Arsenal boss explains decision to take striker off during win over Fulham
Unai Emery says tactical switch was behind Alexandre Lacazette substitution that led to boos from Gunners fans at the Emirates Stadium
02 January, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Alexandre Lacazette was among the goalscorers during Arsenal’s win against Fulham
ARSENAL 4 (Xhaka 25, Lacazette 55, Ramsey 79, Aubameyang 83)
FULHAM 1 (Kamara 69)
GUNNERS gaffer Unai Emery has defended his decision to substitute Alexandre Lacazette during Tuesday’s much-needed victory over Fulham.
Lacazette scored the second of Arsenal’s four goals at the Emirates Stadium, and would have been confident of netting more against a leaky Fulham defence. But the French forward was taken off just before the hour mark, replaced by midfielder Aaron Ramsey – a decision that was met by a boos from a large number of home fans.
“I understand the supporters,” said Emery after the game. “Tactically we thought in that moment we needed to change for more balance. Above all we know Fulham midfielder Jean Michael Seri is coming on and we need a player close to him, not to let him play easily with the ball.
“Ramsey can do that and also help us in attack, and he scored. The reason is this. I need to do my work. And not maybe because every supporter can have a different opinion, tactically.”
After being thwacked 5-1 at Liverpool on Saturday and held to a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Boxing Day, Arsenal returned to home soil desperately needing a win.
It started well enough with Granit Xhaka controlling Alex Iwobi’s cross midway through the first half before stabbing the ball beyond Sergio Rico from close range.
The hosts should have been further in front before the break, with a valiant block from Tim Ream denying Xhaka a second, while Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also had good chances to find the back of the net.
Lacazette finally doubled Arsenal’s lead 10 minutes into the second half, adding the finishing touch to a slick passing move involving Iwobi, Sead Kolasinac and Aubameyang.
A rout was on the cards, but out of nowhere Fulham pulled a goal back when substitute Aboubakar Kamara tapped home Ryan Sessegnon’s cross.
Ramsey then came on for Lacazette, and the jeers the tactical switch ignited from the home fans soon turned to cheers as the Wales midfielder scored from inside the area. The win was wrapped up seven minutes from time when Aubameyang’s deflected effort made it 4-1.
A somewhat relieved Emery said after the final whistle: “We wanted to win and this result will give confidence. We continued to push and create chances and we can be happy.
“It is normal for the fans to have some doubt at 2-1, but the team continued to do their work and played our planned game. I thought we deserved the scoreline. We scored with different players and we can continue to build our identity with the players.”
ARSENAL: Leno, Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi (Torreira, 45), Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Iwobi (Saka, 83), Lacazette (Ramsey, 75), Aubameyang.
Substitutes not used: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Nketiah.
FULHAM: Rico, Christie (Fosu-Mensah, 56), Odoi, Ream, Le Marchand, Sessegnon, Bryan, Cairney, Schurrle (Kamara, 61), Cisse (Seri, 61), Mitrovic.
Substitutes not used: Bettinelli, Johansen, Ayite, Vietto