Fulham haven’t beaten Arsenal in over 10 years. It is a fixture many fans quickly bookmark in the season as a safe three points. The same is usually said for Bournemouth. Or Everton. However, nothing about this season is usual for Arsenal. This Fulham side are transformed and are hunting a European adventure next season. This will be no easy game.
Leaking goals at the back but refusing to roll over, is a nervy, unsustainable approach to games – even if they win – and Arteta knows it.
“It’s something we must improve massively if we want to keep on winning games”
Despite this, Arsenal’s away record is the best in the league. 8 of their 11 clean sheets have come on the road and no team has scored more away goals than Arsenal. They have also won all four away London derbies this season without conceding. Arsenal will become the first team ever to win 5 in a row if they keep Fulham at bay on Sunday.
Crucially, Fulham are without central midfielder monster Joao Palhinha, who is serving the second of his two match ban. He’s a huge miss for Fulham. The Portuguese midfielder averages 4.2 tackles per 90 (!) and as shown by his heatmap manages to cover a colossal amount of distance each game. Not only that, he’s shown his recent goal threat from distance and set pieces. Put simply, Arsenal have a much better chance with him off the pitch.
Arteta named a stronger starting XI than I expected against Sporting, and with a bout of illness going round the squad, as well as some uncertainty on the match fitness of his attackers, we could see a similar line up against Fulham. I think Arteta will be confident enough the players he has available at full fitness can beat Fulham, therefore I expect Trossard, Nketiah and Jesus to all be rested – with a realistic timeline of next Thursday, but more likely next Sunday (against Crystal Palace) a return date for them all.
Bukayo Saka will need to be rested at some point between now and the end of the season. If Arteta is insistent on playing as strong a team as possible in Europe, it’s hard to see when this might come. I would’ve had Bournmeouth and Sporting as two straightforward opportunities to do so, and he played 90 minutes in both. Perhaps it’s a waiting game, and once Smith Rowe, Trossard, Nketiah and Jesus are all at 100%, the fluidity of the system may mean one of these forwards can take Saka’s place.
City will only play once (Crystal Palace on Saturday) before the International break. It is crucial therefore, that Arsenal continue propelling forward. If we assume City beat Palace and Arsenal win their two games, they could be 8 points clear going into the International break.
Despite City having a game in hand this would be a massive psychological edge. Both Arsenal and City will have most of their squad involved in the break, with those players likely playing the full 90 in both international fixtures too – this in itself is an impossible to predict hailstorm, with injury and dips in form all possible in this two week gap in the season.
It’s a case of tunnel vision for the Arsenal squad now. Just. Keep. Winning.
Our Score Prediction: Fulham 1 – 3 Arsenal
Fulham Predicted Starting XI
Tete – Diop – Ream – Robinson
Reed – Lukic
Willian – Pereira – Solomon
Arsenal Predicted Starting XI
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Odegaard – Partey – Xhaka
Saka – Martinelli – Nelson