Seven weeks is a long time in English football. Back in August, Unai Emery was presented with a gruesome statistic: after two opening defeats, he had made the worst start to life as an Arsenal manager since Thomas Mitchell in 1897. Now the historical comparisons are not so much positive as emphatically fawning.
Arsenal have won nine or more in a row under only three previous managers — Herbert Chapman, George Graham and Arsene Wenger — and that trio all share in common top division titles.
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Bettinelli, Christie, Odoi, Ream (Kamara 54), Le Marchand, Seri, Anguissa (McDonald 62), Vietto (Johansen 83), Schurrle, R Sessegnon, Mitrovic
Subs not used: Ayite, Sergio Rico, Mawson, S Sessegnon
Scorers: Schurrle 44
Booked: Vietto, Schurrle
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi (Ramsey 67), Welbeck (Aubameyang 62), Lacazette (Guendouzi 81)
Subs not used: Martinez; Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Kolasinac
Scorers: Lacazette 29, 49; Ramsey 68; Aubameyang 79, 91
Referee: Paul Tierney
Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette was clinical against Fulham, grabbing his second with a volley from outside the box. For more from Sportsmail’s brilliant
The ticker-tape and the statues remain in a distant, imagined future for Emery but which Arsenal supporter would not be a little bit giddy after this demolition? After all, if Arsenal can do this after only a few months under Emery, how good might they become once he has been afforded more recruits and the necessary time on the training field?
‘I don’t think this was our “best”,’ Emery said. ‘We can get better. I want our fans to feel every match is a special day and show we are improving with our quality, our winning mentality, our commitment.’
Emery’s team were a delight here, responding emphatically to Fulham’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time by scoring four goals in the second-half without reply. Glorious goals, too. Both Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey scored goals that belonged in the happiest days of the Wenger era and the league table makes for happy reading too, with Arsenal back in the top four and within touching distance of a title race.
So for Emery, the portents are good. They are good not only because his team attack with abandon but also because they have rediscovered a resilience that appeared alien to recent Arsenal teams.
In the latter Wenger years, Arsenal might have faltered here. Away from home, having arrived home at 5am on Friday morning from an 8,000km round trip to Qarabag, his starting XI deprived of several key players, including the injured Mesut Ozil, as well as the rested Aaron Ramsey, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the ingredients were in place for a tricky afternoon for Emery.
Instead, Emery’s decisions were vindicated at every turn. His selections raised questions. The muscular Sokratis seemed suited for a high-octane bout against Aleksandar Mitrovic, but instead Rob Holding played and coped admirably. Both Ramsey and Aubameyang would be obvious starters for most games, but Alex Iwobi played and was Arsenal’s most dangerous creative force, while Danny Welbeck started alongside Alexandre Lacazette and his movement electrified the Arsenal front line.
When the starting XI required bolstering, Emery’s substitutions were timed perfectly, as Ramsey scored within three touches and 39 seconds of his arrival and Aubameyang then added the gloss with two of his own goals.
Arsenal’s challenge was aided by a Fulham team still coming to terms with life at this level. Fulham play with a frenzied anxiety. At their best, this manifests as a thousands miles per hour attacking football, with frantic pressing, speedy counter-attacks and sumptuous interplay.
Yet the tempo also undermines Fulham, with passes misplaced in important areas and their defence ragged. The cold evidence of the Premier League table shows only one victory and the most goals conceded in the Premier League.
For Slavisa Jokanovic, their manager presented with over £100m worth of players this summer, the situation is worrying. ‘When you put coins in the cake, you can break your teeth,’ the Serbian has mused and it only added to the sense his task may have been complicated rather than aided by the summer splurge that saw 12 players join his promotion-winning squad.
Jokanovic said: ‘We spent the money because we trust we can find some kind of solution, but the solution is only in my head right now.’
For all that, Fulham ought to have taken the lead. Hector Bellerin conceded possession sloppily in his own half and Luciano Vietto scuttled towards goal and his deflected strike appeared to have deceived Bernd Leno, only for the German to raise a claw at the final moment.
Arsenal grew in composure and authority. Iwobi was to the fore, finding gaps from the left side and releasing Welbeck, whose low cross narrowly eluded Lacazette. Iwobi broke free once more, teeing up the overlapping Nacho Monreal, who found Lacazette, and the Frenchman fired into the corner.
Instead of killing the game, Arsenal instead reminded us of their enduring flaws. Nacho Monreal was the offender, skewing a clearance straight to Jean Michel Seri and in two passes, Fulham found a route to goal. Seri located Vietto between the lines, who released Schurrle to dink over Leno.
At half-time, any score appeared possible. Arsenal had been pegged back and we wondered whether the European exertions may tell in the second-half. Instead, Arsenal’s response to a setback was irresistible. They scored four more, tearing through their opponents with pace and precision. Lacazette, a truly devastating finisher when the mood takes him, allowed the ball to run across his body 25 yards out and he thundered his strike low and hard into the corner.
The substitutes arrived and Fulham’s ordeal intensified. Arsenal’s third was a picturebook goal, involving one-touch tricks from Bellerin, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang as Arsenal travelled from the halfway line to the goal in the blink of the eye. Ramsey applied the finishing touch, with an exquisite backheel.
Fulham were by then a desolate rabble, affording their illustrious opponents too much time and space. Bellerin crossed low, where Aubameyang curled beyond Bettinelli and the forward then ran through in injury time to add the fifth.