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West Ham United
18 January 2014
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: L. Probert
• Attendance: 60000
Cazorla 57', 62'
That's it from me, Greg Taylor, have a great Saturday night.
Fulham weren't poor today but they were undone by two clinical strikes by Cazorla. Arsene Wenger will be pleased with his sides' performance, not at their best, but good enough to claim all three points.
And that's it, the full time whistle has gone and Arsenal will be staying top of the league.
90' + 5'
CLOSE! Fulham have a free kick from 20 yards out, Kasami hits it well and Szczesny spills it but he grabs it second time. Arsenal survive.
90' + 3'
Fulham have a corner, the cross finds Dempsey but the American can't keep it down.
CHANCE! Darren Bent somehow misses an open goal. He beats Szczesny to the ball, goes round the keeper but his shot goes wide. His fine record against the Gunners should have continued. He stayed down though after his shot and is now receiving treatment after being caught by Koscielny.
Overall Fulham have been good today but Arsenal had a clinical five minutes. Wilshere has looked excellent today, good to see him back to his best. Goal kick to Arsenal.
It's Ozil who makes way for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both are applauded as they depart and enter the field. Kasami replaces Kacaniklic who has shown plenty of potential but will be disappointed with his final delivery today.
FACT: The Gunners are now unbeaten in ten home league matches since the opening-day defeat by Aston Villa, dropping just four points and conceding only three goals.
Good news for Arsenal and England with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain warming up on the bench. Berbatov still working hard but looks frustrated with Kacaniklic, again the young Swede misplaces a pass to the annoyance of the maverick Bulgarian.
This game is now winding down a bit. Both sides know that Arsenal have won, it's damage limitation now for the Cottagers.
Fulham finally see some of the ball, again tidy play by Berbatov and Parker. They have plenty of possession but can't fashion an opportunity.
If things stay as they are, Arsenal will stay top of the league. Will they be there come May? On this evidence they have a real chance. Podolski whips in a great cross from the left but Giroud fails to meet it and Fulham have a throw in.
POST! Podolski hits a sledgehammer of a shot from 20 yards with that explosive left foot of his, but Stekelenburg makes a great save and tips it onto the post. Arsenal want more goals.
Arsenal just spraying the ball about beautifully, with Wilshere and Ozil the chief architects. Who said they wouldn't be title contenders ey?
Arsenal fans can relax, Giroud is back on and seems to be moving well. Podolski replaces Gnabry. German for German, the younger international has been good today.
Darren Bent has just come on for Dejagah. He has a great record against the Gunners. He has scored seven goals in 11 Premier League appearances against Arsenal.
Concern for Wenger and Arsenal. Giroud is down, looks like he's twisted his ankle after a fair tackle by Sidwell. He's receiving treatment. Perfect time for Fulham and myself to catch a breather. Hold your breath Arsenal fans, will Giroud be ok?
Fulham haven't been poor today, but two quality finishes by Cazorla have separated the two sides. Fulham's final ball has been a little poor at times which has let them down.
Well four successive wins before this match, it looks like Arsenal will be going home with three points and a fifth straight win. Fulham must just hang on now, Arsenal look like they're going to score every time they attack.
Goal Santi Cazorla
GOAL! The floodgates are open and it has been coming. Monreal crosses it in from the left, Cazorla takes a touch with his right on the edge of the box, he shifts it onto his left and hits a low and hard drive past Stekelenburg. Marvellous stuff from the Spaniard.
How can Fulham respond? Arsenal are just flocking forward at every opportunity, they want to kill the game off here and now.
Assist Jack Wilshere
Goal Santi Cazorla
GOAL! But not for long, Arsenal finally get the lead they deserve. And it's the Spanish master, Santi Cazorla who has scored it. Giroud finds space in the area, he cuts it back for Wilshere who lays it off to Cazorla to shoot from 10 yards out. Nothing Stekelenburg could do about that, great finish. Relief all around the Emirates.
CLOSE! How, how have Arsenal not taken the lead!? Cazorla floats the free kick into the back post, Gnabry is there, his shot is blocked on the line, then Giroud has a shot brilliantly saved by Stekelenburg and Fulham somehow keep it 0-0.
SAVE! Brilliant, brilliant play by Gnabry. He has looked positive and dangerous all game, he twinkles past a few players in the area and curls a great effort into the far post, but Stekelenburg makes a great stop again and Fulham survive.
Critical for Fulham they keep it tight now, the Gunners are really trying to up the ante. Wilshere surging with pace through the middle he plays Ozil in who cuts it back but Sidwell is there to intercept and play the ball away.
Now it's Arsenal again applying the pressure. Monreal delivers a peach of a cross, Giroud arriving but Hangeland is there to head it away. End to end stuff at the moment.
Fulham break on the counter and a cross is deflected out for a corner. A good ball in falls to Berbatov who drills a cross along the 6 yard box, any kind of touch and they'd score but Gnabry is able to boot it clear.
Can Fulham build on a promising first half performance and continue to frustrate the league leaders? At the moment Arsenal look in full control, whizzing passes about trying to create a chance.
So we're back underway, with Fulham passing it around the back.
Hangeland's return has really stablised the Fulham back four and so far Arsenal have been unable to create a goal scoring chance. Wenger has options on the bench, I'd expect Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain to come on at some point to stretch the Cottagers and inject some much needed pace.
And there's the whistle for half time. Rene Meulensteen will definitely be the happier manager going into the break. His side have looked dogged, robust and creative when they get forward, especially when Berbatov has been involved. He looks like he's in the mood this afternoon.
Gnabry again has another pot shot from distance, Fulham saying have a go then, he does but it flies well wide. He's not shy the boy from Stuttgart.
CHANCE! Delightful through ball by Ozil, he slips Monreal in to cross but his delivery misses every one and Fuham break with Berbatov. The Bulgarian lays it through to Kacaniklic but his second touch is awful and Szczesny is able to get hold of the ball. Berbatov looks pretty unimpressed with his Swedish teammate so far.
Fulham will be desperate to keep it 0-0 at half time. They deserve it after the way they've played. Arsenal now really trying to build pressure before the break.
Arsenal have a free kick after Cazorla is caught by Burn right on the edge of the area. It looks like the little Spaniard will take it. He does, straight into the wall, but the deflection falls to Sagna who hits it well first time but Stekelenburg makes a great low save.
FACT: No team has scored the first goal in more Premier League games this season than Arsenal (16). At the moment Fulham look more likely.
A few groans going around the ground. Arsenal haven't got into their stride yet and until they do Fulham will feel they're well in this game. Again Fulham find space down the left but Kacaniklic's delivery is poor once again and Berbatov is fuming in the middle.
Fulham really are playing rather well. Dejagah looking mighty impressive on the right wing, Berbatov slips him through and he almost beats Szczesny to the ball but the Pole is out quickly to deny him.
Lovely play again by Arsenal. Pinging it around quickly between four or five players resulting in Wilshere dinking a ball into Ozil's path, it's slightly over hit and Fulham have a goal kick.
Arsenal are complaining Fulham are going down too easy. The Gunners just showing a little frustration as we approach the half hour mark.
SAVE! Definitely Fulham's best spell so far. Fantastic effort by Sidwell who is looking to score for the fourth game in a row. The ball falls to him on the edge of the area and he takes it first time on the volley but Szczesny parries it away. Mr. Wenger probably a little uncomfortable right now.
You can see how stunted Arsenal look sometimes without the pace and movement of Walcott. During the run in they'll miss him, but can Oxlade-Chamberlain step up? Fulham see more of the ball again but are unable to create a meaningful opening.
Despite all their possession Arsenal are yet to create another clear cut chance since Ozil's effort. As I say that Giroud turns his marker and gets a shot away in the area, but it goes high and wide.
Parker getting stuck in as usual, a little late on Wilshere. Arsenal have a free kick in a dangerous position from 30 yards out. Ozil to take it. Not a great effort, straight into the wall. He won't get a better placed free kick all afternoon.
Arsenal trying to regain their early rhythm. Ozil again links up well with Gnabry on the edge of the area, the young German plays a one-two with Giroud but again he fires his shot wide. Better from the Gunners.
FACT: Fulham have conceded 46 league goals - 11 more than any other side in the division - and kept the fewest clean sheets (3). Compare that with Arsenal, they have the joint best defensive record in the division, conceding 19 goals in 21 matches and keeping nine clean sheets.
Tidy play again by Berbatov, a lovely cross field ball releases Dejagah who finds Sidwell on the right. His cross is blocked and Fulham get a corner. Not a great delivery and Arsenal regain possession.
Great hold up play by Berbatov, Fulham managing to string a few passes together. I'm sure Wenger will be happy with his side's start so far and what he's seen of the Bulgarian.
The tempo of the game has just slowed a little, which will favour the Cottagers. Arsenal still camped on the edge of the box. Cazorla turns and takes aim but Parker blocks the shot.
Fulham already under a little pressure. They need to try and keep hold of the ball better to stop waves of Arsenal attacks. Gnabry finds space from 30 yards out but drags his shot wide.
CLOSE! Fantastic quick interplay by Arsenal. Gnabry plays a neat one-two with Ozil, who squeezes his goal bound shot past Stekelenburg but Hangeland is there to clear it off the line.
Better from Fulham, they see a bit more of the ball and Monreal is forced into a foul. Fulham have a free kick on the halfway line.
Arsenal already looking very lively, passing it across the midfield with ease. Dempsey, as industrious as ever, trying to intercept play. Sagna crosses in from the right but Burn nods it our for a corner.
And we're off, Arsenal kick off.
The players are out on the pitch, we'll be underway shortly.
Arsene Wenger will be confident his side can win for a fifth league game in a row and keep the pressure up on Chelsea and Man City. But does he need to sign a striker this window? Well Giroud is still fit, and until he isn't it doesn’t matter. But with Walcott out, Bendtner not really world class, he must be scared every time Giroud goes down. Still, could be worse, Chamakh could be leading the line.
Hangeland will also have the job of guiding young Dan Burn through this game. The youngster is making his full Premier League debut in the central of defence, will they be able to help shore up the back four?
Rene Meulensteen will be delighted to have Hangeland back in the defence. It looks like loanee Dempsey will play behind Berbabtov. Some might say this is Berbatov's Arsenal audition, with their shortage of strikers could he prove to be a good short term fix?
FULHAM SUBS: Stockdale, Riise, Kasami, Karagounis, Duff, Hughes, Bent
FULHAM XI: Stekelenburg; Riether, Burn, Hangeland, Richardson; Dejagah, Sidwell, Parker, Kacaniklic; Dempsey; Berbatov
ARSENAL SUBS: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park Chu-Young
ARSENAL XI: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Gnabry, Ozil; Giroud
Before we go any further, let's have a look at how both sides are lining up, starting with the home side.
There are other positives too, Steve Sidwell has just scored in three successive appearances for the first time in a decade. And with Berbatov (who usually raises his game against the big clubs), Scott Parker and Clint Dempsey back, Fulham can probably boast their best side this season.
But are there any positives for Fulham fans? Not really. Their form going into this game isn't great over the last month. They've conceded four goals to Everton, Sunderland, Man City (nothing to be ashamed of) and got hit for six by Hull. But captain Brede Hangeland will make his first league start since October after returning from back surgery in the midweek FA Cup win over Norwich. Can he tighten up the defence and stop them from leaking so many goals?
Having won four consecutive league matches since Christmas, Arsenal are looking good for three points this afternoon. History doesn’t favour Fulham either, the Cottagers have never won a game at Highbury or the Emirates. Ominous. Well there's there's a first time for everything and I'm sure Fulham fans will be hoping for a small miracle today.
Hello and welcome to this afternoon's LIVE play-by-play commentary of the Premier League meeting between league leaders Arsenal and struggling Fulham. My name is Greg Taylor and I'll be guiding you through all the action.
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