Arsenal sprang back from the horrors of Anfield by thrashing Premier League underdogs Fulham by 4-1. Sometimes, a game against one of the weakest teams in the league is just what you need to regain some confidence after being taken to the cleaner’s by the league’s best.
Alexandre Lacazette had a fantastic game. His recognizable movement and work-rate was of great value to the team, and after Granit Xhaka opened the scoring in the 25th minute, he crowned his performance by finishing off a fluid move to double the lead ten minutes into the second half.
However, with 15 minutes remaining on the clock, manager Unai Emery made a decision that baffled most supporters – he withdrew Lacazette from the game and sent on Aaron Ramsey instead, prompting loud boos from the stands.
Speaking after the game, Emery had no problem with explaining his decision to those who failed to understand it. He said he understood the fans’ reaction, but he had his reasons, and he had his job to do.
Ultimately, it was his decision to make. What’s the point in having a manager at all, let alone one who has shown this season that he knows what he’s doing, if he isn’t going to be trusted to make the substitutions he feels are needed?
Just after the hour-mark, his counterpart Claudio Ranieri made a double change. He replaced Ibrahima Cisse and Andre Schurrle with Aboubakar Kamara and Jean-Michael Seri.
And it was the introduction of Seri that prompted Emery to act 14 minutes later. The Ivorian midfielder had been brought on to take the reigns of Fulham’s game from his position in the middle of the park, and was finding too much time and space on the ball for Emery’s liking. He felt he needed a player close to Seri, one that knows how to press and would be able to close that space down. Ramsey was the obvious choice.
It also proved to have been the right choice, as the team went on to score twice more before the end, dashing all hopes of getting something from the game for the Cottagers. Ramsey himself scored the first of the two, just four minutes after coming on.
Perhaps it would be wise to let the manager make those calls after all.