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Arsenal cruise as 9/10 Willian, 8/10 Gabriel impress on debuts

Arsenal began the 2020-21 Premier League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Alexandre Lacazette poked home from close range to give the visitors an early lead with Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rounding off a really strong showing from Mikel Arteta’s men, as new signing Willian impressed with a couple of assists.

Positives

There was a real sense of composure in possession for Arsenal and that was true for them at the back as well as in the final third. Even when they looked vulnerable they didn’t panic under pressure and when they began to rely on quick movement and simple passing, many players looked as fluid on the ball as they have done in years. New signings gave the Gunners fans’ some hope: Gabriel was a rock at the back and Willian’s creativity opened the door for all three goals.

Negatives

Arsenal were quite predictable moving forward in the first half as they constantly searched for the same long ball and, while it did pay off for them in the end, they would have been punished by a better counter-attacking team. The Gunners also left a few gaps at the back from time to time, which invited Fulham to try their hand with some overlapping runs.

Manager rating out of 10

9 — The stacked nature of Arsenal’s squad was always going to invite some questions over Mikel Arteta’s starting XI, but even with no Dani Ceballos or Mesut Ozil, the Spaniard seemed to get his decisions spot on. From his vocal animation on the touchline, to his clear message of not letting your foot off the gas, Arteta appears to have instilled real confidence in this side.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Bernd Leno, 7 — After a hectic first few minutes of miscommunication with Gabriel and a nice low save, Leno really didn’t have much to do against a lacklustre Fulham.

DF Kieran Tierney, 7 — A few instances of poor positional play and frustration off the ball aside, the young Scot put in a gritty defensive shift and showed strong urgency in the opposition’s half.

DF Gabriel Magalhaes, 8 — The new signing looked anxious in the opening stages and almost cost Arsenal with a lapse in concentration. Alas, the nerves didn’t last, and he grew into the game before marking his debut with a goal.

DF Rob Holding, 6 — Misplaced passes played a significant role in Holding’s performance but some fans will only choose to focus on his exceptionally random display of skill in the 49th minute.

DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 — Far too inconsistent defensively whether it be through risky challenges or when he was caught napping. He had some promising moments down the left, but questions will continue to be raised regarding what his natural position actually is.

DF Hector Bellerin, 7 — The Spaniard did pick up a silly yellow card but the manner in which he was able to cut inside and pick out passes was key for the Gunners. He looked better in the second half and his energy levels should breed confidence for supporters.

MF Granit Xhaka, 8 — Fans may pick out his pass to Aubameyang in the first half as a sign of what he can do, but the real benefit to a player like Xhaka is his ability to fly under the radar as a midfield general.

MF Mohamed Elneny, 7 — Fought back against those who felt like he shouldn’t start by working hard, getting stuck in and producing one of his most complete displays in an Arsenal shirt.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 — The popular striker proved why he’s so dangerous even when he’s played out wide by helping to create the first goal before curling the ball beautifully into the back of the net for the third.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 8 — Scored the opener and dug deep all afternoon by constantly fighting for every ball from the first whistle until the last.

FW Willian, 9 — As far as debuts go, this was a pretty special one for the Brazilian after a 100% passing rate in the first half and two assists helped Arsenal pick up all three points.

Substitutes

MF Dani Ceballos, N/A — Found success in his brief spell on the pitch by helping to protect Arsenal’s lead for the final quarter of an hour.

FW Nicolas Pepe, N/A — Didn’t really have enough time to get into the rhythm of the game but did have a nice surge to the byline in the 85th minute.

FW Eddie Nketiah, N/A — Barely did anything of note in what amounted to a quick run out for the youngster.

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