New Arsenal signing Willian provided two assists on his debut to help the Gunners beat Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage.
Goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ensured Mikel Arteta started his first full season in charge of the North London side with a win.
The first goal of the 2020-21 Premier League season came after just nine minutes but went in with a whimper rather than a bang as poor Fulham defending saw Arsenal get several shots away before Lacazette finally found the back of the net.
Willian, who was involved in the build-up to Lacazette’s goal, had the chance to add a second on 27 minutes when Arsenal won a free kick just inside the box. The Brazil international’s shot curled past the wall and looked like it was going to dip under Marek Rodak but hit the post.
Fulham showed a few glimpses of promise during the first-half with Denis Odoi and Neeskens Kebano combining on 31 minutes to flash a brilliant cross through the box. However, no one was there to poke it towards the goal and the ball shot harmlessly wide.
Arteta’s half-time team talk appeared to bring new life to Arsenal with Gabriel, another new summer signing, finding the back of the net on 49 minutes.
A corner won by Lacazette was whipped in by Willian to an unmarked Gabriel who headed it down the middle of the goal and straight past Rodak.
It took just seven minutes for Arsenal to add their third. Willian, involved once more, struck a crossfield pass to Aubameyang on the left. The Arsenal talisman took the ball calmly on his chest before moving into the box and curling a ball into the top right corner.
Arsenal came close to a fourth on 70 minutes. Kieran Tierney fed a ball down the left to Aubameyang who crossed to Lacazette. Rodak punched the shot away but only as far as Hector Bellerin who took his shot well but the referee blew the whistle for an earlier offside.
“I wanted to see my team determined with a lot of energy and do the things we did in training. We did it today,” Arteta said after the game.
“Gabriel didn’t play for six months before today. Mohamed Elneny was brilliant. He has been excellent in training since day one. I know him well — we played together. Today he was phenomenal. All the boys tried really hard.”
Fulham manager Scott Parker said he was disappointed with his side’s showing in their first game back in the Premier League.
“The big lesson today is to understand the fine margins in this division mean you can get punished. At this level you have to be clinical and make teams pay and on the flip side the first time they get in our box and they score,” he said.
“I didn’t like the second half as much. The second goal was a poor goal. At that moment we have to understand how crucial it is and I felt we were a little bit weak and accepted it.
“When you are a team like us that has come from the Championship you can’t let defeat after defeat really cripple you. We are going to lose more than we win but as a team you have to keep learning and developing.
“It has been a quick turnaround for us. We have brought players in that will improve us and hopefully there will be more. We need to get them up to speed quickly.”