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As good Holics do, we were about to leave the ground when we noticed a brand new bar (which had been besieged at half-time) was virtually empty. So we did the obvious thing and carried out a taste test to see whether the Camden Pale Ale at Craven Cottage was inferior to that at the Home of Football. Inconclusive – one of the very few inconclusive things we saw today. 

As I shuffled to the bar (I always slow things up when I’m paying) I came face to face with a very unhappy looking Fulham fan. Being a conversational sort and not wanting to gloat or even reveal that I was an Arsenal fan I made inane conversation about hoping this time next week things might seem a lot happier from a Fulham perspective. (They play United in the sixth round of the FA Cup.) His reply was instructive. “Oh, it will mate, we don’t have to play this lot again. They’re the best team in the league and no one can get near them.” 

It was a source of great pride and satisfaction to see one’s team described like that but today it was a very fair assessment. I watched Manchester City play an inferior team last night (Fulham beat Palace 3-0 at Selhurst) and really struggle to overcome them. Today, we saw a team who less than 72 hours before were locked in battle in Lisbon quash a team that has been one of the revelations of the season. 

The pleasure of the match was immeasurably enhanced by the company of two of GHF’s finest, BtM and Bathgooner and in Holic fashion we prepared for the match by taking lunch in a cheeky Italian eaterie near Putney Bridge. Neither of my companions had visited Craven Cottage before and we were to be ensconced in the new, unfinished Riverside Stand. Two weeks on and we’d have been able to see the Boat Race as well! The Riverside Stand is starting to rival the Sagrada Familia for the time taken to construct it! I didn’t notice Gaudé had signed the architect’s contract.

In truth, it was a good vantage point and we were greeted by the news that Trossard had returned to the starting eleven and Jesús was on the bench. I had been concerned that a return over Easter would lead to the most extensive litany of ‘Jesús returns’ headlines ever seen. His earlier resurrection was both a surprise and an inspiration to his many disciples.

So, to the game. Our team was the usual back five, the usual midfield, with Trossard as a false 9, flanked by Saka and Martinelli. Though having said that, the bewildering interchange involving Zinchenko, Trossard and Martinelli was way too much for Fulham. After an energetic but sterile first ten minutes in which Fulham tried to compress play in the Arsenal half we took the lead in the 16th minute when Xhaka played a fine ball behind Tete and Martinelli tested Leno, formerly of this parish, only to see Leno’s parry bounce in off Robinson. The spectre of VAR soon appeared and the goal was eventually ruled out for offside.

Fortunately, the team was not affected and four minutes later Trossard’s corner was headed in by Gabriel. Fulham put nobody on the post and got outmanoeuvred by Partey and Gabriel for our twelfth goal from a set piece this season.  

0-1, 20 minutes 

We were now massively on top and increased our lead a few minutes later. The goal was notable for the quality of the assist from Trossard. After 18 consecutive passes, beginning on our left midfield flank and progressing to our right defensive flank, the 19th raking pass from Saliba on the right side of our box found Xhaka in space in left midfield. Xhaka advanced towards the Fulham backline then put Trossard in on the left of the Fulham box. The Belgian had little room to work with but put up a steepling cross and Martinelli outjumped Robinson to head it in. 

0-2, 24 minutes 

Confidence flooded through the team. Saliba ended a fierce forward run with a shot that went narrowly over. A great ball by Ødegaard was dummied between Trossard and Xhaka to leave the latter to walk the ball in, but he couldn’t. Trossard sliced just wide after another fine move. Fulham offered little riposte. A conventional striker like Mitrovic gets marginalised in a game where his team has so little possession. Solomon on the left looked lively and speared one ball across goal but even in two long spells of possession Fulham couldn’t ever get into our penalty area. Just before half-time, a lovely break down the left saw Xhaka play in Trossard who fed Ødegaard a long chest-high cross which he controlled effortlessly, went round a defender and bent the ball into the far corner. 

0-3, 45+2minutes 

Half-time came immediately after: Fulham 0 Arsenal 3 

During a comfort break I heard the in-house Fulham magazine bemoan the situation and suggest that “a win was fairly out of the question”. Get away!

Arsenal played a canny second half although the bar was rattled from a right wing cross and Ramsdale didn’t deal cleanly with balls into the box. Mitrovic was totally neutralised except for a fine second half header which smacked the bar and Ramsdale saved from De Cordova Reed. However, Arsenal created the better second half chances, the best of which fell to Jesús who returned 20 minutes from the end to huge relief and excitement. He brilliantly span a defender on the left, fed Vieira who passed the ball back but Leno blocked Jesús’s shot. He threw himself on the floor in frustration. But, in that moment you remembered just how exciting Jesús makes our attack and how hard he works.  Partey produced a couple of filthy pieces of control and strolled through the game like the world’s best holding midfielder, which he may well be and the team exerted complete control despite numerous changes. 

Full Time: Fulham 0 Arsenal 3 

It was a superb performance which showcased just how good we are becoming. We made three or four relatively small mistakes in ninety minutes and they stood out like sore thumbs because the quality of our passing, covering and movement is so excellent. We are particularly good at increasing the tempo to warp speed, catching defences on the hop rendering them unable to cope. Picking a MOTM is an invidious if enjoyable job. Trossard was very effective, Ødegaard quite brilliant in his control of the game, Partey is a sublime monster and Saliba takes your breath away. I think my choice would just be Ødegaard, the metronome of the team but the introduction of Trossard has simply been a triumph of enlightened team-building and we now have so many options with players returning.

These are heady times. Champions League qualification is effectively assured with a dozen games to go but we want, we crave and we deserve the title. 

Fulham is a nice club, a good club and who knows, the next time we play them may be the Community Shield in August! Wouldn’t that be nice? 

44 Drinks to ““Thank goodness we don’t have to play them again””

  1. 1
    OsakaMatt says:

    Excellent report of what seems to have been a happy Holics day trip, thanks TTG.
    Great stuff from the team and though Robinson annoyed me with his early challenge on
    Saka I too wish Fulham all the best next week.

  2. 2
    Lonestar Gooner says:

    Fantastic report, TTG.
    Jealous of your day out!


  3. 3
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Wonderful review TTG! Trossard is my man of the match though, three assists in an away game all coming before the half time is exceptionally rare, for the very good reason it needs exceptional performance. 🙂 But as you said everyone played well, and some like Martin and Saliba standing out more than the others.

    There are lot of aspects of this time that I love, but the most I love is the fact that they will only get better, and better. Love the hunger, the groundednes, the humility that informs all the decision making, love the fact while they are always confident of their own ability they are also respectful of the opposition team’s football and there is no complacency, no lack of preparation, no taking things for granted even when 3-0 up.

    One match at a time!

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    Great report, TTG. It is hard to disagree with your newfound friend, the very unhappy-looking Fulham fan.

    Dr F@3. Trossard’s three assists before half-time in an away game is not just rare in the PL, it is unique.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Superb report TTG. Like you and Ned, I like the sound of what that unhappy Fulham fan told you. And like Dr. F I love it that we are only going to be getting better for the foreseeable future. Oh to be a Gooner!

  6. 6
    ClockEndRider says:

    Superb report of what was at times a superbly one-sided match, TTG. Glad, but not surprised, to hear that the pre-match luncheon was up to snuff.

  7. 7
    BtM says:

    Excellent report on an excellent day, TTG.

    Delighted to see Jesus return at full throttle.

  8. 8
    Ollie says:

    Cheers TTG! Glad you all had a great time. Good undercover job too!
    What a team!

  9. 9
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers TTG! Excellent and evocative report.

    Also a big thanks to Trev for an amusing and entertaining preview last time out.

    It was about time we had a comfortable day out, where we put a team to the sword. It’s been 15 years or more since we saw a team that was such a pleasure to watch. I’m loving it.

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    Superb review TTG. It sounds like you had a great day out at one of my favourite grounds. The football, from the comfort of my sofa, was out of this world. As you know, I was fearing this game. We blew them away with some pacy, swaggering football and an urgency to win the ball back whenever it was lost. I am loving this season.

  11. 11
    Countryman100 says:

    Mike McDonald (who will be at the Emirates for the next two games) shares his view of yesterday’s game.

  12. 12
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s the game I saw too, TTG. Not a surprise really as I was sitting beside you. You beautifully encapsulate a great day out from beginning to end. That first half performance is as good as it gets (apart from failing to finish 2 other gilt edged opportunities) and was a performance of title challengers that displayed desire, focus, self belief, application and talent. It was a huge privilege to see that performance yesterday. We are really quite good now. Arteta and his staff have done a great job on this team. Circumstances may conspire to prevent us securing our 14th league title this season but there is no doubt in my mind that we are capable of it and the future is very rosy indeed (with white sleeves).

  13. 13
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the link @11 C100 👍

  14. 14
    Trev says:

    Great stuff, TTG – love the quotes from the Fulham fan.rr

    It’s a joy to watch this team – not only their play but the way they get on so we’ll together.
    It seems a genuinely happily camp. There must be some who are not pleased to be on the bench but they are hiding it well, if so. The way Arteta has rejuvenated and improved the squad, and the money he has been able to do it for compared with our more flush opponents has been quite brilliant. No small part of that was clearing out the deadwood and some of the deals foisted on him in his early days in the job. Our bench on Sunday illustrated quite what an amazing job he, Edu and, to be fair, the owners have done in the last three years.

  15. 15
    Gooner_KS says:

    TP5’s skill were mentioned in the previous drinks
    (First time uploading a gif so hope it works)

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Gooner_KS @15 thanks for that. Utter filth. I laughed out loud when I saw that live.

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Cheers KS!

  18. 18
    TTG says:

    Thanks for attaching Mike’s link . He is very much back on form after that rather odd missive a few weeks ago , although even then his footballing observations were spot-on
    I very much agree with his views on Partey . We hear from the Northern-obsessed media about Casemiro and how good he is but in my view he’s nowhere near the player Partey is I can’t think of another defensive midfielder of his quality . He took a long time to settle but his breakthrough match was against Citeh last year. Because he is so good he enables us to play the formation we do. I also agree with Mike that we don’t need to start with Saka and Partey against Sporting .
    I’d go with
    Tomi, Saliba , Kiwior , Tierney
    Jorginho , Xhaka
    Nelson Trossard Martinelli

  19. 19
    Sancho Panza says:

    Great reads through out.

    Another reason for our form might be that we have had no red cards this season.

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    Great night for Arsenal at the London Football Awards tonight ( in association with Willow)
    Martin Odegaard was voted player of the year, Bukayo the young player, Mikel Arteta tye Manager of the year and Aaron Ramsdale the goalkeeper of the year
    Bob Wilson will be very proud!

  21. 21
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks KS @15, I thought TP was fantastic start to finish Sunday and he was my MoTM though many played well. And a good point from SP about staying on the pitch too. Talking of that, I thought Xhaka had his best game in a while too, moving the ball quickly and pushing forward more aggressively.

  22. 22
    OsakaMatt says:

    Jesus the Documentary will be coming soon. I thought it was a joke at first, Jesus Returns, Jesus Miraculously Recovers, that sort of thing but apparently not.

  23. 23
    OsakaMatt says:

    I think it might be Rob and Gabriel as the CBs for the SCP game this week.
    But TTG’s XI looks pretty close.

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    Rio Ferdinand as quoted on Leandro Trossard: “Ferdinand added: “Trossard, for me, has been a masterstroke signing. He gives Arsenal that depth in wide areas and up front.
    “Arsenal had Saka and Martinelli producing miracles all season but who can come in if one of them gets injured or needs a rest? It’s Trossard now.
    “He was the one player at Brighton who I was surprised hadn’t gone earlier. Every time I watched him he did something in the game. He’s a Belgium international too.
    “When you talk about wide players not taking risks, this guy takes risk. He gets the ball, he goes forward, he plays one-twos, he dribbles, he takes people on and he can see a pass.
    “He is doing everything and more that Arteta would have wanted from him as a new signing. He’s had a massive impact at Arsenal.”

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    A crushing for the poor old Beeb then. Should of known that Shearer, Lineker and Ian Wright, Wright, Wright we’re all good finishers,

  26. 26
    Las says:

    O, to be a Gooner… what impress me most in this team is not the talent we have now because we had so many talented players even under the late Wenger years. Not even the togetherness as we have seen brilliant team goals in the last ten years. No. The best thing, ok what I enjoy most that I could came out of behind the sofa and able to watch all the games straight. This team can make mistakes but is never falling down. No brainfarting no hapless mindless junping around like heaess chicken. No, this team is not just highly competitive but have steel inside. Not just confident but they know what they are capable and they know how to play close to the edge, always.
    And this is much more than technic or knowledge, MA8 is bourne leader.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@11: Thanks for the MacDonald link. Insightful reading, as ever. What particularly caught my eye this time was his observation about Martinelli being inconsistent in his general play but always having big decisive moments in games.

    OM@25: BBC management has come off looking like milquetoast. CER might like to weigh in professionally on how the BBC should have handled the situation. I am pretty certain it would not be as they did.

    bt8@24: My two cents on Trossard is that he is underrated because he doesn’t look much like a footballer until he gets the ball. When he does, he doesn’t do anything flashy, but he consistently uses it efficiently. Look at his corners, for example. He never seems to take a bad one, either under-hit or overhit.

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Trossard has adapted really quickly and is, as MA said, very smart. Seems to know almost instinctively how to play and where to move in this team but actually I think it’s the result of hard work as well as smartness. He’s a good fit for us and the only downside is his age.
    Of course I don’t give a toss about his age if he helps us win the PL this year, but i guess MA / Edu are always thinking about next few seasons and resale value as well.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Ned, I think several chapters will be written on what the BBC should have done. Difficult to avoid politics in the discussion so I won’t go into it in any detail but the BBC must have known it was a no win situation and their only real advantage is that governments of whatever stripe come and go. Should of played for time as they eventually did. Just my tuppenceworth from far away.

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@29: You are correct that Trossard fits how Arteta wants to play. The Belgian will only be 31 when his contract expires (June 2026). Give him a year’s contract extension in the interim, and he should still be sellable then.

  31. 31
    bathgooner says:

    Especially then, Ned @30 & Matt @28, when he shows prospective purchasers his collection of winners’ medals. 🤞🏻

  32. 32
    ClockEndRider says:

    Ned @27 – trust me, nobody ever employed me to give PR advice! And they were quite right not to!

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@31: absolutely!

    CER@32: :). That makes two of us.

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    I used to give PR advice but most of the firms who asked me have folded since!
    It was a difficult situation on a par with the Bay of Pigs and Suez 😃 but what complicated the situation was clear Government interference . The BBC were heavily leaned on and therefore their ‘ solution’ was not of their own making .The incident is past now but BBC have to clarify Lineker’s status and the principles around his employment. They also have to resist pressure from the Government . Independence works both ways and being seen as lickspittles for the Government is not a good look . Hopefully clarity will emerge from the review where CER is hired at £600 an hour to sort things out. I can return from retirement to be a sub-contractor in extremis . Just saying .

  35. 35
    ClockEndRider says:

    Hear hear, TTG.
    I’ll even give a discount. £590 an hour. Now I can’t say fairer than that……

  36. 36
    bt8 says:

    “Subcontractor in extremis”


  37. 37
    bathgooner says:

    I’m surprised, CER, that you offer a further discount given that the price quoted by TTG already shows a 40% discount on your usual rate. Don’t sell yourself cheap. People don’t appreciate your expertise quite the same when they don’t have to suffer for it.

  38. 38
    Ollie says:

    I can do PR for free. That’s Pathetic Rubbish. I’ll let the pro do the real thang.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@39: Thanks for the link. Wonderful read. The Frears anecdote about the scarf is worth the price of admission alone.

  41. 41
    Bathgooner says:

    I’m in complete agreement with blogs today (https://arseblog.com/2023/03/some-wishful-thinking-sakas-summer-sleep/) that Saka should not be in tomorrow’s starting XI and if possible should not leave the bench.

  42. 42
    Bathgooner says:

    I’m not a great fan of the Ted Lasso show. I think it started well and fell away badly. However that’s a great read, C100 @39.

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    A board restructuring: https://www.arsenal.com/news/updates-arsenal-board
    Josh Kroenke becomes co-chair with his father and Tim Lewis is named executive vice-chair. Is this, as the club says, just formal recognition of roles, or is there more behind it?

  44. 44
    scruzgooner says: