The Gunners control the Cottagers
Written By: Robert Halter
Arsenal had never lost at home to Fulham in any competition as the Cottagers made a New Years Day appearance at the Emirates stadium. In the second minute, Alexandre Lacazette combined with Granit Xhaka before Alex Iwobi’s low cross on the left was struck over by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. On the quarter of the hour mark, Andre Schurrle started the move before the Cottagers captain, Tom Cairney set free Ryan Sessegnon, who with the goal gapping drilled the ball low and wide of the far left post. Midway through the first half, Schurrle’s delivery was just out the reach of an unmarked Sessegnon, who fell down in the box while missing the ball. But it was Arsenal that opened up the scoring on twenty five minutes, when Sead Kolasinac linked up play with Iwobi, whose cross went past the chest of Lacazette, before the ball was turned in by Xhaka, past the Whites keeper, Sergio Rico, into the bottom right corner of the target. On the half hour mark, Joe Bryan linked up play with Aleksandar Mitrovic, before a strike from Schurrle, was blazed over. Two minutes later from Bryan’s looping cross on the left, a cushioned header by Mitrovic, was clutched from the goal line by Bernd Leno. The Arsenal response through an assist by Aubameyang, was a low left footed drive by Matteo Guendouzi which was saved by Rico towards the bottom right corner. The Gunners then went close to adding a second in the thirty fourth minute as Iwobi and Kolasinac brought Xhaka into play, and it took a close range block by Rico, to scramble the ball away from inside the six yard box. On thirty eight minutes, a clumsy challenge by Sokratis Papastathopoulos on Cairney presented the Cottagers with a free kick but Schurrle struck the dead ball high over the top. In the fortieth minute, Lacazette found Iwobi, who put the ball on a plate for Aubameyang, but his header went behind the back of the left post. During the forty second minute, Lacazette started the move before a downward header by Xhaka, put him through on goal but a quick reaction save by Rico, averted the danger as he turned the ball behind the left post. Before the re-start, Shkodran Mustafi was replaced with Lucas Torreira. Two minutes into the second half, from a corner by Sessegnon, a header from Mitrovic was caught in the centre of the goal by Rico. But it was Arsenal that went further ahead in the fifty fifth minute, when Iwobi put through Aubameyang and Kolasinac pulled the ball back to Lacazette, who struck his effort into the heart of the goal. Fulham then brought on Timothy Fosu-Mensah for Cyrus Christie. But Arsenal nearly scored again, when a long ball forward by Xhaka inside his own half cleared the path for Lacazette, who fired straight at Rico, with just the Cottagers keeper to beat. Schurrle was then replaced with Aboubakar Kamara while Jean Michael Seri took over from Ibrahima Cisse, in the final Fulham substitutions. On sixty nine minute, from Seri’s delivery, the ball was headed by Mirtovic into the clutches of Leno. But the Whites pulled a goal back instantly as Seri clattered into Torreira and Fosu-Mensah interlinked with Cairney, before a low cross by Sessegnon was put into the top right corner of an unguarded net by Kamara. Arsenal later took off Lacazette for Aaron Ramsey and the change made the difference, when Guendouzi built up play with Kolasinac and as Aubameyang struck the foot of the left post, the rebound was converted by Ramsey, with a curling strike into the right side of the goal, in the seventy ninth minute. Three minutes later, Guendouzi put Aubameyang through on goal but Rico spread himself to make the save. Bukayo Saka appeared for Iwobi, before Arsenal added a fourth when Sokratis put the ball to the right and a bending strike by Aubameyang deflected off Tim Ream, into the bottom left corner in the eighty third minute as Arsenal concluded a 4-1 win over Fulham, leaving the Cottagers in the bottom two and the Gunners fifth from top.