As expected, Roy Hodgson revised his starting eleven for Sunday’s London derby at the Emirates with Wednesday night’s UEFA Europa League Final in mind.
Mark Schwarzer captained the Whites for the final game of the 2009/10 season, with Chris Smalling and Erik Nevland making their final appearances for the Club ahead of their respective summer departures.
Hodgson’s Team for Sunday’s match was certainly packed full of international talent and experience, with 2010 World Cup certainties Schwarzer, Panstil, Dempsey and Dikgacoi all featuring from the first whistle.
It was a quiet start to proceedings at the Emirates with Van Persie causing the only notable moment of danger after 8 minutes of play. The Dutch striker’s free kick from the right flank was heading for the top corner before Schwarzer intervened with a fine fingertip save to deny the home side.
Van Persie’s effort aside, Hodgson’s Team looked more than comfortable during the opening exchanges, stemming the supply from Walcott and Nasri on the flanks with ease.
Arsenal’s French international, Nasri, changed tact as the 15 minute mark approached, trying his luck form distance with a low, 25 yard effort, that flew just wide of Schwarzer’s post.
Arsenal took the lead after 20 minutes play through Andrey Arshavin in what was the most unfortunate of circumstances for Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
The attacking midfielder took advantage of a rare mistake by the Australian international before rounding the keeper and firing past John Panstil on the goal line.
The home side doubled their lead just five minutes later. Walcott’s cross from the right flank fell to Van Persie, bursting towards goal, and the Dutch striker fired a low effort towards goal from 12 yards.
Schwarzer produced a fine save to deny Van Persie’s strike, but as the ball rebounded off the cross bar the Dutchman made no mistake with his second chance and rifled the ball home.
The first half petered out somewhat following Van Persie’s strike with neither side creating any notable opportunities as the match approached half time.
However with seven minutes remaining Arsenal’s lead was extended to three-nil when Walcott’s cross from the right flew past a host of players before striking Chris Baird. Unfortunately for the defender the ball flew past Schwarzer and into the net from close range.
Erik Nevland almost reduced the deficit before the break with a deft looping header over Fabianski from 12 yards but the Norwegian’s effort flew over the roof of the net and the Gunners went into the break with a three-nil lead.
David Elm replaced Riise for the second half and the Swedish striker almost made an immediate impact on the game.
Straight from kick-off Fulham headed up field and after collecting the ball on Arsenal’s 18-yard line, Elm fired a left footed shot onto the base of Fabianski’s far post. Before Okaka could reach the rebound the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
Moments later Schwarzer produced a terrific save to deny Van Persie from close range as the score remained three-nil to the Gunners after the opening exchanges of the second period.
Worryingly for Fulham, John Pantsil was forced from the field of play on the hour mark with what appeared a muscular injury.
Fulham fans will be desperately hoping the right back is fit for Wednesday night’s Final in Germany after his scintillating return against Hamburg last week.
A further defensive injury, to Arsenal centre back Silvestre, forced Arsene Wenger to introduce Djourou after 63 minutes.
As the game headed towards the final twenty minutes Referee Mike Jones booked two players following clashes at both ends of the pitch. First Clint Dempsey was booked for dissent, and subsequently replaced by Fredrik Stoor, before Eboue was booked for diving in the area.
After 70 minutes play Fabianski was booked for handling the ball outside of his area but the Whites could not capitalise on the set piece from the right flank.
Arsene Wenger made a double substitution with 15 minutes of the match remaining. Henri Lansburg and Carlos Vela replaced Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin respectively.
With just six minutes remaining substitute Vela scored to hand Arsenal a four-nil lead. The striker produced a fine chip to beat Schwarzer after being played through for a one-on-one with the Australian international. During the four minutes of added time Stephen Kelly was booked for a late challenge on Van Persie.
Fulham’s season ended in defeat at the Emirates but Arsenal’s win on Sunday cannot take the gloss of another fine Barclays Premier League campaign by Roy Hodgson’s side.
Fulham’s impressive season has featured a host of memorable victories, including wins over Manchester United and Liverpool, not to mention a run to the Quarter Final of the FA Cup and Final of the UEFA Europa League.
Hodgson's side will now turn their attention towards the biggest game in the Club's history - Wednesday night's UEFA Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.