By the end, the Fulham supporters who had been sent scattering by the kind of weather that Thor himself might have invoked were looking plaintively to the dark clouds looming ominously in the distance and wondering whether another downpour might get them off the hook.

The rain had been torrential, parts of the pitch left absolutely sodden, yet Arsenal had coped the better of the two teams and it leaves the clear sense, despite all the lingering imperfections, that their season is now up and running.

Arsène Wenger's team have responded with some distinction to the harrowing defeat against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. They won this game with something to spare courtesy of Olivier Giroud's third goal in three matches and the two elegant left-foot strikes from Lukas Podolski either side of the break. Throw in the 3-0 victory against Fenerbahce in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier and that makes it a profitable few days for a team that had begun the season perilously close to another of their periodic crises. All they have to do now is prove they are capable of identifying a potential new transfer and closing the deal.

Whether they are capable of that will become clear over the next week or so but at least they have shifted the mood a little after all the foreboding and downright anger that accompanied the game against Villa. Another set of players might have been left feeling sorry for themselves. Wenger's have simply rolled up their sleeves and set about reminding us that attacking football, with speed and penetration, can be hugely effective.

"We were very dangerous every time we got the ball," Wenger said. "We played the way we wanted, we controlled the game, we created lots of chances. You never know how a team can react after a game that intense [Fenerbahce] but maybe the positive result helped the mental side."

There was certainly a sizeable amount of good fortune attached to the goal from Giroud that set them on their way. Their patched-up defence also had to withstand some concerted pressure at times. Yet Bacary Sagna, a right-back by trade, was superb filling in as an emergency centre-half in the absence of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen and, on the occasions Fulham did get behind the opposition defence, Wojciech Szczesny made some marvellous saves before the substitute Darren Bent marked his first appearance with a 77th-minute goal.

For Fulham, it was a strange day in some ways. At times they knocked the ball around with great confidence and fluidity. Adel Taarabt was prominently involved early on. Scott Parker, another new recruit, was pretty much everywhere and, on the left, John Arne Riise's overlapping runs from full-back caused plenty of issues, but Fulham always looked like a team that came up short.

Perhaps they will be more of a threat when Bent is fit enough to start matches and Dimitar Berbatov can drop into that position between attack and midfield where he does his best work.

Martin Jol might also need to stress on Parker the importance of positional play and not always following the ball. The midfielder played well, but Fulham always looked vulnerable in those moments when Arsenal counter-attacked and he and Steve Sidwell were stranded. Jol's team are going to struggle this season if they continue being this susceptible on the counter-attack. "Unprofessional," was the word he used. Yet Arsenal played the system expertly. "They are almost better away than at home these days," Jol added.

The second goal was a case in point. Arsenal, with Jack Wilshere restricted to a substitute's role, broke with speed and directness. Walcott's powerful strike brought a fine save out of David Stockdale but the rebound went straight to Podolski, 20 yards from goal, and he powered in his shot.

Arsenal had led from the 14th minute. Aaron Ramsey, playing with great responsibility and encouraged by his midweek goal in Istanbul, tried his luck again, from a similar distance. This time the shot would not have troubled anyone until it caught Giroud's heels, taking the pace off the ball and falling generously for the striker. Giroud was clean through, clipping his shot past Stockdale.

The Frenchman had taken his goal expertly. "He looks much more confident than last year," Wenger said. He was also involved in the move that led to Podolski's second goal. Again, Arsenal broke forward in numbers. Walcott played in the excellent Cazorla and the Spaniard turned the ball into Podolski's path. The shot was struck diagonally, left to right, picking out the bottom corner. Fulham's consolation was a classic piece of centre-forward snaffling: Bent quicker and more alert than the nearest defender, Carl Jenkinson, turning in the rebound after Szczesny had blocked Berbatov's smart turn and shot.

By then, however, Fulham's best hope was a rain-off and Arsenal splashed happily to the finish.