Alexandre Lacazette 9/10 as Arsenal thrash Fulham at Craven Cottage
Arsenal extended their winning run to nine matches but also produced by far their most convincing performance of the season to thrash Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage.
Alexandre Lacazette was the cornerstone of the victory, producing two expert finishes either side of a strike by Andre Schurrle when the match still seemed in the balance. But the highlight of the match was Arsenal's stunning third goal.
Immediately after coming on as a substitute, Aaron Ramsey produced a superb flick to win possession and Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hector Bellerin contributed clever touches in a sweeping team move that culminated in Ramsey guiding the ball home in off the far post with a sumptuous back heel.
Substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had supplied the assist for Ramsey and he claimed the fourth and fifth as a storming finish catapulted Arsenal into third place.
"We've got our Arsenal back," chanted the away fans and while that may be slightly premature, this was the most convincing iteration we have seen of Emery's Arsenal yet -- the superb performance they had been missing despite a lengthy winning streak. The tireless Lucas Torreira built a platform in midfield and Arsenal's work-rate and quality elevated them to a new level. The attack functioned beautifully.
Nacho Monreal's mistake for the Fulham goal was proof this side still has a defensive lapse in them. It is also cause for regret that a player so abundantly talented as Ramsey looks likely to leave the club for free.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Emery went in search of better attacking balance and found it as he deployed a 4-4-2 after flirting with a 3-4-3 in midweek. It resulted in a much more cohesive and impactful approach. Even his subs were a success, with both Ramsey and Aubameyang scoring and assisting from the bench. If this is a vision of Arsenal's future under Emery, it is an exciting one.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 6 -- Was called into action just three minutes into his first league start when making a fine reaction save to deny Luciano Vietto. But he couldn't keep out Schurrle when the German dinked the ball over him.
DF Hector Bellerin, 8 -- Suffered an early lapse with a terrible pass in the opening three minutes but was rescued by Leno. Had a fierce drive repelled by Marcus Bettinelli in the second half and grew into the match, playing a role in the Ramsey goal and then assisting Aubameyang for the fourth.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- Avoided calamity and even put in a few solid challenges before seemingly rolling his ankle when landing awkwardly on 57 minutes. Battled on though.
DF Rob Holding, 6 -- Was outmanoeuvred for the Fulham equaliser as he was caught on his heels when the defence was sliced open.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- Conjured up an assist for the opening goal with a precise cross but Monreal also helped set up Fulham's equaliser with a poor pass out of defence.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 7 -- Nothing as concrete as a goal or assist but he proved his worth on his recall to the league XI with some clever moments, not least with his perfect pass for Aubameyang to cross in for Ramsey.
MF Lucas Torreira, 8 -- A fantastic first-half performance helped Arsenal establish their initial superiority as he tackled tenaciously, battled brilliantly and sniffed out every loose ball. Had a big impact.
MF Granit Xhaka, 7 -- Overshadowed by many of his teammates but the Swiss kept things ticking over. Benefited from having Torreira alongside him.
MF Alex Iwobi, 8 -- He fully deserved a league start and didn't disappoint, giving another confident and classy performance to continue his rejuvenation under Emery. A nutmeg on Schurrle was especially pleasing and he was also involved in the build-up for the opener. Enjoying his football, and it shows.
FW Danny Welbeck, 7 -- The England man was rewarded with a league start as he came in for Aubameyang and his movement and pace made him a useful foil for Lacazette in the front two -- especially when setting up his second goal with a cute header. Combined well with Iwobi on the left too but had to go off with a knock.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 9 -- This was a masterful centre-forward display from the Frenchman. Two predatory finishes after sharp turns showed he is bursting with confidence and his all-round performance was excellent as he thrived in a front two.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (for Welbeck, 62), 9 -- Two goals and an assist in half an hour. A brilliant impact.
MF Aaron Ramsey (for Iwobi, 67), 8 -- Scored what could be Arsenal's goal of the season just 39 seconds after coming on and also assisted the fifth.
MF Matteo Guendouzi (for Lacazette, 81), NR -- Didn't have to do a great deal.