Arteta’s revolutionised Arsenal side kicked off their Premier League campaign with a confident 0-3 victory against Fulham at Craven Cottage, with Brazilian debutants Willian and Gabriel putting in impressive performances to get the Gunners off to a fine start. Arsenal’s fast start was signified within the 10 minute mark as Lacazette prodded home from close range after Willian’s parried shot, to put us in the driving seat.
Then early in the second half, Gabriel showed his aerial prowess when he put us 0-2 up with an imposing header following Willian’s corner. The game was later put to bed when Aubameyang rounded off a fluid team move with a finish that is quickly becoming his trademark, topping off an excellent performance away from home.
Encouraging signs from our debutants
Arteta showed his faith in our new Brazilians by throwing them in the starting line-up against Fulham, with Gabriel playing at the heart of a back three and Willian lining up on the right hand side of our attack. They both put in stellar performances, with it being very evident the type of qualities that they bring to the squad, as Gabriel proved to be dominant in the air along with showing competence in possession while Willian added some much needed creativity and experience, playing a major role in all three goals.
After an early mix-up between Gabriel and Maitland-Niles, which could have been costly if it weren’t for a crucial interception from Bernd Leno, the 22-year recovered quickly and grew into the game looking more comfortable with every touch of the ball. His accomplished passing range was clear to see throughout, completing 107 out of an attempted 113 passes, with a success rate of 95%. Statistics such as this one bode well for the future, as it perfectly suits Arteta’s philosophy of building out from the defence, with the big Brazilian seemingly unfazed by playing an such an integral role in starting our attacks.
It was very noticeable that when in possession, he didn’t always look for the easiest pass, breaking the lines on multiple occasions with firm, accurate passes into the feet of one of our midfielders. As a result, it sped our attacks up and took opposition players out of the game, not only gifting our creative talent more time on the ball but it also meant that they received the ball further up the pitch.
Another element of his game that seems to be adept, is his dominating nature in the air, as he won nearly every aerial duel whether it was defensively or in an attacking sense – and thus was able to open his account for the Gunners from a set piece. At 6’3″, there won’t be many strikers in the Premier League that will beat Gabriel in this department, with Mitrovic struggling against him even though he is known for his robust aerial threat. Gabriel’s combination of height, athleticism, strength and competence on the ball along with looking like a defender that actually enjoys defending makes him an exciting prospect for the future, bringing a whole host of attributes which our defence has lacked for many years.
The 32-year was instrumental in every goal, with Lacazette tapping in the rebound from Willian’s original effort to put us in the lead then early in the second half, his corner was headed home by fellow Brazilian Gabriel. His impressive debut didn’t end there, as he showed his creative output once again with an across field switch to Aubameyang, who made no mistake with the finish to put the game out of sight.
Last season, we lacked a player who we could rely on to create chances on a regular basis, however with this signing I am confident that Willian can play a major role in relieving part of this burden for Arteta. Furthermore, he also brings expertise to set-piece situations, as over the years he has been able to hone an incredibly effective style which has seen him contribute many goals and assists. This was highlighted in this game, when he came close with a cleverly disguised effort, only for the post to deny him a debut goal. Over the course of the season, having a set-piece specialist will certainly help the team to pick up more points, with Gabriel’s goal being a prime example as to how effective it is to have a player with Willian’s ability over dead ball scenarios.
I’m a 20 year-old Arsenal fanatic and aspiring Sports Journalist, who will be studying how to write about the Beautiful Game at Solent University from September in an attempt to make my dream into a reality.
Since the age of 8 I have played academy football, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out – therefore I decided to pursue the next best career for me.
I am aiming to write honest and interesting articles about the club I love, and to share my opinion (one from the younger generation of Arsenal supporters) with as many other fans as possible!