Debutants guide Gunners to opening day win at Fulham
Willian and Gabriel impress at Craven Cottage as Arsenal start the season with a commanding 3-0 victory
12 September, 2020 — By Steve Barnett
ARSENAL 3 (Lacazette 8, Gabriel 49, Aubameyang 57)
BRAZILIAN boys Willian and Gabriel both impressed on their debuts as Arsenal brushed aside Fulham 3-0 in the opening game of the new Premier League season.
Former Chelsea winger Willian had a hand in all three goals at Craven Cottage, while Gabriel – a £27m signing from Lille – capped a man-of-the-match display by scoring.
“I wanted to see my team determined, playing with a lot of energy and doing the things we did in training, and we did that today,” beamed Gunners boss Mikel Arteta after the final whistle.
“Gabriel hasn’t played much football for six months because of the situation in France [with the coronavirus outbreak]. He did very well.”
Arsenal made a sleepy start in the lunchtime kick-off in west London, gifting Fulham the first real chance of the game within the opening three minutes.
Gabriel tried to leave a poor backpass from Ainsley Maitland-Niles for goalkeeper Bernd Leno, but in doing so allowed Aboubakar Kamara a clean run on goal. Leno reacted well to recover the situation, however, as he dived at the striker’s feet before any damage could be done.
The Gunners looked a lot sharper at the other end of the pitch, and took the lead on eight minutes when Alexandre Lacazette struck from close range.
Strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang collected the ball on the left, before playing a pass to Granit Xhaka, who scuffed his shot.
The ball fell fortuitously for Willian, and after the Brazilian’s close-range shot on the stretch was parried by Marek Rodak, Lacazette pounced to tap home into the empty net.
Willian was denied a debut goal again on 27 minutes, this time by the woodwork as his fierce free-kick hit the base of the post.
His compatriot Gabriel enjoyed better fortune in front of goal as, minutes into the second half, he rose to powerfully head home Willian’s in-swinging corner.
Willian chalked up another assist just before the hour mark, clipping a clever pass to Aubameyang on the left, who cut inside before curling a beautiful effort into the far corner to seal a 3-0 win.
After scoring Arsenal’s opening goal of the campaign Lacazette – heavily-linked with a move away from the club before the current transfer window closes – insisted he is settled in north London.
“I am really happy at Arsenal,” he said. “It is only the press and other people that say I am not. I want to play and win titles.”
Reflecting on how Arteta is changing the team, the French forward added: “We want to be aggressive with and without the ball and improve every aspect of our game.
“We have a lot of big ambitions, and I want to help the team to be on top. I know it is my job.”
Fulham: Rodak, Ream, Hector, Odoi, Bryan, Onomah (Cordova-Reid, 75), Cairney, Reed, Kebano (Anguissa, 63), Cavaleiro, Kamara (Mitrovic, 63)
Substitutes not used: Areola, Knockaert, Le Marchand, Christie
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Gabriel, Holding, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Xhaka (Ceballos, 78), Willian (Pepe, 75), Aubameyang, Lacazette (Nketiah, 87)
Substitutes not used: Macey, Saka, Willock, Kolasinac