Arsenal suffered a blow to their top-four ambitions after dropping points in the last two matchdays, and Emery will want his side to respond against Fulham.
Arsenal suffered a heavy defeat to Liverpool over the weekend, and that loss was at the back of a disappointing draw away to Brighton. The five dropped points have cost Arsenal in the race for top four as they now sit five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea on the table. Manager Unai Emery would want his side to respond positively with a win over Fulham and keep their hopes for the season alive.
Arsenal have already faced Fulham this season in the Premier League at Craven Cottage, a game that resulted in an emphatic 1-5 victory for the Gunners. That victory and their 22-game unbeaten run have become a distant memory in the wake of a loss of form, but Emery will be hoping Arsenal begin 2019 differently from the way they ended 2018.
Fulham on the other hand, did finish 2018 on a high note with a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Huddersfield at home. The year has been one of joy and jubilation after the Cottagers sealed their return to the Premier League after four seasons. Their season so far has been a disappointment, with Claudio Ranieri’s side sitting in 19th place, well into the relegation zone.
Fulham have only accumulated 14 points from their 20 games so far, and their struggles have especially come away from home. The Cottagers have only collected two points from all their outings and remain winless. On the other hand, Fulham have failed to score in their last six away games, while also being the lowest scorers as well as conceding the most among all Premier League sides away from home this season.
Team News & Tactics
Arsenal’s defensive problems are set to continue with the absence of key stars. Hector Bellerin, Mavropanos, Monreal and Rob Holding all remain out. Monreal, however, has an outside chance of featuring against Fulham, although it still could be from the bench. Arsenal’s defensive problems were boosted by the return of Shkodran Mustafi although, at the back of a disastrous performance from the German, he might still be on the bench.
Concerning a defensive set up, Emery now has the option to either go three at the back or four. With the likes of Mustafi and Koscielny currently available, there could be a three-man defence in play with Sokratis as the third defender. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac will take up wing-back roles on either side of the pitch.
The big news from the Liverpool game was the withdrawal of Mesut Ozil before the game with a knee injury. However, there has been no news since if the damage is a short or long-term concern for Arsenal. Ozil now joins Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the sidelines after the Armenian was ruled out for more than six weeks with a broken foot.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could start and bid to take the lead on the goalscoring charts. The Gabonese could play from the left and support Alexandre Lacazette up front as the Frenchman could come back into the side after being benched for the Liverpool game. On the right side, Emery could go with the option of either Iwobi or Aaron Ramsey, as both players performed well against Liverpool.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3) – Leno; Sokratis, Mustafi, Koscielny; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang
There won’t be a return for on-loan defender Calum Chambers as the centre-back remains ineligible to play against his parent club. Alfie Mawson is a significant doubt for the Arsenal clash after he was forced off at halftime against Huddersfield with a knee problem. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is also regarded as doubtful for the game after he missed Fulham’s win over Huddersfield.
One player who is pushing hard for a start is Ryan Sessegnon. The versatile, left-sided player was influential in the last two games coming from the bench. Against Wolves, he came off the bench to score the opener, while against Huddersfield he set up Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal, again from the bench.
Ranieri will also field a three-man defensive unit with the likes of Odoi, Ream and Le Marchand his defensive trio. Christie and Sessegnon will act as wing backs with Seri and Anguissa in central midfield. In attack, there will be a trio of attackers with Cairney and Vietto taking their roles in either side of attack and in support of central striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2) – Rico; Odoi, Ream, Le Marchand; Christie, Anguissa, Seri, Sessegnon; Cairney; Vietto, Mitrovic
- Arsenal have never previously lost at home to Fulham in any competition, winning 23 and drawing five of their 28 home matches.
- Fulham’s only league victory over Arsenal in their last 12 such encounters was in January 2012
- Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri has never won a Premier League match against Arsenal in 10 previous attempts.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 22 home league matches against newly promoted opposition (W19 D3) since losing 1-0 to Newcastle United in November 2010
- Arsenal have won all five of their home Premier League games on New Year’s Day, with their last top-flight defeat at home on that day came in 1985 against Spurs at Highbury.
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.70
2. Arsenal Asian Handicap – 1.5 @ 1.950
1. Over 4.5 Match Goals @ 3.50
Player To Watch
After a horrendous performance at the back against Liverpool, Shkodran Mustafi was at the heart of what went wrong with the Gunners’ defence. The German was shown his place by manager Emery and duly replaced at half-time after his defence let in four goals before the break. Considering the shortcomings Arsenal have experienced in the department recently, Emery would have no choice but to start Mustafi.
As for the player, who has had a decent so far and played a good part in that unbeaten run earlier. For now, there is plenty at stakes for his side, considering Arsenal are pushing on for a top-four place and Mustafi needs to step up and perform. He needs to be the leader and show a character as well as keep clean sheets, as Arsenal have only managed to do so thrice in the league so far.
Arsenal 3-1 Fulham
Arsenal will come back to the Emirates for this clash, and after a difficult two games away from home, this might be seen as an opportunity to rejuvenate. Arsenal are well known to torment defences of low ranked sides, and Fulham have already experienced what their attack are capable of earlier in the season.
The Cottagers have the firepower to do some damage. Arsenal’s defence will mainly be wary in the wake of their performance against Liverpool. In all, this is the perfect situation Arsenal might need to, and they sure will against Fulham and collect all three points.