Fulham vs Arsenal
Venue: Craven Cottage
TV: BT Sport
Referee: Paul Tierney
Arsenal travel to an inconsistent Fulham looking for their sixth consecutive league win in what promises to be an absolute barn burner of a game given both sides defensive frailties and attacking mindsets.
Arsenal have strung together five league wins despite a defensive mini-crisis and some stuttering form up front. A pair of slightly fortunate two nil home wins against Everton and Watford have taken Emery’s side to the top four. Both wins required some crucial saves from Cech and Leno and shot happy Fulham will fancy their chances to score on Sunday.
The promoted side have played some lovely football in their return to the top flight, however, apart from Aleksandar Mitrovic there is a real lack of penetration and killer instinct. New signing Schurrle has had 22 shots – the fourth highest in the league – though with only one goal. Fulham need to make their attacking threat translate into goals as they seem unlikely to stop conceding; their three nil defeat at Goodison Park last week saw them concede 19 shots and they are now only behind Burnley for shots conceded.
If Fulham are to get the much needed win they will need to cope without key defensive trio Alfie Mawson, Joe Bryan and Timothy Fosu Mensah who are all rated doubtful to return this side of the international break. This may mean highly rated Ryan Sessegnon drops back to play left back.
Arsenal will welcome back in-form defender Sokratis back who will vie with Mustafi and Rob Holding for a spot at centre back. Fellow defenders Koscielny, Mavropanos and Maitland Niles are still out. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang should recover from an illness that ruled him out of the Europa League tie on Thursday, Aaron Ramsey also missed that game with his wife expecting twins. Ramsey was withdrawn in the Watford game which allowed Ozil to play in the number ten role and inspire Arsenal to a late win which may prompt Emery to keep the German in that position.
Henrik Mkhitaryan will also look to return having missed out in midweek due to political issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Mkhitaryan looks to have dropped behind inform Alex Iwobi in the pecking order and the young Nigerian may be rewarded with a start after an impressive cameo last week.
An intriguing injury last week was that of Petr Cech who will miss about a month with a hamstring injury. The early weeks of the season were a struggle for Cech and it only looked a matter of time before he was dropped for Leno. However, a man of the match performance against Everton looked to have cemented his spot. If Leno can match Cech’s ability with his hands he will likely keep the number one spot given his superior passing ability.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Fulham: Betteneli; Christie, Ream, Odoi, Sessegnon; Sari, McDonald, Cairney; Schurrle, Vietto, Mitrovic
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Torreira; Ozil, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan; Lacazette
Prediction: Fulham 2 Arsenal 4