Arsene Wenger's men survived a testing 90 minutes to secure
their eighth win in 10 Premier League outings and continue their charge
to finish in the top four
Arsenal managed to eek out a tight victory at Fulham and move back up into third in the Premier League table, courtesy of a goal from Per Mertesacker.
Steve Sidwell’s early red card, the Gunners struggled at a sun-bathed
Craven Cottage but secured the win thanks to Mertesacker’s first-half
The hosts made four changes to the one that
collapsed at home to west London rivals Chelsea while for Arsenal, Nacho
Monreal and Tomas Rosicky returned in place of English duo Kieran Gibbs
and Jack Wilshere.
The early minutes saw the Cottagers struggle
to even get a touch of the ball against a confident-looking Arsenal at
The visitors possession was almost total and
Fulham’s frustration showed when Sidwell earned himself a red card on 12
minutes for an over-the-ball challenge on Mikel Arteta.
former Chelsea and Aston Villa man was only just making his return from a
previous three-match suspension and he really could have no complaints
about referee Andre Marriner’s decision.
However, despite that
unexpected boost, the Gunners struggled to create openings and on on 20
minutes it was Fulham who went closest to breaking the deadlock.
surging run from Urby Emanuelson saw the Dutchman dissect the visitors’
backline with a reverse pass that fell perfectly for Dimitar Berbatov.
However, the Bulgarian could only direct his close range-effort straight
at Wojciech Szczesny.
Indeed, it took until the 27th minute for
Mark Schwarzer to be called into action when the veteran Australian made
routine saves from first Aaron Ramsey and then Theo Walcott.
initial openings were followed by Arsenal’s first real opportunity when
Olivier Giroud collected a Santi Cazorla pass well and fired across
Schwarzer only to find the outside of the post.
continued to threaten on the counterattack and Emanuelson forced
Sczesney into a sprawling save after showing good strength to win the
ball back off Monreal.
With two minutes of the half to play, the Gunners finally made their numerical advantage count.
was caught sleeping from a Walcott free-kick and that left Laurent
Koscielny free to nod across goal for central-defensive partner Mertesacker to stoop in for the opening goal.
second half started in much the same fashion as the first with a
buoyant Arsenal controlling possession without really causing much a
threat, though Ruiz scooped a close-range free-kick over the bar for the
In the glorious spring sunshine, the Gunners looked
content to simply pass the ball around Fulham in the second half without
exerting real pressure on Mark Schwarzer.
Australian showed good reactions to rush out at the feet of Walcott when
he looked set to latch onto a Cazorla pass.
The Gunners’ were
almost made to pay for their rather casual approach when Szczesny palmed
away a Ruiz free-kick into the path of Stanislav Manolev to tuck away
the rebound. However, the Bulgarian’s celebrations were pulled up by a
correct offside flag.
In the closing minutes, Giroud earned
himself a straight red-card for a poor challenge on Manolev, but Arsenal
held out fairly comfortably for the win.