It doesn’t get much better than that.
The opening day of a season can often throw up surprises – and away days have often been our downfall over the last three seasons or so.
So this game certainly carried a real threat of an underwhelming return to action.
But under Mikel Arteta, we are making a habit of actually turning up and doing the business – and so it proved in this game – as Arsenal put newly-promoted Fulham to the sword with three unanswered goals.
The goals, scored by Alexandre Lacazette, debut boy Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, were all different styles but what was a constant was the commitment we showed during the game – and the attacking intent we carried.
Mikel Artet, fresh from his promotion to Manager, tellingly selected Bernd Leno for this game, with Emi Martinez not even in the squad – which means Martinez’s last game for us was our Community Shield win.
In defence, we had new boy Magalhaes with Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bellerin were full-backs but with a tendency to tuck in and add to the midfield, which was manned by Xhaka and Elneny.
In attack, there was another debut, this time for Willian, with the familiar faces of Auba and Laca.
We had plenty of options on the bench too, so we seemed to be well stocked and it didn’t take long for us to open our account.
The ball came into the box and it was a bit of a mess, with no Fulham clearance. Willian attempted a shot but Rodak smothered, only for Lacazette to snaffle home from close range. It was just as much down to terrible defending from Fulham as it was from Lacazette’s predatory senses – but we had the lead.
The first half though, saw chances for both sides.
Fulham were passing the ball nicely but their final ball was lacking however. They were in the game, but they badly needed Mitrovic, who was on the bench. For us? Xhaka and Elneny had efforts, blocked and off target, but a cynical foul from Michael Hector gave us a free kick opportunity – which Willian struck well but it hit the base of the post.
It would be the closest either would come to changing the 1-0 scoreline before half time.
The second half saw more control of the ball from a patient and savvy Arsenal – and more pace when it mattered. We hadn’t played badly though, we were just better in the second half.
And it didn’t take long for us to double our lead.
Willian swung a corner in and the highest to rise to it was Magalhaes, who headed home from inside the six yard box when Hector failed to jump. It was a gilt-edged chance and the Brazilian did well to take it. What a confidence booster!
From there, Fulham seemed to deflate and the Gunners were happy to take the initiative. Aboubakaer Kamara went close with an effort, but Leno didn’t have much to do at all. The next action was a third for Arsenal.
Rob Holding juggled the ball expertly out of defence and Willian took the ball on out wide, before putting in a great ball for Auba out on the left. The Gabon hotshot strode forward before unleashing a trademark curling but fierce effort into the net. It was a fantastic finish and it shows Auba is hitting the ground running.
The rest of the half saw a few subs and Pepe and Laca combining well, but no more goals.
Mission accomplished as far as winning is concerned – but what points arose from the game?
Magalhaes looks far older than his years
The Brazilian was playing his first game and up against a Fulham side who could switch things up and play physical as well as fast on the deck – and Gabriel dealt with it all so well. The kid is still so young, but he was composed and getting a goal in his first game will do him so much good. Far too good for his age!
Auba and Laca sharpness
It seems that the training we did between the Community Shield and now has paid off for our Number9 and 14. They both put in hard yards and created plenty of problems for Fulham. A welcome sight in a season that will be determined by fitness more than anything, given the short preparation times.
3-5-2 system taking flight
With Tierney making up a 3 man defence and both Bellerin and AMN as wing-backs with a twist, we have a flexibility to adapt to different demands. Start losing territory or on the back foot for too long and both our wing-backs tuck in and clog the midfield and obtain possession. When in the ascendancy, they offer width and options. Arteta is invoking change and we can see it across the pitch
Optimism is justified
This could easily have been a game in the past where we would have drawn the game. Fulham had turned up prior to the second goal and were carrying threat. Instead of folding though, we took the game to them – we stepped up. Carry on Mikel, you have our backing!
Our next match is versus West Ham United – another London derby.
Rate the players performance for this game here.