Arsenal were looking for a win to make it three in a row. It would have been the perfect start to a season of hope for them.
Nothing works better than a few early wins , which, while soothing nerves also lays down a marker for the days ahead.
They had not lost to their weekend opponents Fulham at Emirates in the last 34 games and the expected victory would have kept them in good shape. But it didn’t turn out as planned.
In an absorbing tussle on a sunny day with late rain, 10-man Fulham managed to escape with a hard-fought draw.
Arsenal concede very early
Fulham could not have asked for a better start. Not even a minute in, they were served a chance on a platter and took it.
Bukayo Saka in possession in the middle of the park and along the sidelines, looked to pass to Thomas Partey who was lined up as a right back. Partey had drifted into the midfield and the errant pass found Fulham’s Brazilian striker Andreas Pereira with acres of space and Ramsdale out of position and back-pedaling. Pereira’s curling shot nestled into the goal. Arsenal had shot themselves in the foot early.
As the Gunners recouped and settled into a rhythm, Fulham fell back and held their positions.
Gabriel Martinelli and Saka kept pushing into the box from the flanks but Fulham managed to keep them out. Many of the efforts were straight at goalkeeper Bernd Leno, and Arsenal looked busy but unable to convert.
The Cottagers had a few chances on the counter and could have added to their slim advantage. Raul Jimenez the ex-Wolves man almost pulled off a bicycle kick, sending it just wide. As it was, Fulham went into the break a goal in front and Arsenal with everything to do in the second half.
Arsenal bring in the changes …
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta withdrew Leandro Trossard at the half and Eddie Nketiah was brought on to add a spark in the box. Arsenal began well and soon were looking the side likelier to score.
At the hour, more changes were made as Aleksandr Zinchenko and Fabio Viera were thrown in to create and occupy more space in the midfield.
In minute 67, Viera darted down the line to touch inside the box where he was tripped up. A penalty was awarded and Bukayo Saka obliged, drawing the Gunners level.
Fulham were now under pressure as Arsenal stepped on the gas. Viera , a relative underperformer for some time, was having a great day. In the 72nd minute, he whipped in a cross from the left flank that found Nketiah with enough space to prod Arsenal into lead.
Fulham go a man down then score
Arsenal continued to attack, while also getting in Jorginho to mange the midfield. As Fulham tried to attack and pushed their midfield up the pitch, an Arsenal break sent Nketiah down the line. Fulham debutant Calvin Cassey blocked him, earning a second yellow and was promptly sent off.
It was Arsenal who were doing all the attack looking to add security to the score line against a 10-man opponent. The Fulham box was under constant threat but they held on.
With the clock winding down, a Fulham drive earned a corner. Off a low dipping cross, Joao Palhinha, Fulham player of the day by a mile, turned in the ball through a narrow crack in the Arsenal defence to restore a parity that remained till the final whistle.
In what could be a long and hard season, host Arsenal would have hoped for all 3 points to keep the title chase on track. This was a mere stutter, which may not be alarming in itself, but it’s one Arsenal could have done without.