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Arsenal 4-1 Fulham: Emery’s men wins the first game of the year with comfort as Aubameyang nets to top goal scorer list

Far, far too much room for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the right-hand side of the Fulham box and he’s picked out by Sokratis. His shot takes a deflection off Tim Ream and loops over Sergio Rico and into the net. And that will seal it. 

In the immediate aftermath of Arsenal’s opening goal, the television cameras did not pan to the dugout, where Unai Emery appeared relieved or to the terraces, where supporters embraced.

Instead, they cut to Fulham’s young winger, Ryan Sessegnon, who trudged upfield, with his head bowed and a forlorn look to the ground. Granit Xhaka had provided the breakthrough but Sessegnon had previously held this game in his grip and deep down, the teenager will surely know this.

Twice in the first-half, Fulham cut through a dreadful and anxious Arsenal defence and twice the 18-year-old spurned opportunities that he will surely gobble up every day at the training ground.

MATCH FACTS AND STATS

Arsenal (3-4-1-2): Leno 6; Mustafi 5 (Torreira 45, 6), Sokratis 6, Koscielny 5.5; Maitland-Niles 6; Guendouzi 7, Xhaka 6, Kolasinac 7; Iwobi 8 (Saka 83); Lacazette 7 (Ramsey 75, 6), Aubameyang 7.5.

Subs not used: Cech, Elneny, Lichtsteiner, Nketiah.

Goals: Xhaka 25, Lacazette 55, Ramsey 79, Aubameyang 83

Bookings: None

Fulham (3-4-3): Rico 7; Odoi 6, Ream 6, Le Marchand 5.5; Christie 5 (Fosu-Mensah 56, 6), Cairney 6.5, Cisse 6 (Seri 61, 6), Bryan 6; Schurrle 5.5 (Kamara 61, 6.5), Mitrovic 6, Sessegnon 6.

Subs not used: Bettinelli, Johansen, Ayite, Vietto.

Goals: Kamara 69

Bookings: Fosu-Mensah

Referee: Graham Scott 6

The first opportunity came in the 18th minute and it was the kind of chance we have seen Arsenal concede on so many occasions over the years. Overcommitted to attack both in numbers and in mind, Fulham raced upfield on the counter-attack and after Aleksandar Mitrovic cushioned the ball back to Tom Cairney on the halfway line, the Fulham captain instantly weighted a low pass to the run of Sessegnon on the inside right channel.

He sped the distance of the Arsenal half, beyond his cast of heavy-legged pursuers but confronted by the whites of the goalkeepers eyes, he opened up his body and curled wide.

Greater trauma was to follow. As Cairney spread the play for Andre Schurrle, the German crossed delightfully for the unmarked Sessegnon, who, with the goal gaping, missed his kick entirely.

Within moments, the ball was in the Fulham net and with it, their hopes of an unlikely victory greatly diminished. The Arsenal goal was well-worked, as Alex Iwobi cut in from the left and picked out the run of Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder had ambled in on Cairney’s blind side and slotted the ball past Sergio Rico easily.

WATCH HIGHLIGHT

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