Willian sets up Arsenal’s three goals in opening win at Fulham

Soccer analysts Jeff Blair and Dan Riccio join Alex Seixeiro to get us set for the 2020-21 Premier League season, with Man City and Liverpool looking like strong contenders again, and Frank Lampard looking to take Chelsea to the top of the table.

LONDON — Willian helped to set up all three goals on his debut to lead Arsenal to a 3-0 victory over promoted Fulham on Saturday in the opening match of the pandemic-delayed Premier League season at an empty Craven Cottage.

The offseason recruit from Chelsea took just eight minutes to make an impact with a close-range shot parried by goalkeeper Marek Rodak and Alexandre Lacazette tapped in the opener.

It was a corner from Willian four minutes into the second half that allowed Gabriel to claim a debut goal. The defensive signing from Lille was left unmarked to head into the net.

And Willian’s pass fed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who faced little resistance as he cut in before curling into the top corner.

It was a chastening start to life back in the top flight for Fulham. Just like Craven Cottage — where the stand by the River Thames still is being constructed — manager Scott Parker has a lot of work ahead if the west London club is to survive in the world’s richest league.

The Premier League season started a month later than scheduled due to the pandemic that is still preventing fans from attending games.

Arsenal has already played once this season without fans — after winning the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium.

Picking up trophies wasn’t the problem in August, with the month starting in FA Cup glory. The challenge is returning to the Premier League’s top four to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season after finishing eighth last season.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.