Arsenal came out 3-0 winners against Fulham on the opening day of the new Premier League season with Mikel Arteta naming his first lineup of the new league campaign, so did he get it right?
Despite the resounding win, there were some questions around the starting lineup before the match. In particular, Mohamed Elneny starting was a surprise, as was Nicolas Pepe’s exclusion and the use of three at the back without William Saliba involved. Mikel Arteta explains Saliba’s absence here.
Then there was the usual Mesut Özil and Matteo Guendouzi ongoing saga, with neither in the squad.
It’s fair to say the players on the pitch answered the critics, though. Three at the back is generally thought of as a more defensive formation, but Arsenal dominated the chances and the xG stats.
The front three all had at least a couple of shots each, as the team proved deadly on the transition and the wing-backs pushed up regularly. Technically starting at centre-back, Tierney’s role was closer to that of a traditional full-back in possession.
There were no problems creating, and the only real chance for Fulham was through an individual mistake, not a system problem.
Individual performances justify Arteta selection
Gabriel’s unexpected start ahead of Saliba went really well. After an early miscommunication, he was almost faultless, particularly in the individual duels. He also completed 95% of his 113 passes, and scored a goal to cap it all off.
Similarly, Willian didn’t disappoint taking Pepe’s place on the right. He provided two assists, hit the post, and his rebounded shot led directly to the opening goal as well.
Elneny wasn’t one of the outstanding performers on the day, but he was still very solid. He was most effective in making interceptions with four, more than anyone else on the team.
The rest of the team performed well too, and I don’t think there were too many complaints about any of them pre-match.
We’ll hope to see the likes of David Luiz and Dani Ceballos in the side soon enough, but the circumstances were certainly understandable. With what he had to work with, Arteta put out a strong side that got the job done.