Debutants Willian and Gabriel inspire Arsenal to comprehensive win at Fulham in opener
Premier League, Craven Cottage: Fulham 0 Arsenal 3 (Lacazette 9', Gabriel 49', Aubameyang 57')
Gabriel of Arsenal celebrates with his team mates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on September 12, 2020 in London, England.
Debutants Willian and Gabriel inspired an impressive Arsenal to a comfortable 3-0 win at new-boys Fulham in the opening game of the new Premier League season.
Alexandre Lacazette became the first player to score the very first goal of two Premier League seasons when he bundled home a scrappy opener with just fine minutes on the clock to give Arsenal the lead in the sunshine in the capital.
After the break, the fluid Gunners stepped it up a gear, with Willian finding Gabriel with the first of his two assists. The Brazilian defender climbed highest to head home on debut to make it two in the 49th minute, before Willian then picked out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who brilliantly arrowed the ball into the top corner to make sure of the win before the hour mark.
While Fulham provided meek opposition on their return to the top flight, this was seriously impressive from Arsenal, who picked up on where they left off from last season and built on their Community Shield win by making the perfect start to the new campaign.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates with his team mates after scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on September 12, 2020 in London, England
Image credit: Getty Images
There was no place for Mesut Ozil and Emiliano Martinez in the Arsenal squad as their futures remain up in the air, with debuts handed to Willian and Gabriel, with the latter getting away with an early lapse in concentration to allow Aboubakar Kamara in, Bernd Leno coming to the rescue.
That reprieve was made all the more sweet as Lacazette pounced on the loose ball after Granit Xhaka and Willian’s shots had been kept out to give Arsenal the lead from close range.
Fulham, offered very little is response as an attacking force, and needed to start the second half well, but Gabriel’s goal just four minutes after the interval from a Willian corner killed off the Fulham resistance.
Not to be outdone, on the end of a fine, flowing move, Aubameyang picked up Willian's long ball, shifted the ball onto this right foot, before scoring a goal which has become his trademark, curling the ball powerfully into the top corner to put the icing on a excellent performance.
TALKING POINT - Arteta working his magic
He has not had long to instil his methods on the club, but Arsenal are starting to look like a fluid attacking unit again, while not being quite so brittle at the back, and Mikel Arteta has to a great deal of credit for transforming the Gunners at both ends of the pitch.
Playing Willian through the middle instead of his usual wide forward role worked a treat, trusting Gabriel in the middle as part of a back three on debut reaped rewards, while bringing players back from the dead, like the excellent Mohamed Elneny, seems to be Arteta's forte.
Arsenal have much, much tougher matches to come in the next few weeks, and that will be the real acid test of where they are at. Their start to the season, thanks to their innovative manager, could not have gone much better.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Gabriel
The debut looked like it was going to be a nightmare for the Brazilian defender as he allowed a poor back-pass to fall in behind him, but his recovery, capped by a first goal in English football, was remarkable. No player made more tackles or clearances than the former Lille centre-back, but it was his composure on the ball that will have pleased Arteta most.
2’ - MY WORD! Almost catastrophe for Arsenal! Gabriel leaves Ainsley Maitland-Niles' back-pass, Aboubakar Kamara nips in, but Bernd Leno races from his line to smother at the feet of the Fulham striker. Let-off for Arsenal!
9’ - GOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!! Fulham 0-1 Arsenal. Straight down the other end, it is scrappy, but Arsenal won't care one bit as Alexandre Lacazette makes it 1-0. The first goal of the new season is not a pretty one. A simple long diagonal catches Fulham out, Pierre-Aubameyang feeds it across, Granit Xhaka's shot is blocked, Willian then stabs for goal, Marek Rodak makes the save in the Fulham goal, but Lacazette is on hand to tap home the rebound.
28’ - POST! It is Willian, he goes to the goalkeeper's side, whips it towards the bottom corner, but it comes out off the foot of the post.
49’ - GGGOOOOAAAALLLLL!!! Fulham 0-2 Arsenal. The perfect debut for Gabriel as he heads his first goal in English football to make it two. It was another debutant Willian with the corner, Gabriel found himself six yards out, in a congested penalty area, and he could not miss. Surely no way back for Fulham from here?
57’ - GGGGOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Fulham 0-3 Arsenal. It had to be him, didn't it. A 55th Premier League goal for Aubameyang as he brilliantly makes it three. The floodgates are open. Great pass from Willian, who registers his second assist of the game, into Aubameyang, who takes a touch onto his right before firing into the top corner. Super, super goal.
Fulham have lost their last 11 top-flight London derbies – including 10 defeats in the 2018/19 season – the longest ever run by a club in top-flight history.
Arsenal have won on MD1 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009-10 (three in a row).
Fulham have lost on MD1 in three consecutive league seasons for the first time since 2006-07 to 2008-09, losing to Arsenal in the second of those games in 2007-08.
Gabriel is the 10th player to score on his Premier League debut for Arsenal, and the first to do so in an away match since Thomas Vermaelen in August 2009 against Everton.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the first player to score on MD1 in consecutive Premier League seasons for Arsenal since Robert Pires in 2003-04 & 2004-05.