Seven points out of nine would generally encourage optimism. Not at Arsenal.
The consequences of that 2-2 draw at home have been exaggerated.
It could have looked like a defeat, especially as Arsenal were leading 2-1 when Calvin Bassey was sent off for a second yellow card in the 83rd minute. But that was not the case.
Arsenal stutters. But the main reason they failed to eliminate Marco Silva’s well-trained side was Fulham. They were diligent, dangerous and disciplined.
Joao Palhinha was exceptional. Retaining the Portugal international will be Fulham’s most important summer activity.
Arsenal capitulated against Fulham as Joao Palhinha equalized late in their 2-2 draw
Mikel Arteta says his side are ’10 times’ better than they were last season when they pushed Manchester City all the way
However, the Gunners are yet to show their improvements after some tactical tweaks.
But back to Arsenal. Boss Mikel Arteta says his side are “10 times” better than they were last season when they pushed Manchester City all the way.
This does not ring true. Perhaps it was a deflecting tactic or a reaction to claims that his tactical tweaks stifled fluidity.
Based on the evidence from the first three games, if Arteta truly believes his team looks a more accomplished outfit, then he’s wrong. Unconvincing is a more apt description. There was no click. But why?
Players are not robots. Three months later, the emotional remnants of their emotional – but ultimately failed – title challenge will linger.
Another factor behind their suspicious departure is a new tactical arrangement, in particular Arteta’s decision to deploy inverted full-backs.
Thomas Partey started on the right side with a view to moving inside during the offensive phases.
A key element of last season was the forward push provided by Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko supporting Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in wide areas.
Teams evolve; Arsenal do just that.
Gabriel Martinelli insists Arsenal need time to ‘get used to’ Arteta’s tactical change
“We have to adapt, I think it will be easy for us. We just need some time to get used to it,” Martinelli said of Arsenal’s new set-up.
Interestingly, Fulham skipper Tom Cairney admitted: “We talked about it before the game, if Partey plays at right-back but comes in at central midfield and similarly with Zinchenko playing at left-back and coming in, we were aware of these situations.
With that in mind, one wonders if Arsenal would benefit from returning as we approach last season.
Partey doesn’t look comfortable at the back – he feels forced.
The Whites are such an accomplished player that his move to centre-back was easy. But Arsenal seem to lack their presence at the back, where they can have more influence in attack.
There have also been headaches regarding team selection. The ambiguity over Gabriel’s future and his position in the team doesn’t help.
Arteta insists Gabriel’s absence from the starting XI is tactical.
There remains uncertainty, albeit remote, over whether Gabriel will remain at Arsenal beyond Friday’s transfer deadline.
Externally, there is some skepticism as Gabriel has made 98 of 117 Premier League appearances since arriving in 2020.
Mail Sport understands there remains uncertainty, albeit remote, over whether the Brazil international will stay past Friday’s transfer deadline.
Saudi Arabia and Real Madrid have shown interest. The club’s position is that he is not for sale.
But until Friday, Arsenal were preparing to sign a new defender should there be an offer they couldn’t refuse. Marc Guehi, of Crystal Palace, is one of the preferred targets.
If, as expected, Gabriel is still an Arsenal player against Manchester United on Sunday, it makes sense that he would return to the starting XI to allow Partey to return to midfield.
Where would that leave £75m for summer signing Kai Havertz is intriguing. The Germany international felt the anger of Arsenal fans against Fulham.
ARSENAL VS FULHAM MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale 6; Partey 5.5 (Zinchenko 56 mins, 6.5), Whites 6.5, Saliba 6.5, Kiwior 6; Odegaard 6.5 (Jorginho 84), Rice 7 (Jesus 90), Saka 5.5, Havertz 5 (Vieira 56, 7), Martinelli 6.5; Trossard 5 (Nketiah 46, 6.5).
Scorers: Saka 70 (pen), Nketiah 72.
Director: Mikel Arteta6.
Fulham (4-3-3): Leno 6; Head 5.5, Diop 7, Bassey 6.5, Robinson 6.5; Lukic 7 (Reed 70, 6), Palhinha 8.5, Andreas Pereira 7.5 (Cairney 63, 6.5); Wilson 6.5 (Traore 71, 6), Jimenez 6.5, Reid 7 (Adarabioyo 89)
Scorers: Pereira 1, Palhinha 86. Reserved: Bassey, Jimenez, Lukic, Silva.
Director: Mark Silva 7.
Arbitrator: Paul Tierney 6.5.
Many doubted his place and place. At present, these concerns appear to be well founded.
And the injuries didn’t help. As well as Jurrien Timber’s serious knee injury, Mail Sport have learned that Declan Rice’s pre-season has been hampered by a minor calf problem.
There was better news on the injury front here as Gabriel Jesus was introduced as a late substitute after missing the start of the season following knee surgery.
While there is cause for concern, it shouldn’t be at the level that followed this draw.
Beat United and it’s 10 points out of 12 – it’s not really a crisis.