On Saturday, Arsenal hosted newly-promoted Fulham. However, their status as recent returnees belied their impressive start to the season. Marco Silva’s men arrived at the Emirates undefeated in three matches, having already faced Liverpool, Wolves, and Brentford. In line with their surprising quality, they took the lead early in the second half. But Arsenal rallied to pull off a 2-1 win and maintain their perfect start to the Premier League season. Below are three Hits and three Misses from an inspiring victory.
The captain was once again magnificent on Saturday. Most of the match’s consequential attacks went through him, and he played some lovely passes to create clear goalscoring opportunities for his side. Of particular note was a terrific ball over the top to Gabriel Jesus in the 15th minute, as well as a similar pass to Eddie Nketiah later on in the game. Odegaard also displayed a better willingness to shoot, and notched an equalizer only eight minutes after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s strike. With three goals in two games, the Norwegian maestro is truly leading by example.
On a day when the man he replaced returned to the Emirates, Ramsdale needed to be at his best. And despite a frustratingly good performance from Bernd Leno, the English keeper showed why Mikel Arteta had made him Arsenal’s starting keeper. In addition to his usual aptitude on the ball, Ramsdale was called to action multiple times. He rose to the occasion, making some top class saves and helping Arsenal to all three points. During a tense affair, the 24-year-old produced a highly reassuring performance.
Nketiah came on rather early for an Arteta substitution in the 61st minute. But the Englishman well and truly seemed to help change the course of the match. Immediately following his introduction, Odegaard scored to level the match. Nketiah was involved in many of the attacking moves in the final half hour, combining well in buildup and looking rather silky on the ball at times. His movement often confounded Fulham’s defense, and he ended up in some good scoring situations. He didn’t find the back of the net, but Nketiah showed during his cameo that Arsenal have more than one dangerous striker.
Because he ended up redeeming himself with the winner, consider this something of a half-miss. But Gabriel’s inability to control Saka’s pass and properly get rid of the ball resulted in Mitrovic’s goal. It also is symptomatic of a larger issue in the long term: of Arsenal’s center-backs, only Rob Holding is less able to play out from the back than Gabriel is. This is not to say that Gabriel is not decent on the ball, he is. But he has demonstrated repeatedly that he is more prone to making mistakes than the likes of White and Saliba in possession. It’s no cause for alarm, but rather something to monitor moving forward.
With Zinchenko out, Tierney took over at left-back on Saturday. While he looked decent and Arsenal dominated possession, he didn’t really adapt to the slightly refined role that his Ukrainian teammate has reinvented. Tierney tucked into midfield with Mohamed Elneny, but didn’t possess the same range of passing that has unlocked things for the Gunners’ left side this season. Where Zinchenko would play a deft ball, Tierney often aimed to carry the ball himself, often slowing buildup down. Tierney might get another chance on Wednesday, but he will need to improve if he is to win back the starting job.
The celebration police
It might have been naive to think we had seen the last of the celebration police. After a thrilling 85th minute winner that saw Arsenal hold on to pole position in the Premier League, you could forgive the Gunners for celebrating the victory. Yet still, that is over the top for some. A particular lieutenant of the celebration police this time is beIN Sports’ Richard Keys. Keys, while attributing Arsenal’s victory to an own goal and a gift from “Jay Leno”, bitterly complained about Arsenal’s jubilation after the match. The sheer contempt inspired Nigel de Jong to step in and argue on behalf of Arteta’s men. Unfortunately, Keys and many others do not understand that it’s not about beating Fulham; it’s about the bond between a steadily progressing team and the supporters who are backing them to the hilt.
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