The result seemed comfortable but wasn’t for most of the match, even as the Gunners got a big win. What did we learn?
1. Arsenal are a defensive disaster
What on earth is wrong with Arsenal Football Club? Their inability to defend is almost laughable. Sure, they won handily against Fulham. In the end it wasn’t close, but that was only in the end. For 78 minutes this match was bizarrely a genuine contest.
At no point did you feel Arsenal were secure in their lead. Their first two goals both carried with them a sense of relief, because there was a sensation that Fulham could score at any time. And when they did get a goal back, you could feel the panic in the Emirates.
Obviously they are suffering with injuries so are forced to play the withered husk of Laurent Koscielny alongside walking blooper reels like Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, but that should be no excuse for a coach like Unai Emery. The Spaniard has taken frankly inferior back-lines to Europa League glory, so Arsenal being as wide open as London streets on Christmas Day is absurd, confusing and troubling.
2. Sessegnon needs shooting practice
Ryan Sessegnon is obviously a bright spark, a sensational prospect whose ability could see him rise to the very top of the English game. But all his performances for Fulham seem to do is highlight his flaws. The call for youngsters to get minutes is loud and long, but the quality of those minutes is just as important.
Playing every game in a relegation scrap may really help a hardened centre-back but a tricky winger like Sessegnon may find the minutes to be worthless because he isn’t spending enough time in shooting positions. The result of that? When Sessegnon gets chances in games, he can often rush shots because he simply isn’t used to them.
There were two huge errors like that against Arsenal. He missed a 1v1 with Leno and a sitter from five yards out all in the first 23 minutes. The shot from five yards out was especially bad as he didn’t even connect with the ball, kicking at thin air when he should have easily slotted home André Schurrle’s sublime cross. Sessegnon is obviously a sublime player, just look at his assist for Fulham’s goal, but he is clearly in need of some serious shooting practice so that he can produce.
3. Lacazette the leader
Alexandré Lacazette is a magnificent no. 9. He holds the ball up brilliantly, he links with his team-mates wonderfully and he can finish lethally. Essentially he is an ideal all-around striker, a perfect goal-getter for the modern era.
So why isn’t he constantly starting for Arsenal? And why, when he does start for the Gunners, is he nearly always taken off? It makes no sense for your most accomplished centre-forward to be treated like this; even if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the club’s primary goalscorer.
Alexandre Lacazette has been directly involved in 30 Premier League goals from Arsenal:
🔴 51 games
⚽️ 21 goals
🅰️ 9 assists
A phenomenal return! pic.twitter.com/h5cyB0rE36
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2019
Today Lacazette bagged a beautiful goal to make it 2-0, but when Fulham pulled a goal back it was he who was removed to allow Arsenal to get a hold of things again. This drew a chorus of boos from the Emirates, but Lacazette’s reaction to being hoiked showed his qualities as a leader. He didn’t sulk, he had his head up and began applauding and cajoling the fans to make more noise. Boos turned to applause and Arsenal’s mood was lifted, all because Lacazette didn’t sulk about being subbed.
4. Kamara’s wild week
Aboubakar Kamara has had one hell of a few days for Fulham. Just a few days ago he defied Claudio Ranieri’s orders and took a penalty off Aleksandar Mitrovic (a penalty he then went on to miss), causing much controversy. Sure, the miss didn’t cost the Cottaggers as they did win 1-0 anyway, it showed a lack of discipline (although Ranieri’s comments about wanting to “kill” Kamara seemed a tad harsh).
Fulham’s fans were so irate that they even took to social media to hurl so much racial abuse at Kamara that Fulham had to step up as a club and demand that they stop. But then today just a few days later, he came off the bench against Arsenal and scored a goal.
A wonderfully-timed back-post run that left the entire Arsenal defence wondering what was going on and gave Fulham real hope of a comeback for 10 minutes. It showed the ability of the youngster, and why he had the confidence to take the penalty off Mitrovic in the first place and capped a truly wild week for Kamara, who went from one extreme to the other.
5. Kolasinac’s up outweighs his down
Sead Kolasinac is a bad, bad defender. Obviously no one at Arsenal is really good at defending, but Kolasinac is particularly terrible at defending his own box. This was seen on numerous occasions against Fulham, but most notably for the goal where he sort of just stood around and watched Aboubakar Kamara run into the box and nab a tap-in.
The reason why no Arsenal fan will be overly concerned with his defending tonight, however, is that he is an incredible attacking force. A freight train who doesn’t so much dribble by opponents as run in a straight line with such speed and size that opponents almost just get out of the way rather than try to physically challenge this enormous man.
Both Arsenal’s second and third goals came as a result of Kolasinac’s direct running and sharp play on the left. The Bosnian got the assist for Lacazette’s strike and it was his cross that caused the chaos which led to Aaron Ramsey’s sharp finish. It’s clear that Kolasinac is an attacking player, even if appears on squad lists as a “defender.”