George Rossiter has the final player ratings of 2023.
Forget the Christmas period, it’s all about the New Years celebrations at the Cottage. Fulham capped off a historic calendar year with perhaps their most impressive victory of all, defeating Mikel Arteta’s title contending Arsenal with a heroic team performance. With the January window just around the corner on the back of a brilliant win, it’s an exciting time to be a Fulham fan. Happy New Year!
Leno was unlucky to concede the early goal to Bukayo Saka after parrying a good initial effort from Martinelli. Truth be told, that’s as much as the German was troubled throughout the game. Arsenal mustered just a handful of touches between the goal and the final whistle, so credit must go to the defence for that. A yellow card for time wasting was almost the most eventful thing Leno managed to do, and it was a worthwhile yellow too. 6.5/10.
The Belgian got into a number of good crossing positions early on in the game, but that was ultimately what led to Arsenal’s goal. Although, it must be said, Castagne can’t be blamed for not having cover as Arsenal countered from one end to the other. Martinelli looked dangerous for long periods of time but Castagne contained him well for the most part. 6.5/10.
Looked really, really strong in possession and on multiple occasions carried the ball to the halfway line in the first half, which in turn pushed Arsenal’s midfield backwards and put Fulham on the front foot. Defended our box incredibly well in the closing stages as Arsenal put in waves and waves of crosses, clearing anything that came even remotely close to head height. His total of six clearances was the most of any Fulham player. 8/10.
Bassey was an absolute monster in this game. Let’s start with how good he was on the ball. 62 passes was the most passes of any Fulham player on the pitch, with 95.2% completed, also the best of any Fulham player. Made some ridiculously good challenges, including some brave ones high up the pitch on Arsenal’s midfielders to prevent counter attacks. It was one of those tackles that started the attack for our equalising goal. Arguably Bassey’s best performance in a white shirt. 9/10 – Man of the match.
Bukayo Saka is very obviously a ridiculously talented footballer, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him have such an anonymous performance as he did at the Cottage, even if he did score one scuffed, lucky goal. Credit for that has to go to Robinson, who absolutely pocketed the England international, with the most tackles and interceptions of any Fulham player. He’s consistently proving why he’s one of the best left backs in the Premier League under Marco Silva. 8.5/10.
I was starting to worry that this would be another ropey performance for Palhinha after recent games. Allowing Martinelli to cut into his stronger foot and shoot for what eventually became Arsenal’s goal was poor, but that was probably his only error. For the remaining 85 minutes, the warrior inside came out to play once more, with a number of crunching challenges. His diving block to prevent Saka late in the game was potentially game saving and worth every single fist pump it got afterwards. 7.5/10.
Cairney seems to be slowly improving in playing a more disciplined role in the side, probably owing a lot to the growing connection in the middle with Palhinha. Seeing the skipper become a key player in the starting XI every week is a joy, you can never begrudge having someone of his quality in the middle. The run and subsequent cross for Fulham’s equaliser that TC produced was nothing short of sensational and another example of the ridiculous ability he has on the ball. 8/10.
Not to be overly critical in a fantastic victory but it was frustrating in the first half to see Iwobi being sometimes too cute on the ball. Some passes just had no chance of making their intended target because they were so weakly played. Regardless, a lot of the work he did to mark the spaces that Arsenal’s inverted left-backs (Kiwior especially) were finding was really effective and some of the touches he made near the halfway line set Fulham off on some dangerous counter attacks. 7/10.
Bobby De Cordova-Reid
Bobby was much better in this game than the anonymous showing on Boxing Day against Bournemouth. His efforts in helping Castagne against the threat of Martinelli were really useful, the same can be said for covering Iwobi in the previously mentioned areas occupied by Kiwior in midfield. His goal was a real poacher’s finish, showing a brilliant attacking mind to pounce on a second ball before anyone else, a goal that eventually won Fulham a superb three points. 7/10.
Willian was superb against his former employees, who were probably left frustrated that they never saw these levels from the Brazilian winger in a red shirt. He caused all sorts of issues for Arsenal by cutting inside and occupying central spaces. Firstly, because it left him in dangerous areas to create goalscoring opportunities from, and secondly because he dragged Ben White with him over and over, leaving Robinson and Cairney with a multitude of space to benefit from good crossing positions. 8/10.
We knew Raul was coming into some form, but this performance highlighted his value to the side maybe more than any other. It showed how much we’d missed the Mexican during his suspension, and what he offers in comparison to other options within the squad. His goal was a beautifully controlled finish, and it was no easy one either. The endeavour he showed in his pressing and the runs he made beyond Saliba and Gabriel caused all sorts of issues. 8.5/10.
Subbed on after 71 minutes after Alex Iwobi
Pereira added so much energy to the side when he came on and carried Fulham up the pitch multiple times to relieve pressure coming the other way. The Brazilian was so unlucky to not add a third when his free kick crashed off the bar in the 88th minute. 7/10.
Harry Wilson, Issa Diop (subbed on after 80 minutes for Willian and Bobby De Cordova-Reid) and Harrison Reed (subbed on after 92 minutes for Tom Cairney) subbed on too late in the game to be fairly rated.