Matchday routines have undergone much change in recent times. Not just due to the Coronavirus for fans who traveled with the team, but also thanks to social media for those of us who watch from afar. Mine has become less elaborate over the years.
No longer do I feel the need to have a lucky Arsenal shirt on, for instance. Nor do I obsess over starting lineups. Instead I obsess over other people on Twitter obsessing over starting lineups.
There was the now sadly predictable absence of Ozil and the equally predictable meltdown over it. The other much maligned midfielder, Elneny starting next to Xhaka got some discussion. Nicolas Pepe on the bench was a source of frustration for many. Particularly those of the fantasy PL persuasion.
Surprisingly not many seemed to care that we were playing a system with 3 CBs with only 2 CBs in the travelling squad. This either means people have faith in Archangel Gabriel, or they didn’t have faith enough to put any Arsenal defender in their fantasy league team.
Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah provided some pre-match drama which later evoked a very Wengerian ‘I didn’t see it’ response from his successor, first team manager, Mikel Arteta. The two of them took an all-smiles photograph together to tell us things were all good. Also, Guendouzi was apparently cheering on the team during the game and he wanted Twitter to know.
Almost straight from kickoff, Arsenal nearly gifted Fulham the opening goal. Leno managed to win the ball just ahead of the Fulham striker from AMN’s backpass. A bit of an escape for a team that looked quite rusty. We did happen to score from a bit of a melee of our own as Xhaka’s shot fell to Willian between two defemders, and his blocked shot rolled to Lacazette. He put it away to become the 1st player to score the opening goal of a PL season twice.
The goal settled our nerves, but it didn’t really bring the game to life. At some points it was end to end, like a basketball game, without ever ascending to being really exciting. Willian nearly scored from a free kick though, and was enjoying being given a free role. His fellow Brazilian was showing himself as a capable one-on-one defender at the other end of the field. The two combined early in the second half to score from a well crafted corner routine. Coach Georgson already having an impact?
The game then got easier and the football a lot more free flowing. Elneny and Xhaka exercised dominance and control, Bellerin and Willian were great down the right, AMN and Auba a little shaky defensively but were an attacking threat. Lacazette was working hard to win the ball back, and make forward runs. Arsenal then decided to recreate the goal against Liverpool in the Community Shield. Some neat passing around the back, a good advantage from the ref for a foul by Fake Hector on Laca, a Willian crossfield ball and a curled Auba finish. Close enough.
Fulham threw on Mitrovic, Anguissa and Cordova-Reid while Pepe, Ceballos and Nketiah got a run out for us. We could have added another goal, but it was basically game over. Clean sheet. Goals for both our main strikers. A set piece goal and an official MoTM award for a young debutant, and 2 assists for the older debutant. Can’t ask for much more than that and Arsenal ended the day top of the league.
There will be tougher battles, there will be changes in the squads, there will be injuries and uncertainty over the pandemic. But all of that can take a back seat for the moment. The Premier League is back, and maybe, Arsenal could be too. 1 down, 37 to go. On to next week we go.
Written by Shard aka @ShardGooner on Twitter