Arsenal: Convincing 3-1 Win over Fulham Should Help Restore Fan Confidence
What a difference a week makes for Arsenal Football Club.
After a thoroughly demoralising and frankly embarrassing 3-1 defeat hosting Aston Villa on opening day, the Gunners inflicted the same scoreline on Fulham—their hosts on Saturday afternoon—in a commanding performance.
It was a convincing team performance in which outstanding individual performances scattered from the back to the front combined to give Fulham no chance of taking any points from the encounter.
Arsenal were an utterly different side to the one that fell to Aston Villa.
Gone were the majority of mistakes in possession—there were very few clumsy errors on the ball, very few wayward passes.
Also absent, for the most part, was the team-wide habit of allowing gaps for a counterattack, where previously positional errors had handed the Villans' front three chance after chance to besiege Wojciech Szczesny's net.
Once more, Aaron Ramsey was spectacular. Having played with such confidence and strength in Istanbul in midweek, the Welshman was reliable and metronomic in Mikel Arteta's stead for the second time in as many games.
Building on the Fenerbahce display, his tireless display on Saturday will only instill more confidence in him from his manager, teammates and fans alike.
We also witnessed a vintage performance from Santi Cazorla—the Spaniard was in fine form, making the darting runs, incisive passes and manipulating defenders in the way he did so consistently and successfully last campaign.
His showing at Craven Cottage was no different, as both he and Ramsey put Fulham's midfield corps to shame.
Special mention should also go to Arsenal's defensive unit, with particular credit going the way of Szczesny and makeshift centre-half Bacary Sagna.
Szczesny was Arsenal's saviour at times, making a crucial double-save in the first half to keep his club's lead intact.
This effort reinforced his subsequent saves for the rest of the game—although the Cottagers tested time and again, with Adel Taarabt especially making a nuisance of himself for his hour of play, Szczesny's goal remained impenetrable.
Spearheading the attack, the triumvirate of Lukas Podolski (with his first two goals of the new season), Olivier Giroud (marking his third goal in as many games) and Theo Walcott all enjoyed a productive and successful afternoon.
With Podolski's place at Arsenal being subject to some real speculation over the last week or so, this fine performance from the German international should go some way to settling those rumours.
The Daily Mail's John Drayton described Podolski as being "out-of-favour" on Thursday, but his brace in London should ensure that particular phrase disappears for the time being.
Theo Walcott also gave an excellent supporting performance which featured a couple of his trademark blitzing runs complemented with visionary passes and accurate crosses to create plenty of chances.
All in all, it was an Arsenal side high on confidence and firing on all cylinders. The second half, especially, was for the most part a Gunners showcase.
Despite Darren Bent's consolation strike for the hosts, there was little Fulham could do but stand aside and let Arsenal steal the show.
Who was Arsenal's man-of-the-match against Fulham today?
So what does this mean for Arsenal now?
One look at today's bench tells you that Arsenal cannot cast their eyes away from the transfer market for a moment—Arsenal having to field youngsters Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem, however talented they may be, points to a serious lack of depth in the squad.
Not only is this an issue that has been present and feared all summer, it's an issue that is still unresolved.
Even if Arsenal were missing some key players—notably Laurent Koscielny through suspension—Arsenal's squad are, by themselves, simply not strong enough or large enough in football terms to take a long-term fight to the top clubs at the moment.
Of course, as always seems to be the way with Arsenal, transfer-related drama seems ready to pop up in the dying days. The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson recently published spectacular rumors surrounding the Real Madrid pair of Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema.
At this stage of the window, and with the season in its infancy, any reinforcements will do Arsene Wenger's squad a world of good.
Arsenal need new bodies, exciting talents to join the Emirates, and they need them as soon as possible.
A win today was just what the Gunners needed. And with new signings, Gunners fans can rest a little easier hoping that Arsenal can continue their late-season form of last year into this new campaign, while ignoring that blip against Aston Villa.
Until the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, however, Arsenal fans can remain confident that the current squad still have the capability to cross town and take a win in enemy territory.
What did you make of today's game? Join the discussion—drop me a comment below, or follow me on Twitter @callumlarr.
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