Premier League - Cazorla double secures Arsenal win over Fulham

Premier League, Emirates Stadium – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 57, 62) Fulham 0

A double from Santi Cazorla saw Arsenal record a 2-0 win against Fulham at the Emirates Stadium.

As expected, the league leaders began in the ascendancy and could have been a goal up inside the first minute but Mesut Ozil scuffed his effort following an incisive move.

However, Arsenal failed to push on and were then indebted to the reflexes of Wojciech Szczesny, who had to be alert to palm away a Steve Sidwell volley after 25 minutes

Spurred into action, Arsenal upped their intensity but struggled to carve out clear cut-chances - yet should have taken the lead with 38 gone.

Olivier Giroud followed up Bacary Sagna’s saved volley from a free-kick and looked certain to score but Maarten Stekelenburg somehow managed to get to his feet and repel the point-blank effort, as the sides went to the interval level.

Arsenal opened the second half with far more intent as Serge Gnabry and Laurent Koscielny passed up two very presentable opportunities in the same phase of play before Cazorla struck.

The diminutive playmaker first arrived late to slot a square Wilshere pass past Stekelenburg on 57 minutes before collecting a loose defensive header on 62 minutes and driving a left-footed effort into the far corner from the edge.

Arsenal could – and probably should - have added to their tally but the win keeps their title challenge fully on track, with the most notable contribution of the closing moments of the game coming in the form of a shocking Darren Bent miss with the goal gaping.

KEY MOMENTS

2 – Ozil chance - Ozil is fed inside the box but drags his effort wide. Great ball from Wilshere.

25 – Sidwell volley - Berbatov races down the right and sweeps it into the box but Sagna heads clear. Sidwell meets the clearance on the volley and Szczesny has to palm it away.

38 – Double stop - Cazorla takes the free-kick and lashes it into the wall. It breaks to Sagna who draws a parry from Stekelenburg and Giroud looks certain to open the scoring but Stekelenburg manages to get up and make the double stop.

56 - Double miss - Cazorla swings a free-kick to the far post that Sagna fires back across the box. A Fulham players clears but it falls to Koscielny who misses from six yards. The ball then falls to Gnabry who sees his effort blocked.

57’ – GOAL - Cazorla comes off the left and feeds Giroud, who in turns finds Wilshere inside the box and Cazorla continues his run to meet the square ball from Wilshere and open the scoring.

62’ - GOAL - Monreal is in acres down the left here but his cross is poor. The headed clearance from Hangeland falls to Cazorla, who instantly takes a touch and fires past Stekelenburg from outside the box.

89 – Bent miss - Darren Bent misses a sitter. Good grief. He gets to a ball over the top before Szczesny and while the angle is tight, there is no reason why he should miss from there.

[MATCHCAST - Full match commentary and stats]

KEY STATS:

This is Fulham’s 15th loss in their first 22 PL matches – since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995/96, no side has survived relegation when losing 15 or more of their first 22 PL matches of a season.

Santi Cazorla’s last seven goals in all competitions for Arsenal have all come at home.

 Fulham have now conceded 48 goals, the most ever by a non-promoted side in the PL after 22 matches. It is the most by a non-promoted side in the top-flight since West Brom’s 53 goals conceded after 22 matches in 1985/86.

Arsenal win for the fifth consecutive match in the Premier League (home and away), for the second time this season (also won five in a row between 24 Aug and 28 Sept). Their total of 51 points is the best Arsenal have had after 22 matches since ‘The Invincibles’ of 2003/04 (52), alongside 2007/08 and 1932/33 (also 51).

TALKING POINT: Can this Arsenal side claim the title? There is no doubt that Arsenal are serious contenders. No doubt. They are winning all sorts of games and after a poor start put Fulham to the sword. This is the stuff of champions.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal): A double from the diminutive playmaker to cap another fine, inventive display.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Arsenal: Szczesny 6, Sagna 6, Mertesacker 6, Koscielny 6, Monreal 5, Flamini 6, Wilshere 7, Cazorla 8, Gnabry 6, Ozil 6, Giroud 6. Subs: Podolski 5, Oxlade-Chamberlain 5.

Fulham: Stekelenburg 6, Riether 6, Burn 5, Hangeland 5, Richardson 5, Dejagah 5, Sidwell 5, Parker 5, Kacaniklic 4, Dempsey 4, Berbatov 5. Subs: Kasami 4, Bent 4 .