Arsenal 2 Fulham 0
(Cazorla 57, 62)

Arsenal kept their grip on the Premiership summit with a comprehensive win over Fulham at the Emirates stadium. Santi Cazorla fired a five minute second half salvo in this cross capital derby which proved to be enough for the Gunners to record their fifth win in a row. Cazorla finished off a neat passing move for the opener, and then let fly with a shot that the Fulham defence failed to clear. Substitute Lukas Podolski almost got Arsenal’s third goal, but saw Maarten Stekelenburg just get a hand to a powerful shot from 20 yards.

Assured as the three points eventually were, once again, credit must go to the Arsenal defence who held on for yet another clean sheet with Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny at it’s heart.

Arsenal had never lost at home to Fulham in 27 meetings, having won 22 of those encounters. The Cottagers arrived in North London on the back of six consecutive defeats. Showing fight and the ability to defend in depth gave the visitors hope, but defeat number seven for Rene Meulensteen’s side was never going to be in doubt here.

Arsenal dominated the early possession, and with the poorest defensive record in the Premiership, Fulham must have feared the worst. After just four minutes, Mesut Özil took a pass from Jack Wilshere, and from the right, the German saw his cross cleared by debutant Dan Burn as Olivier Giroud bearded down. Midway through the first half and Serge Gnabry played in Giroud, but having sidestepped his marker lifted his shot wide of the target.

Having been under the cosh for much of the half, and with the Gunners not pressing effectively, the visitors ventured forwards. Steve Sidwell tested Wojciech Szczesny’s reactions from 20 yards and the Arsenal keeper was twice called on to rush off his line to deny firstly Ashkan Dejagah and then Alex Kacaniklic.

Arsenal saw their best chance to open the scoring after 38 minutes. Santi Cazorla fired in a free kick which was deflected to Bacary Sagna. The France defender fired a fierce low drive, forcing Stekelenburg to save well, with Giroud’s follow up shot also saved with the France striker straying offside for the rebound.

Arsenal finished the half strong, but the pace was proving to be too much to Fulham’s liking, and that was not the requirement. Serge Gnabry was lively but saw a trio of shots go off target as the half ended goalless.

The visitors had a chance to take the lead soon after the restart, but amid rare defensive confusion in the Gunners’ ranks, Burn saw his header blocked by Giroud.

Arsenal’s patient approach was seeing them enjoy possession, but the Emirates’ faithful were in need of a goal. Gnabry almost grabbed that goal after a run and dribble which allowed the German teenager to shoot, but Stekelenburg was able to save.

The Arsenal pressure was building, and after another swift move, Sagna managed to cross for Koscielny. Faced with a instinctive reaction however, the France defender could only hit the post from close in.

With their next move Arsenal took the lead. Cazorla was perhaps not at his best in the midweek win at Villa Park, but he was to more than make an amends for any perceived misgivings. Cazorla took the ball on the left and fed Giroud. He held off his close marker and slipped the ball first time to Wilshere. The England midfielder spotted Cazorla who had continued his run and passed for his team-mate to fire past Stekelenburg after 57 minutes. It was an opener that was deserving. Five minutes later and the Gunners had doubled their lead.

Unable to fathom where the next attack was coming from, Fulham were panicked as Brede Hangeland’s clearance from Monreal’s left sided cross fell to Cazolra. Without any hesitation, the Spain midfielder unleashed his second of the afternoon with a low strike and goal which doubles his season’s tally.

Podloski’s introduction after 70 minutes almost yielded immediate dividend for the Gunners. Sascha Riether blocked from the German when he was about to shoot, moments after coming on, and his power drive of a shot from 20 yards was in, until agonisingly Stekelenburg managed to get a palm on the ball to deflect onto his upright.

Alex Oxlade-Chambelrian came on for the final few lively moments for his first taste of home football since August, and showed that his enthusiasm has not waned despite his five month injury lay off. Playing in his 100th Arsenal game, Szczesny grabbed at Kasami’s free kick, retrieving it at the second time of asking close to his goal line. Any latent Fulham danger from substitute Darren Bent who benefited from Szczesny’s rebound was snuffed out by Koslcielny as Arsenal recorded another win.