By Richard Clarke
Arsenal could not have timed it better in producing their best away win of the season.
Arsène Wenger's side needed a rapid remedy on the road if they were to challenge for the fourth and final qualification spot for the Champions League. But this was also a wonderful boost of confidence ahead of Real Madrid's visit to Highbury on Wednesday.
Make no mistake, this was comprehensive victory. It was set-up by goals from Thierry Henry and Emanuel Adebayor in the first half. Then completed with strikes by Henry again and Francesc Fabregas after the interval.
Having vanquished one white-shirted side, the challenge is now produce a similar performance against another in midweek
In the build-up to this game Wenger had suggested he may switch around his side after the travails of international week. He was as good as his word. Two Spaniards, Fabregas and Jose Antonio Reyes, dropped to the bench. Alexander Hleb and the fit-again Freddie Ljungberg were the replacements.
It was a clear, cold but sunny afternoon on the banks of the River Thames - perfect for football. The massed ranks of Arsenal fans were probably quite nervous given their side's away record in the Premiership this season.
However they need not have worried. Arsenal started well and then got better. They were nearly handed a goal in the sixth minute when Luis Boa Morte's misdirected header back to Tony Warner forced the keeper into a smart save. From the resulting corner, Gilberto nodded back across goal and the flying Ljungberg just failed to connect.
In the 14th minute Emmanuel Eboue curled an inviting low cross into the path of the Henry but the striker's first touch was heavy and Warner gathered. He was to make amends in the 31st minute.
Before that Adebayor and Ljungberg combined for the Togolese striker to emerge in space on the left of the area. However Zat Knight timed his challenge superbly.
The crucial goal arrived shortly afterwards. Henry collected Diaby's pass on the left, beat his marker and unleashed a vicious shot high into the net at the near post. It was the Frenchman's 16th Premiership goal of the season and a typical piece of individuality.
The visitors deserved their lead. Fulham had enjoyed their fair share of the possession but could do little with it. For their part, Arsenal had been slick and snappy in equal measure. This meant they were winning the ball and doing something with it.
In addition, the goal gave them the confidence they have lacked so often away from home this season. That's why it was no surprise when Arsenal scored again three minutes later.
Ljungberg sent a clever ball between two defenders and Adebayor strode through to score. It was his second goal in his fifth games for the Club.
Henry was having his better games away from home. Six minutes after the break he beat two players on the byline and sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal.
Then he dazzled the Fulham defence before squaring a simple ball to Adebayor at the far post. The beanpole striker had the goal at this mercy but dallied to long and could only tap his shot past the past as Warner rushed out.
The Fulham keeper was starting to be over-employed. He rushed out to block a shot from Hleb after more cleverness from Henry sent him clear. Then the former Cardiff stopper booted the ball off the line after Adebayor's deflected shot looked like it might creep in.
Fulham were looking ragged but they still had some joy on the break. Substitute Collins John forced Lehmann into action for the first time midway through the half.
With 18 minutes left Steed Malbranque forced the German to dive full length but that only came after Ljungberg had nearly prodded a third past Warner.
In the end, Swede would be the provider of Arsenal's next goal. He exchanged passes with Henry on the left. It allowed the Frenchman to race through and place a sidefoot shot just inside Warner's left-hand post.
With five minutes left, Fabregas added insult to injury by thumping home from 10 yards following Mathieu Flamini's cut back.
- Diaby Yellow Card
- Hleb 79
- Henry 83 Goal! Goal!
- Adebayor 72 Goal!
- Fabregas 79 Goal!
- Reyes 83
- Bergkamp 72
- Helguson 61
- John 61