A London Derby at a sunny Emirates, as Arsenal welcome Fulham.
The Thames based club are battling relegation, as they sit 18th – 7 points off Burnley & Brighton, with Fulham playing a game more.
They have recovered well from the very start, after they seemed entirely down and out, however 5 wins all season doesn’t abide well.
Arsenal sit 4 points behind Everton in 9th, so a win today could still provide a backup Europa League alternative.
Arsenal have lost 5/6 after a Europa game, so this will be good timing which Fulham will look to exploit.
Fulham have had over a week to prepare for this game, while the Gunners played midweek in Prague so changes are expected.
Arsenal will look to build off a 3-0 win to Sheffield United, while Fulham lost at home 1-0 so a result is desperate for any chance of survival – particularly after Newcastle’s resurgence.
The home form for Arsenal hasn’t been as good as the away form, so there’s another area which can be built on.
The last time these 2 sides met was on the opening day of the season, where Arsenal won convincingly 3-0.
Score prediction: 2-0 Arsenal.
Arsenal make 5 changes from midweek.
Leno drops out for the first time since he was dismissed at Wolves, with Ryan coming in.
Bellerin, Gabriel replace Mari & Chambers, Partey is rested, with Elneny coming in.
Martinelli retains his spot from last week, Saka starts for Pepe alongside Smith Rowe who plays for the first time since Spurs.
Fulham also make changes, as they look for the winning formula to get them out of the relegation zone.
Tete tests positive for COVID so Aina comes in, Ivan Cavaleiro drops in the 10 role with Loftus Cheek dropping out.
Anderson & Zambo Anguissa play as expected – Fulham’s two best players this season, along with Lookman who recovers from an injury to make the XI. Maja starts upfront.
I expect a good game, with the frontmen for the Gunners in great form or ready to prove a point with Martinelli and Fulham desperate for goals.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal fare with an Elneny Ceballos pivot – against a strong Fulham midfield.
For the Gunners, the movement of the front 4 will be decisive, to get in behind and unlock a disciplined Fulham defence – who have kept 9 clean sheets so far this season.
Arsenal started incredibly brightly – with Lacazette playing in Martinelli who just chipped wide and Smith Rowe knocking it back to Martinelli off balance, who had his effort saved.
A dominant start for the Gunners in the opening 10 minutes, where Fulham have just soaked up pressure.
Fulham took a cautious approach to get a feel in the game – passing around their own half and creating one main chance.
The ball fell to Maja from a deflected shot, which his effort deflected off Holding & just past Ryan’s post. Fortunate.
After a fairly poor showing, Arsenal took the lead. Martinelli who has been ever present played a ball in for Lacazette who headed on to Saka, who played to Bellerin for a great cross for Ceballos who headed in brilliantly.
VAR has to intervene however, as Saka is deemed offside, by about a centre metre.
Arsenal have the ball in the net again but this one is clearly offside, as Smith Rowe moved into an offside position.
Half time, where it’s been a poor showing. Martinelli has been the main bright spark, constantly on the move, taking players on and getting a few efforts which were unfortunate.
Partey’s forward progression is clearly missed so far, as Smith Rowe has had to drop deep to collect the ball and connect play, where he’s been picked up by Lemina & Anguissa so hasn’t been so effective.
Fulham have struggled to build up play and have spent more of the half in their own half.
Hopeful for a more entertaining half, where the introduction of Partey could really be decisive.
Controversy as Lemina goes over theatrically on Gabriel’s challenge in the area – ref points to the spot.
It hardly seemed like any contact from Gabriel bar a planted foot, but the controversy roams on, as Maja converts.
The main issue for Arsenal is Lacazette, who appears to have done his hamstring.
Horrendous luck, after it seemed like Xhaka was also injured.
Martinelli, who has been very bright got round Areola and crossed it for Pepe, who’s header was saved brilliantly.
Arsenal continued to create more, but Fulham stood strong.
With all hope lost, Arsenal found an equaliser in the dying seconds.
A corner is whipped in, in the 7th minute of added time and Ryan wins a header laid into Ceballos, who’s effort is well saved but tapped home by Nketiah.
A poor result which warranted far more, but Arsenal’s record vs Fulham remains in tact.
A heap full of chances created, but one goal scored. An XG of 2.93 highlights this, compared to Fulham who had 0.87 and one attempt in the second half – thanks to a dubious penalty.
2 points dropped ultimately, where it’s once again poor finishing which has cost them. 1-0 was never warranted with how the game went, but a draw it is and it doesn’t do much good for either team.
Man of the match:
Zambo Anguissa was good for Fulham, Andersen probably would get it from the Fulham side.
From an Arsenal perspective, there’s few proper standout players. Saka had a good 2nd half and was good generally.
Smith Rowe & Martinelli were easily Arsenal’s best players. Smith Rowe created effectively, dropped deep to receive the ball and linked up with Lacazette again.
Martinelli created 2 chances, had a few of his own but generally was very bright, constantly running out and was unlucky not to get an assist, completing 4/4 take ons.
Xhaka however is my MOTM. The make shift LB continues to be a crucial player in a tough season.
He won 50 50 challenges, made some decisive tackles, passed well and in general had another great game in a poor showing.
Arteta rightfully rested a number of players, with the important Europa Semi’s in mind.
The Gunners dominated the game and went with the successful system of Xhaka at LB, conceding only 3 shots, one of which being the penalty.
The first half was poor generally but 2nd was a lot better, where a lot of chances were created but little end product.
Despite dropping points, i don’t think Arteta had any wrongful part in this game, so he maintains a decent rating.
Ryan – 6.5
Bellerin – 6.5
Holding – 6
Gabriel – 6
Xhaka – 8 (MOTM)
Elneny – 6
Ceballos – 6.5
Martinelli – 7.5
Smith Rowe – 7
Saka – 7
Lacazette – 7
Partey – 7
Pepe – 6.5
Nketiah – 7
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal have 5 days off until they face Everton at the Emirates.
The game is on Sky Sports at 8pm, where both sides sit close to each other in the table – Everton 3 points ahead.
It’ll be a tough game but I think Arsenal will edge it.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal.
Thank you for reading this as always, feel free to provide feedback.
Written by @afcmcj.