Fulham 1-5 Arsenal: Gunners' rampant attack helps optimism return under Unai Emery

Felix Keith
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Fulham FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Alexandre Lacazette scored Arsenal's opening two goals at Craven Cottage (Source: Getty)

“We’ve got our Arsenal back.” That was the chant coming from the away end at Craven Cottage after Aaron Ramsey flicked in his side’s third goal in a 5-1 rout of Fulham.

Ramsey’s improvised finish at the end of a flowing team move was the apex of a heady second half in which the Gunners scored four against a ragged and disheartened home side to wrap up a ninth successive victory.

Unai Emery may have started his reign with back-to-back Premier League defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea, but into the third month of the season positivity is beginning to take root.

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You might not know it from his demeanour, but Emery is delighted in his own understated way. The Spaniard rejected the idea that the performance was his side’s best of the season and – like he has all season – emphasised the bigger picture.

“Today we are happy,” he said. “We are going to continue in our process with this victory.”

Gunners fans believe they have their side back. But at what stage in Emery’s oft-mentioned process are they, and how much can be read into a win over a Fulham team who have conceded a league-high 21 goals in eight games?

Fulham FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Unai Emery may not show it, but he is delighted with his side's recent form (Source: Getty)

One thing is for certain: Arsenal are dangerous in attack. The pace of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck caused Fulham duo Cyrus Christie and Denis Odoi all sorts of trouble; Alexandre Lacazette’s two goals showed he is a lethal finisher from all angles; and Ramsey and two-goal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s link-up play, hunger and intelligence worked perfectly from the bench.

Ramsey’s impact, seconds after coming on, may be an early contender for the aesthetic team goal of the season, but each was pleasing in its own way, characterised by crisp build-up and overlapping full-backs.

The result of filling their boots by the Thames is that only defending champions Manchester City have scored more goals than Arsenal in the league this season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang came off the bench to devastating effect at Craven Cottage (Source: Getty)

But while it was the goals that provided the buoyant mood, it was perhaps another factor of the thrashing which gave Gunners supporters the most heart. Fans have been crying out for a bit of bite in midfield and in Lucas Torreira they might have finally found their man.

The diminutive Uruguayan swept up efficiently, recovering the ball eight times and making six interceptions, with a shoulder-to-shoulder confrontation with Jean Michael Seri sparking a rendition of a personalised song which affectionately notes his lack of stature.

While nine wins is to be celebrated there are caveats. That run has come to fruition against favourable opposition and has included just three clean sheets. And it’s the defence which continues to measure Arsenal’s recent success.

Fulham FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Lucas Torreira has won the affection of Arsenal's fans with battling displays in midfield (Source: Getty)

Emery’s preference to play out from the back has caused some self-inflicted damage, even if Bernd Leno is an improvement on the injured Petr Cech in that aspect. Meanwhile, lapses of concentration – like that of Nacho Monreal’s stray pass for Andre Schurrle’s goal – remain an issue.

Emery has repeatedly stressed the long-term view, and building after Arsene Wenger’s departure was always going to be a gradual process.

Yet following a rocky start, an impressive run has been strung together and with it the old pervasive sense of optimism has returned. For now it’s only the international break that has called it to a halt.