Arsenal’s most prolific week of the season came when the club had its back against the wall. Facing the bottom half of the Premier League table and heading to the Czech Republic in need of a road win in order to keep their European dreams alive. Mikel Arteta’s side responded with a combined seven goals, including four from Lacazette and keeping two clean sheets, pushing the Gunners into 9th place and the Europa League semi-finals.
While we all know that the Europa League is now the sole priority for what remains of this season, Sunday’s match should not be overlooked. Arsenal has momentum and another emphatic win can help maintain that form ahead of Everton and the first leg against Villareal in the following week. While you might be tempted to rest the majority of the first-choice players available at the moment, there is an extra day of rest before the next match following Fulham and Arsenal will be at home for this pair of Premier League matches.
Fulham head into the weekend in 18th place, having played one match more than all the other relegation battle clubs. They’ve lost four straight, being outscored 9-3, and now six points away from safety. Fulham has played better than their record indicates, but even though Sunday is a must-win for them, Scott Parker is likely headed for the Championship. How should Arsenal set up in this London derby?
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Eddie Nketiah
- Reiss Nelson
- Mohamed Elneny
- Thomas Partey
- Pablo Mari
- Calum Chambers
- Mat Ryan
- Left Out: Alex Runarsson
- Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness), David Luiz (knee), Martin Odegaard (Ankle), & Kieran Tierney (Knee)
- Missing possibly four starters, typically you’d have been concerned this season. But even if Odegaard remains unavailable, Arsenal heads into Sunday’s match riding a much-needed wave of confidence.
- After that attacking display on Thursday, Mikel Arteta should stick with what is working. Lacazette continued his strong form, which is really needed with Aubameyang’s absence, now with seven goals in his last seven starts. In our most important match of the season, Lacazette led the line away from home. Pepe and Saka are up to 15 and 14 goals+assists respectively and can exploit the Fulham backline much like Slavia Prague’s.
- If Odegaard is out, Smith Rowe should return to the central role. However, given his recent knocks as well, you’d forgive Arteta for starting Willian at the #10 position and Martinelli on the wing with Pepe to give Saka and Smith Rowe a rest. Fulham at home is a lot easier on paper than Everton or the semi-final against Villareal.
- In the midfield, I’d rest Xhaka. He’s been tremendous for Arsenal as of late in the center of midfield and filling in at left-back. But Arteta seems more likely to sit Leno before he will put Xhaka on the bench at times. Elneny would probably do fine in place of Xhaka on Sunday, but if Xhaka is playing, Ceballos should partner with him. Thomas Partey has dealt with his own numerous injuries this season and there are bigger matches ahead he should be saved for. Ceballos will add more attack and chances to break down Fulham’s defensive block.
- Cedric. Gabriel. Holding. Leno. Let’s move on to the real story in defense. What is going on with Hector Bellerin? After missing out on the last six league matches, he was on the bench once again Thursday. I had thought Arteta was simply saving him for the Europa League but is something else going on? Did he have a slight knock we haven’t been made aware of? Hopefully, we see him back in action this weekend. Although both Calum Chambers and Granit Xhaka deserve all the praise they’ve received this past week as Arsenal’s fullbacks.
How to watch
Sunday (4/18) at 8:30 am ET / 5:30 am PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Fulham - 0
Who is in your starting XI for the weekend and what is your scoreline prediction?