Opposition Focus: Arsenal


04/10/18 – FK Qarabag – Arsenal (Europa League)
29/09/18 – Arsenal 2-0 Watford (PL)
26/09/18 – Arsenal 3-1 Brentford (EFL Cup)
23/09/18 – Arsenal 2-0 Everton (PL)
20/09/18 – Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla Poltava (Europa League)


If Focus had been around a little while longer we could have fallen into the pattern of cutting and pasting most of this section for the last 10 years of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Defensively fragile but with mercurial attacking players, Arsenal seemed to be striving to confound logic and reason by being consistently inconsistent. However, the arrival of Unai Emery from PSG in the summer signified a move to address the issues of the previous regime. During his most successful stint as a manager, leading Sevilla to three straight Europa League titles, Emery displayed the qualities of a master in tactical discipline. We’ve already seen the imprint of the new manager on his players since his move to north London, with Arsenal looking much quicker during the transitions and their much analysed insistence on playing out from the back. With Lacazette and Aubameyang showing signs of forming a formidable double act up front, Fulham’s porous defence could be in for another difficult afternoon against high class opposition.

Battle to Watch

Xhaka vs Seri: It’s no secret that Arsenal possess a glittering array of attacking midfielders and that has been a familiar pattern for them in the last 20 years. What has been less stable are the central midfielders that play in support of them. Filling the Vieira/Gilberto Silva hole has been a constant source of criticism for both manager and executives at the club. The answer to this was heralded by some to be the arrival of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016, yet it hasn’t panned out the way some thought it might. Xhaka has a good, if not consistent, passing range and ability but most of the teams that have beaten Arsenal within the last couple of seasons have sought to exploit his lack of defensive discipline. The addition of Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria in the summer transfer window has helped alleviate Arsenal’s struggles in this section of the pitch but there is still the potential for weakness in this area. Although it might not be Seri’s game to chase down an opposition midfielder, isolating Xhaka and forcing him to worry about his defending could turn out to be a crucial factor on Sunday.

Danger Man

If the sight of weaker attacking lines than Arsenal has sent Fulham’s defence into something resembling a meltdown in recent weeks. Then the arrival of not one, but two, of the best strikers in the league is definitely inducing some worry. The signing of Aubameyang from Dortmund in January was supposed to signal the end for Lacazette at Arsenal. Yet since the away game at Cardiff at the start of September the two have begun to start together, with the latter especially impressing for the Gunners. A player capable of scoring a variety of goals, and a proven track record from his time in France, he has the potential to make things very difficult for whichever combination of defenders we see on Sunday.

Last 5 Meetings

18/01/14 – Arsenal 2-0 Fulham (PL)
24/08/13 – Fulham 1-3 Arsenal (PL)
20/04/13 – Fulham 0-1 Arsenal (PL)
10/11/12 – Arsenal 3-3 Fulham (PL)
02/01/12 – Fulham 2-1 Arsenal (PL)


Fulham wins 8
Draws 10
Arsenal wins 37

Stats & Facts

  • Fulham have lost the last 3 meetings with Arsenal, scoring just once and conceding 6 goals in the process.
  • Further back, Fulham have won only 1 of the last 11 meetings – a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Craven Cottage in Jan 2012. Goals from Steve Sidwell and Bobby Zamora in the final 5 minutes cancelled out Laurent Koscielny’s opener.
  • Both teams have scored in 6 of the last 8 meetings between the clubs. However, Fulham have fired blanks in 2 of the 3 most recent matches.
  • There was just 1 draw in the 13 meetings between the clubs at Craven Cottage during Fulham’s first spell in the Premier League – a 2-2 stalemate in May 2011. Of the other 12 fixtures, Fulham won 3 and Arsenal 9.
  • The first ever meeting between the two clubs was an FA Cup 1st Round tie in Feb 1904 which Woolwich Arsenal won 3-2 at the Manor Ground. The clubs have not been drawn together in cup competition since.
  • The first league meeting took place 11 years later in the old Division Two with Fulham winning 6-1 at Craven Cottage. It remains the greatest winning margin in a match between the two sides.

Players in Common

Luis Boa Morte, Calum Chambers, Andy Cole, John Coleman, Bill Dodgin, Andrew Ducat, Thomas Eisfeld, Emmanuel Frimpong, John Graham, Julian Gray, Junichi Inamoto, John Lambert, Archibald Macaulay, Malcolm MacDonald, Peter Marinello, Brian McDermott, Ronnie Rooke , Rui Fonte, Ian Selley, Phillipe Senderos, Steve Sidwell, Peter Storey, Brian Talbot, Bobby Templeton, Moritz Volz, Malcolm Webster.

Magic Moment

Not a fixture that we’ve traditionally done well in but a Brede Hangeland goal in August of 2008 for our first win of the 08/09 season is a particularly happy memory. This sort of result was exactly what got Fulham to qualification for our Europa League run in 09/10 so it’s hard to overlook. Plus with hindsight, we opened our account that season with a disappointing 1v2 defeat away to newly promoted Hull City. Having only pulled off the great escape a matter of months ago, it was important to get off to a good start in August and we certainly recovered to record a rare win against the Gunners and our wonderful journey took off from there.

Opposition View (@arseblog)

Have you noticed a difference in the management style/style of play under Unai Emery?

Not significantly. It’s a slight curiosity at the moment that we’re all looking for signs of a change in our style of play and can’t really find anything too concrete, yet we’re on a very good of eight successive wins. Perhaps the change we’re seeing is him instilling an ability to win when not playing particularly well, although it’s not unfair to suggest we’ve been riding our luck a little bit too.

What constitutes success for Emery in his first season as manager?

If he were to secure a top-four finish, I think that would be considered a success. It’s a bit ironic because under Arsene Wenger the consistency of top-four finishes was a frustration for many who felt we should have been challenging for the title, but this is a different Arsenal right now, and Champions League qualification would be an important step forward. If he could win a cup along the way, that would ice the cake very nicely.

After the initial slow start losing to Man City & Chelsea, you’ve gone on a very good run of form. Do you feel confident that you will challenge this season or does it mask the fact that you lost to those sides who will be challenging?

The start was difficult, but when you look at the table we’re only four points off the top, which is a bit surprising. I don’t think there’s enough quality in the team, particularly defensively, to challenge for the title, but right now there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be involved in the scrap for the top four.

How do you see the game going on Sunday & what’s your score prediction/predicted line up?

It’s hard to know because of the early kick-off and the fact we’ve done a massive round trip to Azerbaijan. I feel at some point our defensive issues are going to cost us, so I’ll predict a 2-2 draw.

Arsenal team: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

Match Prediction

Another defensive restructuring after the injuries for both starting fullbacks at Goodison means that defensive solidity might be hard to come by again for this game. If Fulham can manage to piece together a good 90 minutes then there’s a possibility of a positive result. But with that being said, I’m sadly backing Arsenal to extend their run of victories in the league here with a 2-0 win.

Predicted Line-Up