FULHAM 0-3 ARSENAL
- Goals: Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m), Gabriel (£5.0m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m)
- Assists: Willian x3 (£8.0m)
- Bonus: Gabriel x3, Willian x2, Lacazette x1
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) delivered for his legion of FPL owners with a second-half strike in Arsenal’s Gameweek 1 3-0 win at Fulham.
Despite a quiet first half, the premium midfielder curled home a goal very reminiscent of the strike he netted against Liverpool in the Community Shield last month.
Crucially, it was Aubameyang’s switch in position that made his Gameweek 1 outing satisfactory for his 1.5 million captainers. A combination of a goal and yellow card would have made for just five points last season, but reclassified, it afforded him a total of seven, considering Arsenal kept a clean sheet.
There was some concern over Aubameyang’s positioning in the opening period, which saw him operating rather wide and tracking back a lot. Aubameyang’s defensive duties were a far from ideal development, not just because it initially limited his attacking threat but also because it meant he had to make several “forward’s challenges” on the opposition, earning him a first-half yellow card.
Furthermore, Aubameyang’s opening day goal was severely overshadowed by a surprise monster haul from new signing Willian (£8.0m), who is surely set to become the bandwagon midfielder for Gameweek 2.
The former Chelsea man was not even expected to start at Fulham, having missed most of Arsenal’s pre-season campaign. But he came straight into the side, displacing the in-form Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) and registering a hat-trick of assists. It could have been an even bigger haul for Willian, who hit the post with a free-kick in the 27th minute.
Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) was another unexpected starter, at the expense of Eddie Nketiah (£6.0m), and he opened the season’s scoring in scruffy style. The Frenchman tapped home after Marek Rodak (£4.5m) saved an effort from Willian.
“[Lacazette] is in my plans. He is a player that I like a lot. But he has Eddie [Nketiah] on his back, or next to him I would say, he’s gonna push him and whoever is in better shape is going to play. The same for the rest of the team.” – Mikel Arteta
“It was the best way to start the season. We wanted to win and have a clean sheet and respect what the coach wanted. Everyone is happy. He wants us to be perfect. We worked in the week for this kind of game. We have a lot of big ambitions. I want to help the team to be on top, I know it is my job. I am really happy [at Arsenal]. It is only the press and other people that say I am not. I want to play and win titles. We want to be aggressive with and without the ball and improve every aspect of our game.” – Alexandre Lacazette
Willian was again the provider at the beginning of the second half, with centre-half debutant Gabriel (£5.0m) heading home his corner.
And he bagged a hat-trick of assists when Aubameyang converted his cross-field pass in the second half, the premium midfielder cutting inside Denis Odoi and curling home.
“With Willian I knew the performance would come straight away.” – Mikel Arteta
As a result, Fantasy managers are targeting Fulham’s defence for attacking returns moving forward. They face Leeds next, who exploited Liverpool’s well-documented ongoing defensive issues at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
Despite impressing with the ball in spells, the Cottagers were suspect in defence at Saturday lunch-time. There was too much space afforded to an unmarked Lacazette for the first goal, Gabriel rose unchallenged in the box for the second and Aubameyang found it too easy to cut inside the right-back for the third.
Michael Hector (£4.5m) denied the FPL midfielder a brace by clearing an Aubameyang shot off the line in the 79th minute, as the Cottagers struggled to keep the scoreline respectable.
Reflecting on a tough opening day for his side, Scott Parker told the BBC:
The big lesson today is to understand the fine margins in this division mean you can get punished. At this level you have to be clinical and make teams pay and on the flip side the first time they get in our box and they score. I didn’t like the second half as much. The second goal was a poor goal. At that moment we have to understand how crucial it is and I felt we were a little bit weak and accepted it. When you are a team like us that has come from the Championship you can’t let defeat after defeat really cripple you. We are going to lose more than we win but as a team you have to keep learning and developing. It has been a quick turnaround for us. We have brought players in that will improve us and hopefully there will be more. We need to get them up to speed quickly. Set plays are vitally important. We looked a little accepting. There is a realism here. Teams that struggle in this league are teams that let things get to them. We may lose two or three on the bounce, the important thing is to not let defeats get to you.” – Scott Parker
Arsenal admittedly almost conceded instantly after an early error from Gabriel, who had not played a competitive match since March. The defender allowed an Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.0m) back-pass to go by him, which nearly saw Aboubakar Kamara (£5.0m) get on the scoresheet but the FPL midfielder was denied by quick reactions from Bernd Leno (£5.0m).
However, beyond that, it was a relatively routine clean sheet for the Gunners as Arteta continues to transform them at both ends of the field.
While Gabriel will take plenty of headlines for his goal, Arsenal’s shut-out was, in part, earned in no small part by Rob Holding (£4.5m), who operated on the right-hand side of Arteta’s back three and is looking increasingly comfortable there. On the defender and defensive midfield team-mate Mohamed Elneny (unpriced), the Arsenal manager told BT Sport:
“Elneny is a player who has been excellent in training from day one. He’s a player I know well, having played with him. Rob (Holding) is another one is exactly the sort of player we want at the football club. He had a difficult time but he worked really hard in training. He’s playing really well.” – Mikel Arteta
There remains one slight caveat with Arsenal’s defence moving into Gameweek 2. While they were assured at Craven Cottage, Fulham did not offer very much going forward. It was Kamara who started up front for the hosts as popular FPL asset Aleksansdar Mitrovic (£6.0m) found himself on the bench following a slight injury from international duty.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Bryan, Ream, Hector, Odoi; Reed, Cairney; Cavaleiro, Onomah (De Cordova-Reid 75′), Kebano (Anguissa 63′); Kamara (Mitrovic 63′).
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Leno; Tierney, Gabriel, Holding; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka (Ceballos 79′), Elneny, Bellerin; Aubameyang, Lacazette (Nketiah 87′), Willian (Pepe 75′).
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 1
- Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 0-1 Newcastle United
- West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Chelsea
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