Wenger thrilled to witness Podolski among the goals
A brace from German forward helps Gunners sink Fulham
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger saluted Lukas Podolski after his brace helped the Gunners pick up their first Premier League points of the season in a 3-1 win at Fulham.
While Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 14th minute, it was two brilliant finishes from the German forward either side of halftime that saw off Fulham, who could only respond with a consolation strike from substitute Darren Bent on his debut.
All the talk over the summer has been about Arsenal’s inability to attract new star names to the club, but with Giroud having scored three goals in his first three matches and Podolski coming into form, Wenger believes the best could still be to come from both players in their second seasons in north London.
“I’m pleased for Lukas because he did not always start recently, but more for the balance of the team than for his personal performance,” Wenger said.
“He has always a very high spirit and is a very important person in the team. Everybody loves Lukas in the squad and it’s important to keep him.
“When a player doesn’t play, he’s not happy, and recently he did not always start. But if you look at the goalscoring record of him and Giroud, it’s quite impressive.”
Coming on the back of Wednesday’s victory over Fenerbahce in the Champions League playoff round, Saturday’s result at Craven Cottage provided further relief for Wenger.
He saw his side dominate a Fulham side being watched for the first time by new owner Shahid Khan, with Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla particularly impressive in midfield in the absence of Jack Wilshere, who was on the bench.
Giroud made the most of his good fortune to give it the lead in the 14th minute after Ramsey’s shot deflected into his path, with Podolski hammering home a second four minutes before the break.
His precise finish after some brilliant play from Cazorla settled matters in the 68th minute, before Bent’s goal 13 minutes from time, and Wenger said that he had been delighted with the way his players approached the game.
“We adapted our style of play, but we looked very dangerous every time we won the ball back,” he said.
“It was at some level impressive — we had a good mixture of patience and speed and that was positive. I changed a bit the shape of our team because I rested Jack and we played with four defenders and six offensive players, so we had to make it a bit tighter in number.”
With Scott Parker making his debut alongside Steve Sidwell in midfield, Fulham looked labored by comparison.
Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt only showed glimpses of their talents on a rainsoaked afternoon by the River Thames and manager Martin Jol knows they will need to improve.
“Every time we stuck to our jobs we did well, but they scored two goals out of the blue,” he said.
“You have to take your chances when they come, but we lacked the cutting edge up front. We tried to be positive, but it’s very disappointing to lose our first match at home. They are a good team and Cazorla is an amazing player who was pulling the strings all game.”
Wenger denied Arsenal has submitted a new bid for Yohan Cabaye after its initial 12 million pounds ($ 19 million) offer was rejected by Newcastle United last week.
Yet despite the convincing win, the Frenchman said he remains hopeful of adding to his squad before the transfer window shuts on Sept 2.
“We will be a bit under media pressure maybe, but I know exactly what I want to do,” he said.
“It doesn’t change anything — we are in the market and I know you expect news from us. I will try to give you some, but at the moment there is nothing to announce.”
Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski (right) battles with Fulham midfielder Alexander Kacaniklic during the English Premier League match at Craven Cottage in London on Saturday. Arsenal won 3-1.