EPL: Perfect riposte

With a commanding performance at Craven Cottage yesterday, Arsenal clinched a 3-1 victory over Fulham to allay fears that they are sliding down a very slippery slope.

Temporarily, at least.

A 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa in their opening game had invited the vultures to circle above a demoralised camp.But, in a show of character, they bounced back in midweek with a 3-0 win over Fenerbahce in a Champions League qualifier.

Saturday's London derby performance confirmed that there isn't a crisis looming on the horizon, as many have made out.

On the contrary, it served as a reminder of the Gunners' quality.Without the marquee signings that were promised, they are still of excellent quality.

At the very least, the present crop still look favourites for a spot among the Premiership top four.

With some luck in the transfer market - and there is still more than a week to go before the window closes - they may yet join Chelsea and the Manchester clubs for a charge at the English Premier League crown.

Fulham were by no means easy meat. Their finances boosted by the arrival of new owner Shahid Khan, manager Martin Jol was able to make several quality additions, including Scott Parker and Darren Bent (on loan). The Gunners, on the other hand, were far from full strength.

Wenger had to do without the services of several players, such as the injured Thomas Vermaelen, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta, and the suspended Laurent Koscielny. Yet, on the enemy turf and in the pouring rain, Arsenal's spirit was indefatigable.

Olivier Giroud, whose mere mention would have triggered a snigger among rival fans last term, drew first blood in the 14th minute with his third goal in as many games for Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey's shot struck the Frenchman, but the ball fell kindly for him to easily beat Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale.

Fulham did well and threatened to draw level. But any hopes of a comeback was snuffed out by Germany international Lukas Podolski, who slammed in a goal in either half to give the visitors a handsome three-goal lead.

To Fulham's credit, they never stopped trying. Substitute Bent eventually grabbed a consolation goal in the 77th minute to make the scoreline look more respectable, but it was Arsenal who emerged with all the plaudits.

The three points will do their confidence plenty of good. It will also boost the team's psychological strength.

This result will buy Wenger some time, but the real clock that's ticking is the one that counts down to the end of the transfer window. At the Emirates Stadium, being good is no longer good enough.

Fans have been starved of success for far too long to be content with simply another place in the Champions League, which they have virtually no chance of winning anyway.

The players have responded to Wenger's call and stood up like men.

It's now Wenger's turn to return the deed and deliver the new signings which can make Arsenal a genuine force to be reckoned with, again.


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