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Impressive Gabriel, Auba again and Fulham’s centre-back crisis: Tactical breakdown of Arsenal’s win over Fulham

Fulham vs Arsenal

The first game of the new season, Fulham away and easy three points. The Fulham vs Arsenal was an easy game for us and the Gunners earned a deserving 0-3 win. Arteta decided to take a gamble on Gabriel, who had just arrived at the club and had a couple of training sessions, but the gamble paid off handsomely. As for Willian, we all know what he can bring and he didn’t disappoint either.

Let’s move on to the tactics. With the ball, we played in an unusual 2-4-4 shape which also converted to a 3-2-5 once we took the ball to the opposition half. Arteta started Gabriel, Holding, and Tierney in defence. Tierney was given the license to push high up the pitch with the ball. When Tierney moved up, Bellerin and Willian switched positions, and Xhaka (later Maitland-Niles) covered for him at the back.

Alexandre Lacazette, as usual, dropped deep into the midfield to help Elneny out. Elneny played centrally and tried to protect the centre-backs. His 5 interceptions (according to WhoScored) proved to be vital. Gabriel looked a bit wobbly at first when there was a bit of a miscommunication with Leno and the latter had to step in to stop the team from conceding a silly goal. However, he rectified his mistakes as the game progressed and was amazing in defence keeping Kamara quiet.

Fulham v Arsenal, Willian
(Photo by CLIVE ROSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Willian was also immense on debut, dropping to link with Elneny at times, going wide as Bellerin came in narrow and making wicked crosses across the pitch. His 4 crosses during the Fulham vs Arsenal game (according to WhoScored) were the most by an Arsenal player during. Holding was also granted the freedom to advance up the pitch. Sometimes, he advanced into a couple of dangerous positions which could’ve put the team at risk during transitions but apart from that, he was brilliant. Without the ball, we shifted to the usual 5-2-3 formation.

For the Fulham vs Arsenal game, Scott Parker set his team up in a 3-4-3 shape which transitioned to a 3-2-5 shape once the ball entered our half. He is known to prefer a high press and he did exactly that. Parker wanted to make us feel uncomfortable with the ball and for the first ten minutes, he was successful.

When in possession of the ball, Cairney and Reed formed a midfield pivot in their half, rarely venturing out into the opposition half. Kamara led the attack instead of Mitrovic. Odoi and Kebano were tasked with marking out Maitland-Niles and Tierney respectively, but they couldn’t keep up because Maitland-Niles and Tierney looked to confuse them.

With the ball, Bryan and Odoi made overlapping runs and tried to cross the ball into the box with Bryan making the most crosses (4) for the Cottagers. Without the ball, they shifted to a 4-3-3 formation with Kamara, Onomah, and Cavaleiro leading the press and Kebano dropping to the midfield. I now understand the frustration of Fulham fans when they say that the team has not made any significant investment in defence.

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The first goal was a bit scrappy. Willian’s blocked shot fell kindly to Lacazette, who netted it in from two yards out. This is the second season since 2017/18 where Lacazette scored the first Arsenal goal in a new season, the last time was on his debut at home against Leicester.

The second goal came from a set-piece. Gabriel headed home a beautiful cross from Willian. Another interesting fact – Gabriel is the first defender since Thomas Vermaelen in 2009 to score on debut. The third goal was an Arteta-genre goal. Willian crossing the ball across the pitch and Aubameyang banging it in from inside the box brought me memories of the goal he scored in the Community Shield against Liverpool.

It was an impressive performance from the Gunners in the Fulham vs Arsenal game. However, we should be cautiously optimistic as the season has just begun and there are a lot of games to play but certainly, we can be hopeful.

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