Arsenal are looking to respond with a much-needed win against Fulham on Tuesday afternoon, after their 5-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield- trailing five points behind the top four places.
Gunners head coach Unai Emery will look to make changes after a slight dip of form during the festive period- winning on four occasions. Arsenal are coming into the London derby against the Cottagers unbeaten in their last five meetings, their last defeat was back in 2012 when they lost 2-1 at Craven Cottage.
Fulham coming into this game after a late home win over Huddersfield, with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring an injury-time winner. Mitrovic is Fulham’s top goal scorer with eight goals in all competitions but still remain in the relegation places.
The visitors have made steady improvements under Claudio Ranieri, claiming nine points in their last eight games and kept two clean sheets, which they failed to achieve in their opening 17 Premier League games.
Ranieri has never won a Premier League game against the Gunners in 10 previous attempts (drawing on 4 occasions and the losing 6 other occasions).
Having not won away from home in the Premier League, it could be a long afternoon for Ranieri’s side as they boast the worse defence in the league. Fulham’s victory against the Gunners back in 2012 is their only victory in the last 12 meetings between the two sides. Subsequently, history heavily lies on Arsenal’s side ahead of this London derby and never lost at home to Fulham in any competition across 114 years (Winning on 23 occasions and drawn on five occasions).
This game has the potential to be a high-scoring game with both sides conceded a total of 73 goals so far in the league and have struggled to keep clean sheets, with five clean sheets kept between the two sides.
Arsenal are left short with defensive options and the busy festive period has not been pleasant for the Gunners when it comes to injuries. Defender Rob Holding remains out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, while Hector Bellerin (calf) and Nacho Monreal (muscle injury) remain doubts.
German midfielder Mesut Ozil was left out of Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool with a knee injury and remains a major doubt ahead of the London derby. Arsenal will remain without Danny Welbeck (broken ankle), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (foot injury) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin injury).
As for the visitors, a major decision needs to be made whether Alfie Mawson can feature on Tuesday afternoon after sustaining a knee injury in the win over Huddersfield. Fulham midfielder Zambo Anguissa (knock) remains a doubt but is expected to be fit for the game. However, defender Calum Chambers who is on a season-long loan from Arsenal cannot be ineligible to face his parent club. Other than that, there is no other new injury concerns for Ranieri.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Koscielny, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Iwobi, Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Fulham: Rico; Odoi, Mawson, Ream; Christie, Seri, Anguissa, Bryan, Cairney, Mitrovic, Sessegnon.
Tim Ream vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Tim Ream and his fellow teammates have struggled consistently in defence throughout the season. History could repeat the same feat for Fulham and mounted pressure on the club’s survival prospects. They must look into being 'smarter at the back' which striker Mitrovic reiterated during the course of the season and could be key to cause an upset at the Emirates.
The Gabon International will be aiming to be back on the scoresheet again after a dismal display at Anfield, which he had just 13 touches against the Reds. As it was clearly analysed, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made more touches in his own penalty area than Liverpool’s. That was the lowest touches he had in any game he has featured this season- only Leicester forward Jamie Vardy has had fewer touches than Aubameyang in a league game. Gabon striker will definitely be having his eye on the scoresheet against Fulham as he did in the reverse fixture back in October- where he scored a brace in a 5-1 win at Craven Cottage.
Jean Michaël Seri vs Lucas Torreira
It’s been a hit and miss season for Jean Michaël Seri which we could say the same for Fulham. Started life at the Cottagers very brightly with a stunning strike against Burnley and was proving to be an amazing buy for Fulham. He’s been regarded as a player with great steal and hopefully, we can see Seri delivering much-needed performances under the new regime at Fulham in keeping their Premier League status.
As for Lucas Torreira, he had one of his worse performances in an Arsenal shirt and was a culprit in the build-up to one of Liverpool’s goals. However, he did attempt more tackles than any Arsenal player in the first half but did not won a single one- clearly showing Liverpool had their way with him. But still he has been Arsenal’s major signing and the Fulham game has come at the right for Torreira to regain his form back in the New Year, starting against the Cottagers and continue where he left off.
Aleksandar Mitrović/ André Schürrle vs Sokratis
Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle are the key threats in breaking Arsenal’s defence in which both have scored a combine of 13 goals between them. It is so important for Fulham to give the ball to either Mitrovic or Schurrle as they receive possession of the ball that is relatively close to the goal. It’s key for Fulham to provide lots of chances to score. For the records, Mitrovic relishes a physical battle that could lead to another defensive mistake from the Gunners.
As for Sokratis, he has been Arsenal’s best centre-half by a mile but the performance at Anfield were showing signs of the same fate of Arsene Wenger’s later years in charge. The Gunners have now shipped more goals after 20 league games than in any Premier League campaigns. The performance of Arsenal’s defence as a whole against Liverpool was calamitous.
With Sokratis being the culprit for the first two Liverpool goals and conceded the first penalty in an awkward fashion. According to Opta, the North Londoners have made more errors leading to shots this season than any other side (17) as well as being ranked for most errors leading to goals. Hence, Emery must find solutions to Arsenal’s defensive options and fans urging the club to spend more on defenders.
Emery disappointed by Anfield defeat
Following from Arsenal’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool, Emery urges the players to bounce back quickly. With some of the players expressed their disappointment and highlighted about being mentally coming back stronger.
However, as we’ve seen throughout the season- Emery is taking nothing for granted.
Emery told BBC Sport: "We need to keep the balance in the middle, be serious and continue on Tuesday with a big match at the Emirates. We need to show our supporters there we are standing up after the result against Liverpool."
Ranieri expecting a challenge
Fulham manager Ranieri highlighted their game at the Emirates will be tough and relishes another challenge with the former PSG coach.
Fulham are in a better run of late under the new manager and despite Arsenal enduring their heaviest defeat under Emery. He insists it will still be a big challenge for his side coming to the Emirates.
Ranieri told BBC Sport: “Unai Emery is working well and it will be another tough match for us. I've come across him before. Maybe I played against him when he was at Paris St Germain. He's an intelligent and experienced coach."