Arsenal 2 Fulham 0: Saint Santi to the Rescue!
Emirates Stadium (Premier League)
Arsenal: Cazorla (58′, 62′)
Arsene Wenger had stated that he wanted his team to produce consistent results against the so-called bottom teams and the opportunity presented itself when a struggling Fulham side visited the Emirates. Despite the fact that everyone was hoping to see Lukas Podolski get some game time against such opposition, Wenger opted for the exact squad that was victorious at Villa Park and I was rather surprised to see Nacho Monreal strut his stuff on the left.
Arsenal threatened from the onset as Bacary Sagna found some space on the right and lofted a cross to Olivier Giroud but Burn rose the highest to head the ball to safety. Arsenal continued their free-flowing football and almost went ahead after some intricate passing play between Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil. The German maestro played the ball past Maarten Stekelenberg but Brede Hangeland was on hand to clear the ball away from the line.
Fulham made a rear foray forward when Dimitar Berbatov swung a cross from the right that was headed away by Sagna. Steve Sidwell latched onto the loose ball and fired a fierce shot at goal but Wojciech Szczesny made a rather unorthodox save. Fulham launched another rear attack through Ashkan Dejagah but Szczesny showed his bravery to anticipate the ball.
Santi Cazorla fired a free kick but the wall did it’s job and the loose ball fell to Sagna that blasted a goalward shot that was parried by Stekelenberg. Giroud fired the ball straight at the goalie in the follow up but he was ruled offside. Serge Gnabry made some space for himself to blast a fierce shot with his left foot but the gaolie made another fine stop. Later in the half, there was a concern for Per Mertesacker when he tumbled into Mathieu Flamini and got a whack on the head.
The second half began with a frantic pace and Fulham almost capitalized on a goalmouth scramble but Giroud made an important defensive block. On the other end, Giroud created a half chance for himself but his shot was straight at the goalie. Gnabry and Cazorla also stung the keeper’s hands with some shots and it seemed as if it was one of those days when the goalie would take all the plaudits for a good performance against Arsenal.
It wasn’t to be a day for Fulham’s goalie as Cazorla instigated a move that saw Ozil and Wilshere exchange passes before he slid onto the Englishman’s deft pass to send the Emirates faithful into raptures. While the fans were basking in the euphoria of getting the lead, Saint Santi latched onto a loose ball from Monreal’s cross to fire a left-footed drive that sailed past the goalie to make it two.
Giroud twisted his ankle after a clash with Sidwell but Wenger decided that it was the Lukas Podolski show when he brought on the German for his compatriot, Serge Gnabry. Within minutes of his arrival, Podolski blasted a shot that was parried by the goalie into the post. Podolski and Ozil worked in tandem to provide a chance for Giroud but his effort went over the bar.
Ozil’s time was up with five minutes left to spare as the boss summoned the services of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He almost marked his cameo appearance with a goal but his header sailed effortlessly over the bar. Right at the death, Darren Bent had a Fernando Torres moment when he successfully evaded the challenge of Szczesny but his effort went wide.
With Manchester City getting an expected routine win over Cardiff, anything less than a victory yesterday against a struggling Fulham would have been a major disappointment. Arsene Wenger would be afforded the chance to rotate his team a bit with the visit of Coventry City on Friday.
Here’s to Saint Santi Cazorla, Arsenal’s hero of the day.
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