Debutants William, Gabriel, Impress As Arsenal Get Season Off To A Flyer

Brazilian new signings Gabriel and Willian impressed on their debuts for Arsenal as the Gunners made light work of promoted Fulham in the opening game of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Willian, who joined on a free transfer from Chelsea had a hand in all three goals and countryman Gabriel – a £23m signing from Lille – scored in his first game in English football.

The game took place behind closed doors in what has become the new normal following the coronavirus and perhaps, the lack of fans at Craven Cottage contributed to Fulham’s dour display, but on this showing, they look early candidates to go straight back to the Championship.

Alexandre Lacazette scored the opener from close range after Willian’s effort was saved following a halfhearted attempt by a Fulham defender to clear the ball.

The Frenchman became the first player to score the first goal of the season on two separate occasions.

Centre-back Gabriel then scored from Willian’s corner with his shoulder.

Willian, who had hit a post from a free-kick in the first half, then picked out Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng with a perfect cross-field ball and the captain curled home Arsenal’s third in superb fashion.

Fulham created few chances, with last season’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic coming on with only 27 minutes to go and forcing Bernd Leno into a save.

Mikel Arteta would be delighted with the his side’s start to the campaign and the impact of his new signings in particular.

Signs of improvement already apparent last season as they won the FA Cup and the season-opening Community Shield were more pronounced, with Arsenal showing solidity in defence and lethal intent in attack.

Scott Parker, meanwhile, will know that vast improvements are needed if Fulham – who undermined themselves with self inflicted mistakes – are to survive in the top flight.

They went straight down in each of their last two seasons in the Premier League Fulham, in 2013-14 and 2018-19 – conceding the most goals both times.

It is still early days yet and there is plenty of time to correct course and plug their leaky back line but on the evidence of Saturday’s season opener, a third straight relegation beckons for Fulham.