Thierry Henry turned a vintage display as Arsenal annihilated Fulham at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The French forward was virtually unplayable up front as he helped breathe new life in the Gunners’ European ambitions. His goal alongside one from Emmanuel Adebayor meant that the points were safe by half-time and Arsenal rubbed salt in Fulham’s wounds with two more in the closing stages – a second for Henry was swiftly followed by a fourth from Cesc Fabregas. In truth, it could have been many, many more as Fulham ripped apart.
Such was the frustration in the Fulham ranks that Zat Knight and Moritz Volz nearly came to blows as they engaged in a heated argument at the end of the first half. Only Tony Warner emerged with any credit from a chastening afternoon – making a string of magnificent saves to just about keep the scoreline respectable as Arsenal enjoyed the perfect warm-up for Wednesday’s Champions’ League meeting with Real Madrid.
Arsenal’s indifferent away form – and Fulham’s record of nine wins from thirteen games at Craven Cottage – might have made this a bit of banana skin for the Gunners but they were in complete command from the off. Henry’s movement pulled Fulham’s centre backs all over the pitch and he darted out to left to receive an Abou Diaby pass enroute to scoring the first goal. The Frenchman breezed past Volz and lashed a rising drive past Warner at his near post.
Within four minutes, the visitors had doubled their lead. Adebayor made the front from a central position to the left flank and Ljungberg supplied a sumptuous pass that bypassed Volz. The Togolese striker steered a smart finish into the far corner – and the rest of the afternoon was a stroll for Arsenal.
Fulham, fired up by a furious Coleman at half-time, did briefly put Arsenal under pressure at the start of the second half. Emmanuel Eboue had to stretch to avert the danger posed by Volz cross and Jens Lehmann made a good reaction save to thwart Brian McBride after Steed Malbranque had unlocked the visiting defence. But the Gunners were irresistible going forward and looking like scoring in every attack. Henry and Ljungberg were tormenting former Arsenal full-back Volz and a trademark run from the Frenchman culminated in his low ball trickling right across the face of goal.
Adebayor fluffed a great chance from close range before Warner saved brilliantly at the feet of Alexander Hleb and somehow kept out a deflected cross from Ljungberg with his legs. The former Liverpool goalkeeper was eventually beaten again by Henry thirteen minutes from time as the Frenchman clinically converted a perceptive pass from Ljungberg. The fact that Henry received a standing ovation from the home supporters when he was substituted six minutes from the end underlined just how sensational his performance was.
Fabregas rounded off Fulham’s misery when he rifled home a cross from Mathieu Flamini. This was a chastening afternoon for Coleman, whose charges appeared dazed by the majesty of Arsenal’s football and powerlessness to do anything to prevent this thumping.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner; Volz, Rosenior, Knight, Goma; Elliott, Malbranque, Radzinski, Boa Morte; Helguson (John 61), McBride. Subs (not used): Crossley, Bocanegra, N. Jensen, Elrich.
ARSENAL (4-4-2): Lehmann; Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini; Ljungberg, Diaby, Silva, Hleb (Fabregas 79); Adebayor (Bergkamp 72), Henry (Reyes 84). Subs (not used): Poom, Djourou.
GOALS: Henry (31, 77), Adebayor (35), Fabregas (86).
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire).