Arsenal were humiliated against Liverpool, plain and simple. A sloppy defence was ceased upon and split open on multiple occasions against Jurgen Klopp’s men, and the gulf in class was clear for all to see. It was a dour note to end matches in 2018 on – a year which has seen more change for and within Arsenal Football Club than the past 2 decades.
After such a harrowing defeat, it may be hard to come back, but perhaps for the good of all at the club – players, staff and supporters alike – the next game is right around the corner, as the intensive festive period of matches comes to a close against Claudio Ranieri’s Fulham on New Year’s Day.
Fulham currently sit in the relegation places, but have taken an upturn since Ranieri took over in November. There most recent match ended with a late-winner against Huddersfield from Aleksander Mitrovic, earning 3 points that may be highly valuable at the end of the campaign.
Fulham have not looked anything near the side they were in the Championship, with the transition to the top tier of English football not going smoothly. That being said, they’re beginning to find their feet and have a squad littered with quality, including English starlet Ryan Sessegnon, who his new manager has been using sparingly, but effectively.
Fulham have a pretty awful record against Arsenal – in 28 home matches played in North London (in any competition), the Cottagers have never won – Arsenal winning 23 and contesting in 5 draws. In addition to this, Ranieri has never won a league match against Arsenal, having 10 previous attempts during his time at the helm of both Chelsea and Leicester City – drawing 4 and losing 6.
If you’re into omens, though, you may be worried by the fact that the only time these two teams have played on the first day of the year – 1966 – Fulham came out the victors in a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage.
Arsenal’s home form in the league this season has been good – they’ve won their past 3 home league matches. The only home defeat this campaign was the opening day of the season against defending Champions Man City.
Fulham have been finding it hard to score away from home – they’ve only got 1 goal in their last 5, and that was a penalty. What may give them hope though is that Arsenal conceded 14 goals in December 2018 – there most since they conceded 15 goals all the way back in April 1979; a real indicator of the defensive problems at the club.
Fulham have a joint Prem low clean-sheet record at only two this campaign (Man United being the other side). Arsenal’s strike force has been a redeeming factor for the club at times this season, and after a quiet performance at Anfield, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will be hoping to worry the Cottagers defence.
In team news, Arsenal will be missing now long-term absentees Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck. Hector Bellerin will also be out.
There’s also a chance that the solitary goal scorer at the weekend, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, may be unavailable after picking up a knock against Klopp’s team. After Stephan Lichtsteiner had a torrid performance against Liverpool, Emery will be hoping his young first-time goal scorer is available to offer defensive cover.
Nacho Monreal is a possibility as he recovers from a hamstring issue, and Mesut Ozil will hopefully be available for selection as he recovers from the knee complaint that seen him omitted from the squad for the trip to Anfield.
For the away side, Alfie Mawson is unavailable, and to their sojourn, it looks like it may be a long-term layoff with a knee injury sustained against Huddersfield. In more positive news for Ranieri, midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa may be back in the team after an ankle injury.
In his pre-match presser, Unai Emery spoke like a man ready to fight back: "We need to keep the balance in the middle, be serious and continue on Tuesday with a big match at the Emirates. We need to show our supporters there we are standing up after the result [against Liverpool]."
A bounce-back will be needed: Arsenal were shown up for their inept defence against Pool. This was a result of a poor performance, some injuries, and of course, a lack of quality. With January just around the corner, players will be aware that there positions will be up for grabs in effectively all positions except for the strikers.
This – and indeed every match – is so important to Arsenal’s league standing. Manchester United are rejuvenated under new manager and the 4 sides above the Gunners all look strong; every point matters. Automatic Champions League qualification is still very possible, and it has to be at least the goal.
A winning start to the New Year is just what the Gunners need following the Liverpool result – it can be an opportunity to put that game behind the club and work towards improvements over the course of January and beyond.
Arsenal host Fulham at the Emirates in the Premier League on Tuesday the 1st of January 2019, with kick-off scheduled for 3PM local time.