Arsenal will be looking to extend their winning run in all competitions to three matches when they welcome Fulham to the Emirates Stadium this lunchtime, kick-off 1:30pm.
The Gunners, who swept Scott Parker’s team aside on the opening day of the season back in September, winning 3-0 at Craven Cottage, cruised into the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in midweek, defeating Slavia Prague 4-0 in the second-leg of their respective quarter-final clash.
Goals from Alexandre Lacazette (2), Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka secured an impressive away win for the Gunners, meaning they progressed to the last-four of the competition with a 5-1 victory on aggregate.
The Gunners’ reward for getting the better of the Czech giants is a reunion with former manager Unai Emery, who is now in charge of Spanish side Villarreal. But before Arsenal can switch their focus to that battle, they must focus on getting the better of a Fulham side whose prospects of staying in the Premier League this season are wearing thin.
The Cottagers will make the short trip across London this lunchtime seven points adrift of safety, meaning they need to start getting points on the board and fast.
Ahead of this lunchtime’s showdown, Gunners chief Mikel Arteta, who would see his side close the gap on north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to two points with a win, has heaped praise on his opposite number – Parker – and has insisted that had Fulham been a little bit more lucky in some stages of the season then the former West Ham United midfielder’s position would be looked at a little differently.
“Well, I played a lot of times against Scott. We had some battles,” said Arteta. “We have some common friends and people in the football world that we know each other quite well.
“I’m really happy for him, for the work that he’s doing. Again, I’ve said I think they’ve been really unlucky in some games this season that could have put his job in a different perspective.
“But still, I think anybody that is around him knows the man and then knows the professional that is behind and I wish him all the best.”
Despite being strong favourites to record a second successive Premier League win this lunchtime, the Gunners will have to make do without both Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang once again. Odegaard has missed the last three matches with an ankle injury whilst Aubameyang has missed the last two after confirming that he had contracted Malaria.
Despite losing two key individuals, Arteta is pleased with how his side has reacted in the last two matches, particularly without skipper Aubameyang being present.
Arteta said: “Well, we missed him a few games last season as well. Auba is a big part of our team, he’s a really important player in our squad and he will continue to be.
“You need those players in your team to be successful and that’s not going to change overnight because we win one or two games.
“It’s great that the team has the ability and the capacity to resolve when we are missing some important players. It is the same with David [Luiz], the same with Kieran [Tierney], the same with many others that we have missed, the same with Martin [Odegaard] at the moment which could have a real effect on the team.
“The team has reacted in a way that they have not used any excuses, just faced the challenge ahead of them and get others to raise their individual performance for the team and this is what they did.”
As well as being without both Odegaard and Aubameyang this lunchtime, David Luiz and Kieran Tierney will miss out once again through their respective knee injuries. Luiz is on his road to recovery after undergoing surgery earlier this month whilst Scotland ace Tierney could miss the remainder of the season.
Do you want all the latest news from around Arsenal Football Club straight to your email inbox?
Of course you do.
By signing up for our Arsenal newsletter, you will receive a twice-daily email, focused on all the latest news from the Emirates Stadium.
And, not only that, but you will get exclusive content from our club writers Chris Wheatley and Kaya Kaynak before anyone else.
You won’t miss a thing when it comes to the Gunners.
How do you sign up?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the Arsenal section of football.london in fact – labelled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.
Alternatively, you can click here and tick the Arsenal box to subscribe for our Gunners newsletter.
If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you’ll want to.
Elsewhere, Arteta’s injury list has somewhat reduced since putting his last-minute preparations in place for Thursday’s Europa League win, meaning the four aforementioned names are the only absentees for today’s meeting with the Cottagers.
Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli and Willian will be amongst those pushing for starting berths after being left on the bench in midweek.
Full Arsenal squad available to face Fulham:
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Mat Ryan, Alex Runarsson & Karl Hein.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari & Calum Chambers.
Midfielders: Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny, Miguel Azeez & Emile Smith Rowe.
Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli & Folarin Balogun.