Two Emmanuel Adebayor headers exposed the all-too-familiar failings at the heart of Fulham’s defence that threaten to doom Roy Hodgson’s Fulham rescue project before the new manager’s really got used to the surroundings at Craven Cottage. Again, Hodgson’s charges showed no lack of heart, throwing themselves into challenges and pouring forward in a spirited opening, but the confidence seemed to drain out of the home side once the Togo striker had headed the opener on 19 minutes.
Arsenal’s first goal was simplicity itself. Gael Clichy powered down the left and sent over a perfect cross for Adebayor, who soared majestically before guiding the ball into the far corner with a powerful header. The fact that Fulham couldn’t get close to the ball in or the header illustrated just how porous their defence has become.
The confidence was coarsing through Arsenal now. Fulham still battled, but they were being pushed back by some slick passing from Arsene Wenger’s side. Three times Arsenal came close to extending their lead. Cesc Fabregas sent two soft efforts towards goal but they lacked sufficient power to trouble Antti Niemi and when Adebayor found himself in space again he whacked a shot high into the Hammersmith End.
Adebayor didn’t waste his next chance though. Fulham were again caught out down the flank, this time as Alexandr Hleb raided down the right, and his centre was emphatically headed home by the clinical Togo forward. There was an air of inevitability about the goal as well as the final result now.
The home side did at least come forward and carve out a chance. The impressive Simon Davies carried the ball past a couple of Arsenal defenders and found Danny Murphy with an incisive pass but the former Liverpool midfielder lifted his shot over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area. Half time came and Fulham’s frustration was evident. As hard as they tried, the home side seemed to have little answer to Arsenal’s speedy breaks.
As if to illustrate the point, Arsenal came close to adding a third just minutes after the restart. Croatian striker Eduardo went a mazy dribble that took him past three Fulham defenders and teed up Tomas Rosicky, only for the Czech midfielder’s shot to cannon back off the post. It was majestic football and Arsenal continued to dominate proceedings to such an extent that it was a surprise that it took until nine minutes from time for Wenger’s team to find the net again.
Fabregas, who had earlier spurned a decent chance when he shot wide after Hleb had played him in, was involved in the move, laying the ball off for Eduardo, whose measured cross from was lashed by Rosicky on the volley to add a more realistic look to the scoreline. Without some major repair work, it looks terminal at the bottom for Hodgson and Fulham.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Niemi; Volz, Bocanegra, Hughes, Stefanovic; Smertin (Kuqi 78), Davis (Bullard 45), Murphy, Davies, Seol (Healy 61); Dempsey. Subs (not used): Warner, Baird.
ARSENAL (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Clichy, Gallas, Senderos; Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky, Hleb; Adebayor, Eduardo. Subs (not used): Lehmann, Hoyte, Diaby, Gilberto, Bendtner.
GOALS: Adebayor (19, 38), Rosicky (81).
REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).