Arshavin 21, Van Persie 26, Baird (og) 37, Vela 84
Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 win over Fulham at the Emirates on Saturday as they ended their disappointing season on a high and cement third place ahead of north London rivals Tottenham.
Arsenal were worthy winners in this one sided contest where the slick passing game seemed to be reinstalled for the Gunners. Both sides contributed to a good game with Fulham having the majority of possession, which has held them in good stead in Europe but it was the sheer speed and guile of Arsenal’s front men that the Cottagers makeshift backline couldn’t cope with. Going into the match Arsenal’s form read no wins in their last five games so must have been delighted when Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer decided to gift wrap the first goal for Andrey Arshavin. From that point there was no stopping them the 4-3-3 formation worked beautifully with Arshavin and Theo Walcott terrorising Fulham’s full backs with their pace, which allowed space for Robin van Persie. Walcott’s final ball was unusually spot on and he created the second and the third goals in a rampant first half. In truth it could have been six with Samir Nasri, Walcott and van Persie all squandering brilliant opportunities.
Fulham were poor but understandably so with the Europa League final this coming Wednesday, one eye was obviously on Athletico Madrid. This showed in the eight changes Roy Hodgson made to his side. With the second choice mid-fielders creating little it was the backup defence who were exposed time and again. Manchester United and Chelsea are the only two sides to win at the Emirates this season who were defensively sound and closed down throughout, but Fulham gave them far too much space and were simply cut to shreds by Arsenal’s creativity. With key players such as Bobby Zamora, Danny Murphy and Zoltan Gera rested Fulham lacked a goal threat throughout the game. On the flip side Robin van Persie showed the home fans what they have been missing with a performance of true class that galvanised Arsene Wenger’s side. All game his vision, flair and movement were simply sublime and ten league goals in just 17 games shows he is one of the deadliest strikers in European football.
For all the criticism Arsenal’s football gets for not being “winning football” this game showed it is simply a joy to watch and why people love the game. Two touch, intricate and high tempo play is a recipe to make any fan drool and pay money to indulge. It was textbook Arsenal and a real football lesson for Fulham in which even some of Europe’s elite have failed to dish out to the Cottagers this season. Arsenal’s back line stood firm all game which has been a problem of late but is still an area that Wenger needs to improve if they are to challenge for the title next season. The likes of Sol Campbell, Mickael Silvestre and William Gallas are ageing and struggle to perform to a consistent level. Overall a disappointing season but a good match for the Gunners that sent the fans home optimistic of grabbing a first trophy in six years next campaign.