Fulham 0 Arsenal 1

Arsenal moved up to third place in the Premiership with Per Mertesacker’s third Premiership goal for the Gunners to edge past ten man Fulham. The German defender’s header came on 43 minutes, and after Fulham were reduced to ten men for the 12th minute dismissal of Steve Sidwell for a crude lunge on Mikel Arteta. Having looked comfortable in possession, the Gunners took their time to test Mark Schwarzer’s goal until just before the break when Mertesacker rose to head into an empty net from Laurent Koscielny’s initial header. Olivier Giroud then received his late marching orders, again for a lunge on Stanislav Manolev that was more clumsy than sinister.

The win does more than just lift the Gunners into third place, it maintains their unbeaten run in the last six Premiership games, and although the style of football may not have been as incisive as Arsene Wenger demands, he will recall his side’s late capitulation in the corresponding fixture last season, and accepted this game finished with a nervousness from his side.

“I put it down to psychological reasons and to the fact that we didn’t want to be stupid. You are a bit under pressure when you play 11 against 10 because you think that with every foul you risk a second yellow card so they do not go in the challenges. The crowd is behind their team. it becomes a different problem. In the end, we have a fantastic spirit and that got us through,” he said.

Wojciech Szczesny started in goal, and despite their numerical dis-advantage, Fulham almost took the lead through Dimitar Berbatov, who having been put in by Urby Emanuelson, saw the Poland ‘keeper save low down. Alex Kacaniklic always looked lively and dangerous with his tricky runs, but Sidwell having just returned from a three game ban for his last sending off, will now be forced see the majority of the Cottagers remaining fixtures from the sidelines.

” Sidwell’s challenge was in front of me. I’ve seen that better. I think the referee had only the red card to give,” said Wenger who reflected on a tackle which could yet affect Arteta’s season for the run in

” He played the second half but I don’t know how much damage it’s done. It was a kick. I don’t know if he has twisted his ankle a little bit or not. In this kind of things, it’s just a question of a fraction of a second. If you are fully on your foot at the moment you get it, you break your leg. If you just ease a bit off (you may prevent serious injury). Maybe that’s why he got away with it.”

Santi Cazorla set up Giroud with a chance that the striker hit low and early, only to see the ball strike the post. Arsenal’s domination was eventually rewarded two minutes before the break. Theo Walcott’s free-kick found the head of Koscielny, and then eventually to Mertesacker to head past a static Fulham defence.

The Cottagers had chances to level when Emanuelson dispossessed Nacho Monreal and let fly with a low shot that Szczesny did well to keep out, and a second half dipping cross from Manolev which Szczesny did well to turn over the bar.

As Fulham piled on the late pressure, they were almost made to pay when Cazorla fed Jack Wilshere who in turn found Aaron Ramsey surging away. With only Schwarzer in front of him, the Welshman dragged his shot wide of the target. The Gunners however remain very much on target for a top four finnish.