From what I’ve been told, the trip to Craven Cottage from North London – down the river Thames on a boat – is one of the most enjoyable days out that an Arsenal supporter can have. Arsenal have only lost there 8 times since 1913 and the last time Arsenal lost at Fulham was 2012, when Lee Probert raised Arsene Wenger’s ire by sending off Johan Djourou for two of the softest yellow cards in the history of top flight English football.
That type of result wasn’t in the cards yesterday. Mikel Arteta started with Leo Trossard (fans seem to have adapted the THEO THEO THEO chant for him) up front/left swapping places with Martinelli. Behind that dynamic duo were the standard fare of 34, 5, and 8 with the settled back four of White, Saliba, Gabriel, and Zinchenko.
After an initial 5 minutes of rather tame football Arsenal started selectively pressing up high and winning the ball back in dangerous places. Arsenal opened the scoring when Xhaka played through to Martinelli whose shot was saved into the path of Robinson for an Own Goal. Nelli was just offside but it was a sign of things to come for the Cottagers. Leno would be tested 4 times in the opening 15 minutes and saved all.
How the narrative might have been different had that own goal by Nelli stood. As it was, Leo took a corner in the 21st minute and put the ball on a plate for Gabriel to nod home. I’ve complained quite vociferously about Nelli taking Arsenal’s right-footed corners because he literally only has one key pass on 66 attempts (PL and EL). Arteta has tried different things lately – running some NFL type plays recently – but yesterday he went with basics: put White on Leno, put the ball in the 3 yard area, get a big man on the end. Trossard’s first assist from a corner (this season).
Arsenal got the 2nd goal when William Saliba looked hemmed in by the high press of Fulham but instead of turning the ball over he clipped an extraordinary pass to Xhaka in acres of space. Trossard took a crazy pass from Xhaka*, dipped in, dipped out, and stood the ball up to the far post. There was Martinelli to nod home past the flapping Leno. Fulham’s Robinson also didn’t do anything to challenge Nelli on the header. If he was an Arsenal player I’d be seriously asking for him to be dropped. It was pathetic, weak defending. Nelli immediately thanked Saliba and rightly: Trossard is awarded the assist but it was really Saliba’s pass which set the whole thing up.
Trossard should have probably scored one for himself in the 35th minute. Zinchenko switched to Saka, who passed to Øde and Arsenal pinged the ball around until they found Trossard in the box. The Belgian switched right to left and swept a shot just wide with his chocolate leg.
Ramsdale tried to give Fulham a goal back with an asinine pass, attempted with the outside of the boot, straight to Pereira. Luckily the Fulham man thought he was prime Messi and tried to scoop in a shot when he probably should have just played the ball to a wide open Mitrovic.
Arsenal’s third goal came with what was almost literally the last kick of the first half. Fulham had a throw-in and #5 stepped in the way and intercepted. It was lazy play by Fulham if I’m honest, which was the hallmark of that first half for them. Their supporters should be, and probably are, livid by what they saw from their team yesterday. That was one of the weakest first half performances I’ve seen from an Arsenal opponent and I only hope the rest of them are that easy! But regardless of their jelly-like performance, once again Trossard was on the ball and once again he stood the pass up to the far post. There was Martin Ødegaard who collected the ball in the box and was so unchallenged by Fulham’s defenders that he had time to settle, collect his thoughts, read Ivanhoe, give a lecture on Ivanhoe to Oslo University, fly back, get the ball again, and lash home a goal.
I’m not being harsh on Fulham when I say it was one of the worst first half performances I’ve seen from a professional football team. But hey, if every team wants to do this from here on out and let Arsenal win the League I will be eternally grateful. Something tells me that ain’t happening.
The second half from Arsenal was a lesson in keeping a clean sheet. Fulham came out in the 2nd half showing a little bit of pride and forced a good save from Ramsdale in the 68th minute. That was followed up by a bit of luck when Chenk Tosin hit the crossbar with a power header from the corner.
Arsenal threw on Gabriel Jesus and the star center forward had one really good chance saved by Leno. Overall a very professional performance for Arsenal and great to see the Gunners maintain their 5 point lead at the top of the table.
One last thing. Trossard has been a huge signing for Arsenal. Over the years, I can only count a few Arsenal January signings which have had as much impact as Leo has had this season. It’s very difficult for a player to come in in January and have an impact on a club and especially to help them in a title challenge. Folks pointing to Reyes’ signing in the Invincibles season are, I think, off the mark: he did provide the assist in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford but his two goals came after Arsenal had won the League (at White Hart Lane, we won the League at White Hart Lane, we won the League in the shithole, we won the League at White Hart Lane!)
Arshavin and Aubameyang are two that I think most turned our seasons around but those two years were fairly atrocious from an Arsenal standpoint. That Arshavin side was 5th behind Aston Villa when he came in and he was able to lift us to 4th. I was at his first Arsenal match and he looked slow and pudgy but there’s no question he helped save Arsene’s 4th place trophy. The Auba team was also 5th when he was signed for 60m+ but he wasn’t able to overcome the enormous drag factor of late era Wenger’s anti-defense and Arsenal finished 6th.
Here are the best January signings (guys with the most immediate impact) since I’ve been watching Arsenal:
Trossard: 2022/23 – 1 goal, 5 assists (in 6 matches so far)
Auba: 2017/18 – 10 goals, 4 assists
Arshavin: 2008/09 – 6 goals, 8 assists
Adebayor: 2005/06 – 4 goals, 4 assists
*Xhaka’s through passes and passes to wide players are terrifying.
it don’t take all day to recognize a baller when you see one. leo is a baller! while i knew he was pretty good, i didn’t realize he was this good. i was always more excited about his signing than mudryk.
he’s one of those guys who football has always been easy for him. he absolutely fits the arsenal mold and will mesh well with anybody who can play. he may be the closest thing arsenal have had to santi since santi left; it’s kind of appropriate he wear the #19 jersey. i’m not saying he’s santi, just saying football is easy for him like it was for santi.
that dummy 1-2 he did with xhaka when xhaka jammed up the finish was so saucy…might have won goal of the season…and it would have meant 4 assists. i’m eager to see him on the pitch at the same time with jesus and odegaard.
let’s not forget about partey yesterday. he put on a clinic. he’s such an intelligent player and, like trossard, he makes football look so easy.
saka needs a break. i’d rest him for the sporting game.
Bravo, Tim! Leo is sensational and such a pro. Incredible control and vision, and a wicked shot when he gets the opportunity. An unbelievable bargain.
On a day where almost everyone looked strong, I was particularly impressed by Saliba. Nullified Mitrovic in ‘Oh by the way’ fashion, but his passing was just delicious. In addition to the switches, quick turns and generally making the press look futile, he’s developed this gorgeous touch on passes to Partey. Instead of passing to Partey so he has to keep his back turned, he finds a tiny lane into which he threads the ball so that Thomas can stay attacking and moving forward. Inch perfect with just the right pace so Partey can then make a quick pass or dip of the shoulder and away we go. It’s such a minor point but it shows how intelligently Salba places his passes. Not just thumping them into midfield. Delicately weighted with pinpoint accuracy. We must resign him! He is pure gold. 11 games to go. Jesus has returned. This team!
Saliba was superb. That left footed outlet to Xhaka alone deserves a plaque, but he did everything to a high standard. He looks back to his best.
A complete team performance with so many great individual, but cohesive contributions. The combination play for the Martinelli goal? Definitive, quintessential Arsenal. Teams know we’re going to play like that – we give them plenty of looks and they can and do make the reads, but when we’re on, we’re unstoppable.
Craven Cottage is a lovely place, if you’ve never been and I have time for what is an otherwise decent Fullham team this year (they came back into it in the 2nd half), but that first 45 minutes is everything I’ve always loved about the Arsenal, and huge props to Arteta for taking up the Wenger mantle, improving it defensively and adding discipline and steel to our traditionally swashbuckling style.
Oh, and January signings? Can’t back this up with stats, but surely Reyes has to figure? Someone correct, if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t he be the only Invincibles January signing? He gets my vote.
“49, 49 undefeated,. 49, 49 I say…”
I mentioned it in the post, I think.
2 goals, 1 assist. The assist was against Man U but the two goals didn’t help win the title, that was already sewn up. They did help us be invincible, though. So, YMMV.
You did, apologies. This team will never be that team, but since this year is really now a battle for the title, I’m thinking more often about that side and what we achieved. Also still think we gave it away to Leicester City that year.
We didn’t give it away so much as have it taken by injuries. Giving it away is what we did last season.
i remember reyes scoring in the champions league against chelsea. i think he scored the only arsenal goal of the tie. chelsea won with a late goal from wayne bridge.
Fulham weren’t great in much of that first half, but at least part of that was because Arsenal were so good from the 10th minute on.
If we can get the win against Palace this weekend, it’s going to be pretty hard for me to avoid thinking about the title. The pressure will definitely be on City, and they have more matches to worry about.
And long term, assuming we can get the Saka and Saliba deals done, and hopefully figure out a reasonable plan B for Partey if he’s injured or otherwise, this team could be challenging for the title and CL for the next 5 years or longer.
I thought Nelson had a very solid cameo, he put a couple balls in that should have been met. Xhaka’s passes are terrifying in a good or bad way? The knuckle ball to Saka in first half looked like it was going straight out, hit the ground and then bounced 60 degrees into Saka. I like Trossard swapping with Martinelli and Odegaard, it’s very Total Futbol, Johan Cryuff would approve.
One cannot talk about Arsenal January signings, and not even mention the man, the myth, the legend… Kim Källström.
Ouch! The Swede is probably a January GOAT, but how about Denis Suarez? Henrikh Mkhitaryan, perhaps? Ryo Miaichi? Some real gems.
Let’s not forget Cedric!
We’re just lucky he didn’t play against us yesterday. Would’ve been a game changer.
In some ways Fulham would have been better off with him rather than Tete, who is tall and can run but that’s about it. Cedric is the better footballer and could’ve been useful with his deliveries towards Mitrovic and would have been more press resistant. Plus he knows Mikel’s system and his players.
I have nothing but goodwill towards Cedric by the way. He was a model of professionalism who played hard when called upon. He’s an above average offensive RB with big physical limitations who was signed to plug gaps in our squad during the rebuild. He was a good servant who served the purpose for which he was signed. Arsenal has outgrown him and that’s as it should be.
Agreed – I don’t harbor ill will towards him. He was just always way below the level of quality we wanted/needed. And his physical limitations hurt us. But he was a celebration monster!
Broke Back Kallstrom.
Five consecutive clean sheet London derbies away from home. I love the way, with the game sewn up, they still fight for clean sheets. That’s championship mentality.
Fulham set up to press Arsenal high in our own half and then defend the space in a 4-4-2 mid block. For the first 15 odd minutes it worked ok, though Martinelli overhit three consecutive final ball type passes that could’ve been goals if his radar was more accurate. They pushed two forwards high against our 3-2-5 shape but that left one of the back 3 spare so Arsenal we’re never under serious pressure. They also missed Palinha who has been their best midfielder but tried to build from the back nevertheless which Arsenal gleefully turned into possession in the opposition half.
After the 15th minute, we got our fingers in some of the cracks of their system and began to pry them open. The ball zipped around, runners were available to be hit and Arsenal played with aggression and purpose. Even Xhaka sent a delicious pass through the legs of a defender for Martinelli to almost open the scoring but for a marginal offside. It also helped that we had an extra man in attack, as their 4-4-2 shape always left one of the attackers in our 3-2-5 unmarked. So Arsenal had a spare man both in the buildup and in the final 3rd. Handy!
The goal we deserved came after a flurry of corners resulting from mounting pressure, as Fulham’s technical and tactical shortcomings were being exploited ruthlessly. The first corner was aimed near post and headed out for a second. The second was aimed far post to a cluster of bodies and it too was cleared. The third looked the same as the second, but at the last moment 4 Arsenal players made the same run to the center of the box and Fulham weren’t ready for this twist; Trossard’s ball wasn’t special but in the confusion it found an unmarked Gabriel, who celebrated with Nicolas Jover. A well worked series of set pieces from Arsenal and Jover. At 0-1, gamestate favored Arsenal in addition to the aforementioned tactical advantages and we ran away with it deservedly.
One of the signs of a player’s growth is how they adapt to matchups that have been difficult for them in the past. Saka had been well marshaled by Antonee Robinson in prior games for Fulham and for the USA, but in this game, Saka had his number. In their first exchange he sold him a feint that resulted in Robinson clattering Saka. From there the Fulham man looked rattled and was second best all game (He was also at fault for the second goal, as he should have given a much better effort on that looping cross). Saka clearly studied his opponent and his hard work paid off today. It’s not about the talent, it’s the willingness to improve despite already being good that results in greatness.
Jeez Dr G you should be an analyst front of camera. Kudos
Thanks Tony, cheers
To be fair to Robinson, the Athletic did a great analysis of the Martinelli goal showing how much Fulham were pulled out of shape into our defensive right corner before saliba switched it left and Robinson was left marking three players.
Excellent point. It occurred to me later, hey why is the LB marking the CF anyway and why are there two other Arsenal players totally unmarked behind the two of them? It was a team goal.
Also Trossard’s touch to take Xhaka’s awkward pass down in stride was just magnificent.
i still have my red arshavin 4 tshirt i bought from you, tim. what a day that was, and still we didn’t win. the first time i had screaming fits when we signed a player.
even though fulham were pressing they were playing way too fast for their comfort, and after a quarter hour the mistakes really crept in. i was glad to see they couldn’t keep up the pace. second half was masterful at times, how arsenal used possession to control the game and eliminate any fulham threat. along with the passing in the first half for the goals/attempts (oh, xhaka…) it made for a complete game in which to take pride.
Oh man! That was so long ago. I’m really sorry that shirt wasn’t pre-washed. I bought them from a third party reseller and didn’t realize there was a problem until I washed it and it bled all over everything else in the wash.
Anyway, thanks for being such a loyal follower for so long!
Well… at least I can cancel my paramount+ subscription now…
Picard is just getting good!
i recently had covid and watched season 2… the midrange sound in that series has me falling in love with my paradigm tower speakers again. season 2 was excellent.
do you realize the girl that played the borg queen in season 2 passed away earlier this year? i thought she was brilliant. what a shame. beautiful gal.
eL what a complete waste of time, gas the players, injuries, and maybe nothing left for Sunday.
Why try to win both with a young team and maybe lose everything worthwhile in the “process!”
it’s about mentality, brother. you have to play to win and you have to use the squad. the players, although mostly young, have to respect the standard at a big club like arsenal; to win every game. injuries can happen to anyone at any time. arsenal were really unlucky to have to use substitution windows when players got injured. i’m sure arteta wanted to bring jesus off earlier but he’ll learn from that; you never start a player who’s not fit enough to play the full game.
the europa league is a tournament arsenal were good enough to win. you have to play to win. big up to arteta for playing to win. since the patrick vieira penalty miss against fenerbahçe, this competition has been cruel to arsenal. unfortunately, arsenal lost their most versatile defender, perhaps for a long time. we’ll see how saliba recovers and how arteta manages the team.
speaking of vieira, sorry to see him sacked by palace. i thought it was nuts for him to take that job but he overachieved, finishing 12th last season. is it vieira’s fault palace were so unremarkable in front of goal? i don’t watch enough palace. i just know, despite some exceptional young talent, it was tough for them to create chances. they were unlucky against man city on saturday; i did watch that game. likewise, we have a young player there on loan and i was hoping vieira could help his development until june.
But, Mikel did not play to win, brother.
He did not start the guys in mid to get the job done.
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