared by the home side. Gabriel Jesus almost scored with his first kick of the ball, but it was cleared by the legs of Bernd Leno, and although the home side were put under pressure from our resulting corner, the ball was cleared. Shortly after a Harry Wilson volley that flew over Aaron Ramsdale’s crossbar, a Martin Ødegaard effort did the same at the Fulham end, which looked to be a clear-cut chance for our fourth goal of the afternoon. In the three minutes’ injury time, game management was our friend today, and although there were one or two chances by both clubs, the game finished with another victory for us.
Our victory today here at Craven Cottage was an extremely comfortable one, to be fair. The first half was fairly one-way traffic in our favour, and after going into the half-time break three goals up, the second half was merely a formality. These three points from our win mean that we maintain five points gap between ourselves and Manchester City; along with the fact that we are the first club to win five London derbies in sucession, Gabriel Martinelli is Arsenal’s top scorer this season with twelve goals from thirty-six games, it was an extremely good day at the office. Keep going, boys.
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: Sporting Clube de Portugal at the Emirates on Thursday, 16th March at 8.00pm (Europa League). Be there, if you can. 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