It hasn’t been the most convincing start but Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are 2 from 2 in the 2023-24 Premier League campaign with only Brighton & Manchester City sharing the record. Following a triumphant visit to South London’s Crystal Palace, the Gunners will now host another London adversary, Fulham on Saturday.
The North London club’s former number 1 Bernd Leno was phenomenal for Marco Silva’s side in their opening day’s 1-0 victory over Everton. However, with star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic’s departure to the Saudi Pro League and the red card to center-back Tim Ream, the Cottagers succumbed to a 3-0 loss to Brentford last week.
With two consecutive victories by a single-goal margin, Arsenal fans are certainly hoping to see a more positive result on the weekend and if history is to be repeated, Fulham is definitely the most favoured side to be hosted at the Emirates Stadium. When we observe the two clubs going head-to-head, Arsenal have astonishingly never lost a league game to Fulham at home with a record of 25 wins and 6 draws. For a better context, no other Premier League club has a better home record against a specific club compared to Arsenal hosting Fulham.
Looking back at their last meeting in March where Craven Cottage hosted Arteta’s side, the Gunners were ruthless upfront as Leandro Trossard put in a brilliant shift to provide 3 assists in the first-half and guide his team to a 0-3 win. With the opening victory against Palace, Arsenal are now unbeaten in 13 league London derbies with 11 wins and 2 draws.
When & Where:
Date: 26th August 2023.
Time: 03:00 PM.
Venue: The Emirates Stadium.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Neil Davies, Scott Ledger
Fourth Officials: Thomas Bramall.
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Dan Cook
After already losing their new-signing Jurrien Timber to a long-term anterior cruciate ligament rupture, his replacement full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu was harshly sent-off at Selhurst Park and will be unavailable for selection on Saturday. The 89th minute of the game against Palace did provide a sigh of relief for Gooners as Oleksandr Zinchenko was brought on to feature for the first time since his calf injury in May and we can expect the Ukranian to get back in action.
Despite returning to training, Gabriel Jesus will still be in recovery following his pre-season knee injury and similarly Lokonga and Elneny are not expected to feature until they are deemed match-fit. Folarin Balogun is closing in on his exit from the club back to Ligue 1 having already agreed personal terms with Monaco.
Fulham’s captain Tim Ream’s dismissal against Brentford renders him unavailable for the trip to North London. However, on a positive note, Joao Palhinha looks set to get his first start of the 2023-24 season as he is now match-fit following a shoulder injury.
The visit to Selhurst Park saw Arteta retain his unconventional 3-1-6 formation which surprisingly meant that Gabriel was left on the bench again to allow Saliba and White to continue their center-back partnership with Tomiyasu at left-back and Partey inverting from right-back to the midfield with Declan Rice on his left. Odegaard and Havertz capped a brilliant display in the midfield but Martinelli had a rare quiet night.
Bukayo Saka could not have a major role to play upfront for his side due to a determined Tyrick Mitchell giving Arsenal’s number 7 barely any breathing room. However, Fulham’s defensive woes and Antonee Robinson on left-back could mean Saka having an easier time on Saturday. Similarly despite missing a couple of golden chances, Eddie Nketiah did win the penalty which guided his side to a win and would be hoping to return to his goal-scoring ways against a struggling Fulham defence.
Due to Timber’s injury coupled with Tomiyasu’s dismissal, Arteta seems to have a defensive dilemma on his hands. Since first-choice left-back Zinchenko is now match-fit, we may expect the gaffer to return to his last season’s prominent back four of White, Saliba, Gabriel and Zinchenko at the expense of Thomas Partey settling for a spot on the bench. However if Zinchenko isn’t deemed ready to start, we can expect Jakub Kiwior to replace Tomiyasu’s place with the rest of the squad being unchanged from the game against Palace.
Macro Silva’s squad though free from fitness issues continue to struggle defensively and with the departure of Mitrovic, have additional woes further up too. Following a poor display by new-signing and now first-choice striker Raul Jimenez who recently returned from a serious head injury, the offensive options are not looking good for the club.
The last week’s game against Palace saw Arteta completely focus on defensive reinforcements after Tomiyasu’s dismissal in order to protect his side’s 1 goal lead. Martinelli, Saka, Nketiah and Odegaard all made way for their defensive peers to ensure they travel back from South London with all 3 points.
Mikel Arteta expressed his frustration with the lack of goals when questioned if his side came close to the desired level he wants as he replied: “No, because we have to put the ball in the net more often, especially with the dominance we are having in games. But that’s the most difficult thing in football, so if you don’t do that, you have to do the other part, which is be extremely solid.”
The new-signing put in another solid performance for his side and was the only offensive player who survived being subbed off by Mikel Arteta. His off the ball ability and movements were phenomenal against Palace and within the opening 2 minutes the German played a fantastic pass through three Palace defenders to Martinelli who would’ve scored on his average day.
He shifted to a number 9 position in the closing stages of the game and when Palace amped up the pressure by looking increasingly threatening on the counter in the 91st minute, Havertz did an excellent job to break their momentum by winning a crucial free-kick for Arsenal which allowed his team to re-gain control and handle the pressure.
The 24-year-old remains as the only offensive player to be given the entire 180 minutes of Premier league action by Arteta and his work-rate certainly justifies that fact. We can expect to see him boss the left midfield and to again play an instrumental part for the team on Saturday against Fulham.
The English international commanded the midfield and was a defensive powerhouse at Selhurst Park just like the opening week. In a player of the match performance, Rice’s defensive duties made sure his side secured all 3 points. It seemed like Arsenal’s entire play flowed through the number 41 as he switched play very often and made effortless pin-point long range passes.
Apart from his 4 recoveries, 2 blocks and 55 passes, Rice created a huge chance for Eddie Nketiah as he made a brilliant run to slip the ball to the striker who missed from close range. Arteta commended his record signing’s performance by saying: “I think it was great. He bossed the midfield and dominated the game. He was very influential, both attacking and defending. Today he played a different position to last week because of what we expected from Palace and what we needed today, and I think he was really good.”
🗣️| Mikel Arteta on Declan Rice’s performance against Crystal Palace:
⁰“I think it was great. He bossed the midfield and dominated the game. He was very influential, both attacking and defending.
“Today he played a different position to last week [vs Forest] because of what… pic.twitter.com/X730tqFXhU
— Arsenal Buzz (@ArsenalBuzzCom) August 21, 2023
Rice has undoubtedly justified his price-tag with back-to-back solid displays as well as his ability to integrate with the rest of the squad and building on the team’s cohesiveness. With confidence at a high, we can expect another dominating performance by him.
Marco Silva’s side have been handed a huge boost as their star midfielder is set to return after his pre-season shoulder injury. The Portugese was a core part of his side in his debut Premier League campaign last year. The defensive midfielder’s supreme tackling and ariel duel winning ability could be the key for his club to put in a better defensive performance following their 3-0 loss to Brentford.
After starting 35 matches in Fulham’s 2022-23 league campaign which saw him register a staggering 6.1 recoveries per game, 4.2 tackles per game and a total 284 duels won, the 28-year-old attracted interest from a plethora of top clubs most notably Liverpool who had to pull out due to Fulham slapping a whopping £90 million price tag on the midfielder.
On his best day Palhinha can be a defensive menace and we can expect the Portugese to jump back in action against Arsenal to provide stability to his side’s shaky start to the season.
🚨 Liverpool have ended their pursuit of João Palhinha as they can’t afford Fulham’s £90m asking price. ❌💰
(Source: Transfer Insider 247) pic.twitter.com/Unc0Uz99CJ
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) August 20, 2023
Arsenal predicted lineup: Ramsdale, Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba, White, Rice, Havertz, Odegaard, Martinelli, Nketiah and Saka.
Fulham predicted lineup: Leno, Tete, Diop, Bassey, Robinson, Reed, Palhinha, Wilson, Pereira, Decordova-Reid and Jimenez.