15 min “Mitrovic on the bench,” says Matt Dony. “The season is ten minutes old, and already I’m feeling the Fantasy Football-related anger. I never learn. I hate football. Make it stop. Again.”
I’ll see your Mitrovic and raise you Mitrovic and Saliba.
14 min “This is the best stadium in the country, in my opinion,” says Ruth Purdue. “Glad to see it back in the Premier League.”
Now there’s a debate. Not sure I have a favourite, now you mention it.
12 min “Harsh to include Gooner favourite Sammy Nelson in your 1975 slating, and the fuller picture is that Highbury greats Brady, O’Leary, Rice, Armstrong and Kidd also started, says Michael Tucker. “Mancini was a centre-back and Kelly a winger, a decent one at that. Today they’re fielding Xhaka and Elneny as the Rice and Philips in a vogueish 7-0-3. These young buck managers are so innovative.”
It wasn’t my slating!
11 min A deep cross finds Kebano, whose volley is well blocked by Maitland-Niles.
GOAL! Fulham 0-1 Arsenal (Lacazette 9)
Arsenal take the lead with their first decent attack. Xhaka’s shot from the edge of the area was only half blocked by Hector, leading to a scramble in the six-yard box. Willian’s shot was saved by Rodak and Lacazette tapped the rebound into the empty net.
8 min Fulham move the ball beautifully down the right, from one of the field to the other. Eventually the right-back Odoi beat Tierney with a Cruyff-turn and hits a left-footed shot from 20 yards that is beaten away by Leno.
5 min Fulham have made a brisk, confident start to the game. They’re nice to watch, very patient in possession.
2 min An early chance for Fulham! Maitland-Niles plays a lazy backpass towards Gabriel, who allows it to run through towards Leno. Kamara appears on his blindside and tries to go round Leno, who does well to dive at his feet and push the ball away.
2 min “Good day Rob,” says Grant Tennille. “Would I be tempting fate, not to mention the wrath of today’s MBM correspondent, by referring to three points against this freshly-promoted Fulham side as ‘bankable’?”
I’m not sure I have any wrath left, but you’d definitely be tempting fate.
1 min After the players on both sides take a knee, Aboubakar Kamara gets the season under way. Fulham are kicking from left to right; Arsenal are in their blue change strip.
Pre-season optimism “Have Arsenal,” says Charles Antaki, “ever put out a less convincing team on the first day of the season? (Consults reference books.) Season 1975-76: Nelson and Kelly in the back line, with Mancini, Cropley and Hornsby further up (all of whose names should have a “?” attached). The season ended with Arsenal in 17th place. Hmm.”
A few slight surprises in the teams. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Anthony Knockaert are only on the bench for Fulham, while Gabriel Magalhaes makes his Arsenal debut in defence. It was thought he wouldn’t start as he has only recently started training with his new teammates. Willian also makes his debut.
Fulham (4-2-3-1) Rodak; Odoi, Hector, Ream, Bryan; Reed, Cairney; Kebano, Onomah, Cavaleiro; Kamara.
Substitutes: Areola, Le Marchand, Christie, Knockaert, Anguissa, Mitrovic, Decordova-Reid.
Arsenal (3-4-3) Leno; Holding, Magalhaes, Tierney; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Macey, Saka, Kolasinac, Ceballos, Willock, Pepe, Nketiah.
Referee Chris Kavanagh.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of 48 Days Later, a real-time motion picture about the return of the Premier League. It’s been just under seven weeks since the 2019-20 season finished, and now it’s time for the mother of all marathons: a condensed 2020-21 campaign that will test the players like never before. Welcome to the Red Zone season.
We start at Craven Cottage, where newly promoted Fulham host newly optimistic Arsenal. Although Arsenal finished eighth last season, their lowest position for 25 years, they made obvious progress under Mikel Arteta and won the FA Cup in stirring fashion. It’s hard to quantify what would constitute a good season for Arsenal this time. For Fulham, it’s simple: 17th place and an end to the yo-yoing of recent years.
Kick off 12.30pm