1 Arsenal 3 – Prince Poldi Reigns Supreme
to think that only our second Premier League game of the season was being
dubbed by some as “must-win” in the build up to our short trip across London to
face Fulham at Craven Cottage.
But after last Saturday’s catastrophe at the Emirates plus
opening weekend wins for both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham
Hotspur, the pressure was truly on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to get their League
campaign up and running.
And they did just that; following up on an impressive
midweek display in Turkey with a resounding 3-1 win in very wet conditions in
After a good early spell in which Theo Walcott tested
Fulham ‘keeper David Stockdale, Arsenal took the lead in the 14th
minute when an Aaron Ramsey shot ran into the path of Olivier Giroud who, with
the aid of a lucky roll of the ball, smartly finished from close range giving
the Frenchman his third goal in as many games this season.
Fulham almost immediately responded as John-Arne Riise and
Adel Taarabt combined on the left, with the latter’s shot forcing a good stop
from Wojciech Szczesny and Damien Duff’s follow up strike was equally well
fended out by the Polish ‘keeper.
The home side continued to grow into our first London
derby of the new league season, yet failed to again test Szczesny who looked
comfortable in the Arsenal goal. Arsenal then had a chance to make it 2-0 as
Walcott counter attacked and despite having men in numbers, the ball to Kieran
Gibbs wasn’t great, and Wednesday night’s opening goalscorer could only drag
his attempt wide.
We didn’t have to wait long though before we did double
our lead. Santi Cazorla, majestic in midfield, released Walcott whose shot was
palmed away by Stockdale into the path of Lukas Podolski, making his first
start of the season in replace of Jack Wilshere, who powered it home from 18
yards past a desperate ‘keeper and defender on the goalline. It was the perfect time to score with Fulham
pressing, and we went into the break comfortably 2-0 up after Podolski missed
the chance to make it 3-0 dragging wide after another Walcott break.
Fulham started the second half brightly, and Taarabt
forced an early good save from Szczesny who played very well despite the
Arsenal continued to look most dangerous on the counter
attack, and more opportunities arose after some sensational Cazorla footwork
released Gibbs on the left, whose cross didn’t quite reach Walcott inside the
Fulham six-yard area. The ball fell to Ramsey, who couldn’t work the keeper as
his shot was deflected wide.
Fulham made some attacking changes and continued to pile
on the pressure without any end product, before Arsenal sealed the game with
another quick counter attack. Per Mertesacker’s clearance was magically held up
by Giroud, who released Walcott to again lead the break. Cazorla ended up with
the ball on the left side of the Fulham penalty box, pulling it back for
Podolski who fired it past Stockdale into the bottom corner, and 3-0 would be
too big a deficit for Fulham to overturn with 20 minutes remaining.
The home side pulled one back though as second-half substitute
Darren Bent tapped in after a Dimitar Berbatov shot that Szczesny got a hand
The game then played out uneventfully, allowing Wenger to
bring on Nacho Monreal, Wilshere for his 100th game for the Club, and
give a debut to Yaya Sanogo who got a 10-minute run out at the end.
In stoppage time Walcott had a chance to make it four
after Cazorla feigned to shoot but put the Englishman in, but Stockdale was equal
to it and the wet encounter finished with a pleasing 3-1 score line to the
visitors in yellow.
Three points to get us off the mark in the League and
another fine display to go with it. It was a game we could easily have scored
four or five, and I think they’ll be disappointed to have not got the clean
sheet too as Szczesny had another commanding game in goal.
The worries all week have been about our frailness in
defence. It was the same back four that finished the game in Turkey last
Wednesday, and Bacary Sagna had a brilliant game at centre-bac(k) with a grand
display in which he read the game well and partnered effectively with the also
excellent Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson, while Gibbs had another solid game at
We overpowered Fulham in midfield. Ramsey was again
superb, and despite a couple of sloppy moments in the first half was deserving
of his coveted BT Sport MOTM award (and the unlimited praise of the human drone
Michael Owen), if not at least for his continued fine development and value to
the side at the minute. Cazorla slipped back into midfield as Podolski started
wide left, and the little Spaniard was again a joy to watch. It’s a pleasure we
shouldn’t take for granted watching Santi play; it’s not something you get
treated to every day and I can’t think of anyone in the league with better feet
Up top we worked hard and were rewarded as Giroud and
Podolski both found the net. Whilst Walcott probably should’ve got his name on
the sheet too (at least once), his movement off the ball is just brilliant and
a credit to his continued development that I think often gets harshly
The three goals we scored were all exceptionally clinical,
but it’s still an area that could be improved. We looked remarkably good on the
break throughout the game, yet the killer ball or the final shot were often
lacking in quality. And whilst it wasn’t something that affected us yesterday,
it could come back to haunt us when we play stronger teams in the division.
The game also highlighted the fact that Podolski is the
best finisher we have at the Club. That he’s been linked with a move away when
we are so lacking in numbers seems utterly incomprehensible, and it was
relieving to hear Wenger say after the game that those reports are unfounded
and that he won’t be going anywhere. Whilst he hasn’t always worked in our
system as much as we would have liked when we first signed him, he’s still an
exceptionally talented and experienced player and he showed his worth to us
yesterday. Plus he looked fresh and worked hard on and off the ball, an area
that he has drawn plenty of criticism in during his short time with us.
Wenger again spoke after the game of how we’re still in the transfer
market and whilst we are right to celebrate and enjoy these
two good performances and wins, it’s important we don’t lose sight on the fact
that we’re in serious need of additions to this squad, and fast.
What we need and who we’re linked to has been highly
documented, not least by myself in the previous two match reports, so I’ll
spare you that hyperbole again. But we’ve got a week now before a huge (and I
mean huge) game against Spurs who have shown their intent throughout the summer
window to date, and we have just eight days to show our ambition and get a
squad together capable of more than scrapping for the “fourth place trophy”
before the transfer window closes on September 2nd.
Our confidence should be high now though, yet we’ve got
the return leg against Fenerbahce to get through first on Tuesday night. The
issue we face is that we can’t make huge changes to the squad given how
depleted it is, so I imagine it’ll be the same group of players involved (maybe
with the youngsters, the likes of Serge Gnabry and Sanogo, more involved) so
fingers crossed the boys come through unscathed, we don’t face any problems and
that we’re raring to go in the first North London Derby of the season.