As Aaron Ramsey celebrated in front of an away end abounding with joy and optimism, the Arsenal supporters broke into euphoric song. ‘We’ve got our Arsenal back,’ came the cry and after this result, a ninth win on the spin, it was hard to begrudge these fans their moment.
Seven weeks is a long time in English football. Back in August, Unai Emery was presented with a gruesome statistic: after two opening defeats, he had made the worst start to life as an Arsenal manager since Thomas Mitchell in 1897. Now the historical comparisons are not so much positive as emphatically fawning.
Arsenal have won nine or more in a row under only three previous managers — Herbert Chapman, George Graham and Arsene Wenger — and that trio all share in common top division titles.
Alexandre Lacazette netted a double as Unai Emery entrusted the Frenchman to lead the Arsenal front-line on his own
Lacazette’s second regained Arsenal’s lead, much to the delight of his team-mates Hector Bellerin and Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Aaron Ramsey was mobbed by his team-mates after scoring a stunning heel flick just 38 seconds after coming off the bench
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Bettinelli, Christie, Odoi, Ream (Kamara 54), Le Marchand, Seri, Anguissa (McDonald 62), Vietto (Johansen 83), Schurrle, R Sessegnon, Mitrovic
Subs not used: Ayite, Sergio Rico, Mawson, S Sessegnon
Scorers: Schurrle 44
Booked: Vietto, Schurrle
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi (Ramsey 67), Welbeck (Aubameyang 62), Lacazette (Guendouzi 81)
Subs not used: Martinez; Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Kolasinac
Scorers: Lacazette 29, 49; Ramsey 68; Aubameyang 79, 91
Referee: Paul Tierney
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
The ticker-tape and the statues remain in a distant, imagined future for Emery but which Arsenal supporter would not be a little bit giddy after this demolition? After all, if Arsenal can do this after only a few months under Emery, how good might they become once he has been afforded more recruits and the necessary time on the training field?
‘I don’t think this was our “best”,’ Emery said. ‘We can get better. I want our fans to feel every match is a special day and show we are improving with our quality, our winning mentality, our commitment.’
Emery’s team were a delight here, responding emphatically to Fulham’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time by scoring four goals in the second-half without reply. Glorious goals, too. Both Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey scored goals that belonged in the happiest days of the Wenger era and the league table makes for happy reading too, with Arsenal back in the top four and within touching distance of a title race.
So for Emery, the portents are good. They are good not only because his team attack with abandon but also because they have rediscovered a resilience that appeared alien to recent Arsenal teams.
Alexandre Lacazette piled more misery on Fulham’s defence as he opened the scoring for Arsenal at Craven Cottage
Lacazette received the ball from Nacho Monreal inside the area with his back to goal, he calmly turned and shot past Bettinelli
Alex Iwobi and Monreal, who were both involved in the goal, congratulated the Frenchman on his third league goal
Against the run of play, Fulham found an equaliser just before half time thanks to a lovely lobbed effort by Andre Schurlle
Monreal gave the ball away, leading to Luciano Vietto playing through Schurlle who chipped the ball over Bernd Leno
In the latter Wenger years, Arsenal might have faltered here. Away from home, having arrived home at 5am on Friday morning from an 8,000km round trip to Qarabag, his starting XI deprived of several key players, including the injured Mesut Ozil, as well as the rested Aaron Ramsey, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the ingredients were in place for a tricky afternoon for Emery.
Instead, Emery’s decisions were vindicated at every turn. His selections raised questions. The muscular Sokratis seemed suited for a high-octane bout against Aleksandar Mitrovic, but instead Rob Holding played and coped admirably. Both Ramsey and Aubameyang would be obvious starters for most games, but Alex Iwobi played and was Arsenal’s most dangerous creative force, while Danny Welbeck started alongside Alexandre Lacazette and his movement electrified the Arsenal frontline.
When the starting XI required bolstering, Emery’s substitutions were timed perfectly, as Ramsey scored within three touches and 39 seconds of his arrival and Aubameyang then added the gloss with two of his own goals.
Arsenal’s challenge was aided by a Fulham team still coming to terms with life at this level. Fulham play with a frenzied anxiety. At their best, this manifests as a thousands miles per hour attacking football, with frantic pressing, speedy counter-attacks and sumptuous interplay.
Yet the tempo also undermines Fulham, with passes misplaced in important areas and their defence ragged. The cold evidence of the Premier League table shows only one victory and the most goals conceded in the Premier League.
For Slavisa Jokanovic, their manager presented with over £100m worth of players this summer, the situation is worrying. ‘When you put coins in the cake, you can break your teeth,’ the Serbian has mused and it only added to the sense his task may have been complicated rather than aided by the summer splurge that saw 12 players join his promotion-winning squad.
Lacazette doubled his tally shortly after half-time, catching Bettinelli off-guard with a perfectly placed volley into the corner
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had to watch the Lacazette masterclass from the bench but was clearly happy for his teammate
Aaron Ramsey came off the bench to grab Arsenal’s third with his first touch of the game, scoring 39 seconds after coming on
The Wales international stunned the crowd at Craven Cottage with a beautiful heel flick guided off the post and in
Jokanovic said: ‘We spent the money because we trust we can find some kind of solution, but the solution is only in my head right now.’
For all that, Fulham ought to have taken the lead. Hector Bellerin conceded possession sloppily in his own half and Luciano Vietto scuttled towards goal and his deflected strike appeared to have deceived Bernd Leno, only for the German to raise a claw at the final moment.
Arsenal grew in composure and authority. Iwobi was to the fore, finding gaps from the left side and releasing Welbeck, whose low cross narrowly eluded Lacazette. Iwobi broke free once more, teeing up the overlapping Nacho Monreal, who found Lacazette, and the Frenchman fired into the corner.
Instead of killing the game, Arsenal instead reminded us of their enduring flaws. Nacho Monreal was the offender, skewing a clearance straight to Jean Michel Seri and in two passes, Fulham found a route to goal. Seri located Vietto between the lines, who released Schurrle to dink over Leno.
Not wanting to be left out, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to match Lacazette with a late brace of his own
The pair of forwards celebrated to together as Aubameyang slotted home his first goal of the afternoon at Craven Cottage
In the dying moments, the Gabon striker was played through again and made no mistake to take Arsenal’s tally up to five
At half-time, any score appeared possible. Arsenal had been pegged back and we wondered whether the European exertions may tell in the second-half. Instead, Arsenal’s response to a setback was irresistible. They scored four more, tearing through their opponents with pace and precision. Lacazette, a truly devastating finisher when the mood takes him, allowed the ball to run across his body 25 yards out and he thundered his strike low and hard into the corner.
The substitutes arrived and Fulham’s ordeal intensified. Arsenal’s third was a picturebook goal, involving one-touch tricks from Bellerin, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang as Arsenal travelled from the halfway line to the goal in the blink of the eye. Ramsey applied the finishing touch, with an exquisite backheel.
Fulham were by then a desolate rabble, affording their illustrious opponents too much time and space. Bellerin crossed low, where Aubameyang curled beyond Bettinelli and the forward then ran through in injury time to add the fifth.