Fulham 1-5 Arsenal: Unai Emery’s impressive Gunners show character to rout Cottagers
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Fulham hosted Arsenal at Craven Cottage by the banks of the Thames. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report from the London derby on Sunday lunchtime
An Alexandre Lacazette brace sealed the victory for the Gunners sandwiched between an Andre Schurrle equaliser on the stroke of half-time before a clever backheel by substitute Aaron Ramey and two late Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals turned the result into a 5-1 rout.
Despite Fulham dominating the early stages this was a powerful statement of intent from Unai Emery’s men as they notched their ninth win in a row.
Mesut Ozil missed the match due to a back spasm while soon-to-be dad Ramsey started on the bench along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Talented starlet Emile Smith Rowe who notched his first senior goal in the 3-0 Europa League victory over Qarabag did not make the bench, even if fellow Baku goalscorer and teenage talent Matteo Guendouzi was named as one of the replacements at a noisy Cottage.
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Bernd Leno – making his first Premier League start for the Gunners - showed excellent footwork and reflexes to keep out a deflected shot by Andre Schurrle in the opening moments as Fulham dominated the early stages.
Shkodran Mustafi had to be alert in cutting out a dangerous ball from the left channel by Luciano Vietto to the lively Alexsandar Mitrovic.
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Every Arsenal player in the starting XI travelled to Baku for the Europa League match in Azerbaijan 72 hours previously bar Henrikh Mkhitaryan – and it showed as Emery’s side looked leggy as the home side dominated the first half hour.
However, Arsenal took the lead against the run of play when Lacazette slotted past Fulham keeper and captain Marcus Bettinelli following a neat turn on 29 minutes. The strike came after a good interchange between Alexi Iwobi and Nacho Monreal down the left channel.
Boss Emery deserves huge credit for the turnaround in Iwobi’s form.
The 22-year-old had lost his way during the dying months of Arsene Wenger after bursting onto the scene as a promising teenager which included eye-catching performances in the Nou Camp in the Champions League before netting at Everton 72 hours later in March 2016.
Six months ago it would have taken a brave observer to have expected the Lagos-born attacking talent to shine, but the Nigerian international is thriving under the tougher training regime of Emery.
Despite the visitors excelling in bursts their backline did not look entirely comfortable when faced with the excellent movement on and off the ball from the Fulham attack.
Schurrle proved the point by lifting the ball over Leno moments before half-time to make it 1-1 after an excellent through ball by Vietto whose trickery and creativity impressed throughout.
Arsenal went ahead only four minutes after the break when Lacazette grabbed his second of the game with a superb early shot from outside the box to put the Gunners 2-1 ahead to the delight of the 5,000 fans behind the goal at this grand old ground on the banks of the Thames.
The joy was palpable from the fans who rose as one to acclaim Iwobi when he was replaced by Ramsey – a sight hard to imagine even six months ago.
With his third touch Ramsey backheeled a delightful flick to make it 3-1 on 67 minutes as all the old fans favourites were wheeled out by the joyful Arsenal fans.
More was to come as substitute Aubameyang made it 4-1 on 79 minutes when he fired past Bettinelli after a neat turn following a cross from Hector Bellerin to seal the win before making it five late on.
The victory made it nine wins on the bounce for the increasingly impressive Emery as the travelling fans celebrated with deep, deep joy.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29