Premier League 2018/19: Fulham vs Arsenal
This tactical analysis of Fulham vs Arsenal originally featured on wearethearsenal.uk, another site in our analysis network.
After eight consecutive wins in all competitions, last Sunday was even more successful for the Arsenal. Not only the team won its ninth win in a row but also did it in a smashing way. Unai Emery’s men were flying high and cracked Fulham’s defence scoring five goals, with final result 5:1. The team couldn’t manage to keep a clean sheet this time too, but I guess no one is going to be too mad about it.
The Gunners owned the pitch on Craven Cottage supported passionately by their fans. It’s safe to say that Fulham had a chance as the score was 1:1 at the half-time, but once again an inspired second half by Arsenal didn’t give their opponents any chance to leave with a point.
It doesn’t mean the Cottagers weren’t trying but the team effort that their opponents put into their defensive performance was good enough to block their attempts. The Arsenal players were well positioned and focused. It looks like Fulham had way more opportunities in front of the goal but don’t let the stats fool you as most of the “conceded goal opportunities” were desperate chaotic shots from outside the box as the opposition couldn’t get into it easily.
But what has been so good about Arsenal’s performance and why the Cottagers failed to defend their goal?
The Arsenal has now 10 different goal scorers this season in the Premier League and it’s getting better in the other competitions with three more. Their attacking power is definitely not a one to worry about. This time the main men Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored four goals (x2 each) and Aaron Ramsey added a miraculous one 38 second after coming on as a sub.
We already know how good Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are but they proved it once again making the few doubters left, believe it too. Each of them has scored four goals this term helping the team on the road to these nine consecutive wins. Aubameyang wasn’t among the starters this time and Laca had Danny Welbeck alongside him, which proved effective too, as the Englishman delivered for the second goal.
The Frenchman opening goal in the first half was the 150th in his club career. The Gunners took the lead after a well-worked move and brilliant finish by Lacazette. Fulham left some gaps and failed to stop the threat from the left, as Iwobi shifted the ball onto Monreal and he made a cross to Laca.
The second strike was a pure beauty as Laca didn’t hesitate to shoot from outside the box. It all started from the left where Welbeck won an aerial duel and delivered to Laca who gave Bettineli no chance to react.
Then 15 minutes later Emery changed Welbeck for Aubameyang and Iwobi for Ramsey and it proved crucial. Both had an immediate impact on the game. They both scored and assisted after coming on – never before in Premier League history have two subs done that for a team in a single game.
— Arsenal (@AFCvideosHD_) October 7, 2018
It all started with Ramsey coming on and ended up with a goal of the season contender 38 seconds later. A classic Arsenal move up the pitch full of one-touch passing skills and flicks, ending with Auba providing the ball for a perfect back-heel from the Welshman. That’s what Arsenal was all about in the past – amazingly beautiful football and it was nice to see it coming back.
Later on, Fulham’s defence was completely demolished with Aubameyang scoring two more with some help from Hector Bellerin and Ramsey.
Aubameyang tried to free himself while Mkhitaryan spread the play to Bellerin on the right. He ran on the flank and then made a cross to Auba who was already in front of the goal and delivered another clinical finish after spinning from his marker.
This looked like a simple one. Odoi made a mistake to try and defend Ramsey which led to Pierre sneaking behind his back. Ramsey showed his skills once again with a nice outside-of-the-foot pass to the Gabonese who freed himself, made a run towards the goal and completely destroyed the goalkeeper Bettinelli.
Despite being destroyed at the back, Fulham had some good opportunities too. The team’s front three was causing trouble but most of the times Arsenal’s defensive transition was good and Fulham found a solution in long distance shots. Or at least this was their only option.
Cyrus Christie was the only one (apart from the front-three) in the Fulham’s team that pulled off quite a solid performance. He delivered on multiple occasions with some lovely early crosses for Mitrovic. But the Serbian failed to find the goal as he often sent the ball off target. In this picture, you can see him trying something different and instead of passing to Vietto he found a solution in a great through pass to Schurrle, which was eventually intercepted.
At the end of the first half, Sessegnon started to have an influence on the game as he showed great awareness to intercept. Right after one of his efforts, Monreal’s clearance was picked up by Seri who quickly released Vietto. Schurrle made a good run across the defence and after a perfectly measured pass to him and a lovely finish he made it 1:1. Monreal couldn’t react quickly enough and get back on position which resulted in Fulham equalising.
In here Xhaka and Torreira didn’t realise that there is no support from the back and none of them picked up the ball. It was crucial as Vietto was there to exploit the free space and get the possession.
He then made a run to the edge of the box with Torreira and Xhaka not able to reach him. He was able to dribble and shoot dangerously but Leno made a great save to prevent the team going down in the third minute.
“He comes from Uruguay, he’s only 5 foot high”
You know exactly who this chant represents. Lucas Torreira’s performance proved why he deserves the starting XI spot. He was very efficient, especially during the first half. The Uruguayan ended up with 8 recoveries; won 7/9 duels, made 6 interceptions, 2 tackles and sent 2 accurate long balls.
Defensive transition improvement
Despite conceding one goal I should admit that this was one of the best defensive performances since the start of the season as the team was playing as one, and surprisingly Bellerin’s actions upfront didn’t cost the team a lot of gaps on the left. As I mentioned the defensive transition was on point with so little spaces left that it made Fulham’s attack think of a different solution than trying to go in deep.
The person that changed the way the defensive line looks like is definitely Rob Holding. Once he started playing there was a huge difference. He managed to make to clearances, one interception, blocked two shots, won half of his duels and sent 4 accurate long balls. With a fairly solid defensive performance from Mustafi and Bellerin too, the back-four confidence reached the needed level. With the only mistake coming from the right as Monreal’s clearance was picked up from the opponents. Bellerin made two clearances, two successful tackles, blocked one shot, won 6/11 of his duels. But his performance in the final third impressed too as he dribbled past his opponents on a few occasions, made a couple great crosses and ended up with an assist for the fourth goal.
It was an end-to-end stuff as both teams didn’t waste time in a lot of midfield actions. They were trying to expose each other on a counter-attack and Arsenal managed to exploit the free spaces in Fulham’s three-man defensive line. The Gunners managed to use the spaces between the lines too as they often used the lapses during the transition from midfield to defence. I should mention that this all happened without Mesut Ozil playing. There was no sign that he was missing as Mkhitaryan did a perfect job making his first start in PL since August.
Although the Cottagers have some class players up front they lack the perfect finish so far. It is clear that their problems come from the back but if they manage to score even half of the opportunities they create it’s definitely going to pay off.