Fulham vs. Arsenal: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIAugust 24, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal (R) celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mate Olivier Giroud during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on August 24, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal roared back from their humiliating display last weekend with a convincing victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

It was clear from kickoff that Arsenal would not be able to hydroplane in the pouring rain and coast to an easy win over their intracity rivals. In fact, the Cottagers put forth a very stern fight, pressing their opponents in all areas of the pitch and threatening to exploit Arsenal's very attack-minded midfield on the counterattack.

Still, the Gunners were clearly the better side, and though their opening goal was largely the product of luck, it was no less than they deserved.

It emanated from the boot of Olivier Giroud, who has opened the season by netting three goals in as many games after a free-scoring preseason.

A poor shot happened to find the Frenchman's feet inside the box, and he instinctively dinked the ball past a helpless David Stockdale to put Arsenal on the front foot before a quarter of an hour had passed.

As the Gunners continued to put pressure on Fulham's stretched defense, a second goal seemed a distinct possibility. Lukas Podolski supplied the goods a few minutes before halfitme.

After Theo Walcott's shot was parried right back into the danger zone, Podolski followed up with a superb finish from the edge of the box that necessitated power and finesse to guide the ball past a forest of Fulham defenders. 2-0.

Arsenal only improved after halftime, and when Santi Cazorla's fancy footwork placed the ball at Podolski's feet once more, the German made no mistake, blasting the ball below and past a helpless Stockdale to seal the victory.

Despite Darren Bent's consolation goal several minutes later, which reinvigorated Fulham's hitherto demoralized fans, it was obvious that one team was going to claim all three points. Arsenal closed things down in a professional manner to claim their first three Premier League points of the season.

Now that a great deal of the pressure on the shoulders of Arsene Wenger and his players has been lifted—at least for immediate future—let's look at how some of the most prominent players performed.


Aaron Ramsey: A-

The Welshman, who was named Man of the Match, continues to impress and is now well and truly establishing himself as an indispensable member of Arsenal's midfield.

Ramsey's value lies in his rare blend of relentless defensive tenacity and innate attacking skill. Wenger is obviously confident enough in the 22-year-old to deploy him as a holding midfielder in the absence of Mikel Arteta, and his discipline was impressive.

He is the epitome of the box-to-box, all-action midfielder, and he is becoming undroppable.


Dimitar Berbatov: B-

Berbatov is eminently capable of wreaking havoc on his day and has caused Arsenal problems in the past, but he was largely impotent in this game.

Sure, there were the occasional flicks and tricks, and a couple of decent attempts on goal as well—his wayward effort set up Darren Bent's goal. But regardless of whether Arsenal's defense was on form or Berbatov was simply having a poor showing, his profligacy made the Gunners a lot more comfortable than they probably expected to be.


Bacary Sagna: A-

The fact that Arsenal played this match with one fit center-back is wholly inexcusable, but Sagna was excellent in his first full game in the middle of defense.

Granted, he was not facing world-class opposition, but Carl Jenkinson's occasional defensive lulls exposed his right side on a couple occasions, and Sagna dealt with every threat composedly and capably.

The Frenchman's solid, uncontroversial showing in his first full game in the position should not dissuade Arsene Wenger from purchasing a sorely needed center-back before the transfer window shuts, but the manager will no doubt be pleased that he has a very effective option at his disposal in an emergency.


Lukas Podolski: A

Wenger certainly surprised more than a few Arsenal fans and commentators by including Podolski in his starting XI for the first time in this young season at the expense of Jack Wilshere, but the winger, who has been linked with a move to Schalke recently, repaid the manager's faith.

He tends to remain anonymous in some games but was anything but in this one. Both his finishes were those of a striker and a goal poacher: the first a lovely balance of force and precision, and the latter clinical and opportunistic.

Unfortunately for Podolski, Arsenal are actually fairly numerically strong in the position that he plays, but performances like this will surely earn him more starts.


Santi Cazorla: A

Aaron Ramsey was officially named the Man of the Match, but he could hardly feel slighted if Cazorla had received the commendation.

The itty bitty Spaniard was well off the pace and without sharpness last weekend, but seven days have done wonders for him; his touch was immaculate as ever, and the signature passing vision was on display once more.

On several occasions, his twinkle-toed runs and jukes caught Fulham defenders off guard, while he played in Theo Walcott on multiple occasions. Cazorla's shimmying and excellent judgment was the proximate cause of Podolski's important second goal.

He is the sort of player that, when sharp, makes Arsenal fans believe that their team has a chance of scoring simply because the ball is at his feet.