Arsenal registered their sixth consecutive Premier League victory with an emphatic away victory over Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham side in Sunday’s early kick-off.
There were braces for both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while Aaron Ramsey impressed off the substitutes’ bench too – with a goal and assist.
German winger Andre Schurrle, who equalised for the hosts on the stroke of half-time, found himself on the losing side against the Gunners for the first time. With that in mind, here are five players who experienced contrasting fortunes during this affair:
#5 Flop: Marcus Bettinelli
It was certainly a day to forget for the 26-year-old, who only made two saves and conceded five goals here. It’s the first time he has done so since April 2016 against Brighton in a Championship fixture and although it’d be harsh to attribute blame on him for all goals, he should be unhappy about his individual performance.
Lacazette’s first goal was a brilliant finish, where he spun Tim Ream and slotted home at Marcus’ near post – wrongfooting him in the process. But his second goal, as sweetly struck as it was, the Englishman should have done better to stop. He got fingertips to it but was unable to connect with a strong hand, where he otherwise would have pushed it past the post.
As for Ramsey’s backheel, again, that’s a moment of individual brilliance that you cannot always legislate for. It cannoned in off the far post. Aubameyang’s first goal was nicely teed up for the Gabon international but again, Bettinelli got fingertips but could not parry it to safety.
It would have been damage limitation from Bettinelli’s perspective, as there was genuinely nothing he could have done to stop at least two of Arsenal’s five goals – but keeping the hosts in the game for as long as possible with important saves would have helped them in their pursuit of an equaliser after the half-time break.
#4 Hit: Aaron Ramsey
Okay, an honourable mention here for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who came off the bench, scored twice and created one too but somehow doesn’t feature in this top five. Not enough space!
Much has been discussed regarding Ramsey’s existing contract situation, as his deal expires next summer and the Welsh midfielder is yet to agree terms on an extension in north London.
With inspired performances like these, not least off the substitutes’ bench, it’s difficult to argue against Arsenal doing all they can to retain his services in the coming months.
Admittedly, the 27-year-old has been far from his best in numerous matches at times in recent months, not least during Arsene Wenger’s final days as manager. However, he always manages to turn up and excel during games like these – where he can display his quality, unselfishness and the capabilities which saw him crowned the club’s Player of the Year in 2013/14.
It’s clear that he’s mirroring Mesut Özil with his contract stance, keeping supporters and critics sweating over what the final decision will be, but an excellent backheel finish and assist off the substitutes’ bench are enough to justify why plenty of clubs are circling in anticipation.
#3 Flop: Jean-Michael Seri
Given such fanfare over his £25m arrival from Nice over the summer, you’d be right in thinking this type of match against top opposition is one where Jean-Michael Seri looks to flourish, displaying his quality.
Here, he was comfortably ineffective and struggled to impose his ability on a match where Fulham really needed him to, particularly after Schurrle levelled the scoring and Arsenal retook the lead.
Efficiently squashed by Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira in midfield battles, the 27-year-old persisted in getting touches on the ball (77) and playing forward, but his partnership alongside Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is not blossoming just yet.
Unsurprisingly the Cameroon international was replaced on the hour mark and Seri was left to pick up the pieces, though he left a lot to be desired defensively with only two completed tackles during the 90 minutes. Two key passes, a foul committed and 80.6% passing accuracy, his display was not an awful one but not good enough for someone of his abilities.
#2 Hit: Hector Bellerín
A wing-back? An unorthodox winger? It’s becoming clearer with each passing week that although criticism of Hector Bellerín defensively is warranted, his attacking capabilities are impressive and he utilised them to great effect here.
He set up Aubameyang for Arsenal’s fourth, a deft flick proved instrumental during the build-up to Ramsey’s backheel finish and he could’ve had a goal of his own – having forced Bettinelli into a diving stop from range.
He completed two tackles, two interceptions and blocked a shot too, in a busy afternoon for the Spaniard. Naturally, there’s still room for improvement as his decision-making can often prove baffling and deliveries into the dangerous areas are inconsistent – but this type of performance will provide him some much-needed confidence with matches coming thick-and-fast.
#1 Hit: Alexandre Lacazette
He created one and could have scored a hat-trick himself during the Gunners’ 2-0 win over Watford last weekend, but made no mistake with his efforts this time out.
His first was well-taken, having taken a brilliant touch to send Tim Ream one way and create space for himself to strike, wrongfooting a helpless Bettinelli at his near post. The second was hit sweetly and with more aplomb from range, blasting the ball towards the bottom corner despite the Englishman’s best efforts.
It’s a welcome goalscoring display from a striker who has been unlucky not to score on a handful of occasions already this term, whether that be through his own eagerness or poor finishing at vital moments.
Crucially, he didn’t shy away from his defensive duties either – two tackles, one clearance and two fouls committed just proved he was more than happy to track back to help teammates out of possession. He only completed one dribble, having been fouled on three separate occasions, which just proves how tough he was for Fulham to continuously keep tabs on throughout, before being replaced by young compatriot Matteo Guendouzi with 10 minutes to play.
With games against Leicester, Crystal Palace, Sporting Lisbon twice (Europa League) Liverpool and Wolves all coming up in the next few weeks, supporters will be hoping this performance boosts the Frenchman’s confidence after an encouraging start to the campaign.