A young Arsenal reserves side were taught a footballing lesson by a strong Fulham outfit in a one-sided affair at Motspur Park this evening.
The inexperienced Gunners went down 3-0 to the Cottagers, who fielded a strong line-up including Giles Barnes, Julian Gray and Diomansy Kamara. There was no real sign of a fightback from Neil Banfield’s side but this exeperience is surely one which they will learn from in the future.
Banfield made four changes from the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa last Monday. James Shea came in for Vito Mannone in goal to make his reserve debut, whilst Jack Wilshere, Amuary Bischoff and Mark Randall came into the midfield in place of Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Fran Mérida.
It was a tight start to the game with both sides looking to get a feel for proceedings. Arsenal created some decent openings early on but failed to take their chances; Randall nodded on from Wilshere’s in-swinging corner but there was nobody on hand to steer the ball into the net.
Amaury Bischoff, operating on the right-flank, played a neat one-two with Sunu before hitting a tame shot on goal which didn’t really test David Stockdale in the Cottagers’ goal.
At the other end, James Shea was beginning to impress after a shaky start. The Islington-born stopper did well to tip a Wayne Brown shot past the post and then tipped Barnes’ cross over the bar.
There were occasional moments of reprisal from Arsenal with Wilshere linking up well with Randall but again the resulting shot was poor.
The Gunners were just about hanging in there at the break, but in the second period Fulham upped the tempo and left their young opponents for dead.
There was a sign of things to come when Barnes curled a free-kick towards goal, from which Shea made a stunning save.
Fulham took the lead just three minutes later and, not for the first time this season, it was a set-piece which proved to be Arsenal’s downfall. A corner was whipped in from the left, Cruise inadvertently nodded it down and
centre-back Adam Watts was on home to smash in the opener.
Just two minutes later the advantage was doubled. Kamara, who had cut a forlorn figure on his return from injury up until this point, played a one-two with Gray and then beat Shea with a composed finish. It really was boys against men.
The result was surely beyond doubt. Wilshere offered a couple of moments to repreive Arsenal of the torture they were enduring but the hosts dominance was clear for all to see.
Just before the hour mark it was three. A long-ball was played over the top, Barnes easily outmuscled Nordtveit and then looped the ball over the on-rushing Shea to rub yet more salt in the wounds of the young Gunners. Shea had put in a splendid performance on his reserve debut but will have been disappointed at his involvement in that goal.
Shea made two more super stops late on to prevent the difference between the two sides from increasing even further but the damage had already been done.
A much-needed reality check for Arsenal and lessons will surely be learned from this in the future.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): J Shea 7- C Eastmond 7, K Bartley 5, H Nordtveit 5, T Cruise 5 (sub: R.Deacon, 75 minutes, 6)- A Bischoff 6, J Wilshere 6, M Randall 6, S Watt 5 (sub: L Ayling, 71, 5)- J Emmanuel-Thomas 6- G Sunu 5 (sub: C Evina, 45, 7). Not used: O Ozyakup. Booked: Bischoff, Wilshere, Randall