Arsenal vs Fulham: 3 Key Battles To Watch Out For

Arsenal will look to make it three wins on the spin in the Premier League on Saturday when they host London rivals Fulham at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have won their opening two fixtures against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace respectively. Despite going down to 10 men on Monday night, they managed a gritty 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

In contrast, Fulham head to the Emirates off the back of a demoralising 3-0 defeat to west London rivals Brentford at Craven Cottage. Prior to the defeat to Brentford, Marco Silva’s men had won their season opener against Everton.

Both teams enter this fixture off the back of contrasting results. With that being said, here are the key battles that could define the outcome of the game between Arsenal and Fulham.

#Eddie Nketiah vs Issa Diop

In Gabriel Jesus’ injury absence, Eddie Nketiah has shouldered the responsibility of leading the Arsenal attack, and on the evidence of his performances in the opening two games he has done really well. He was a real bright spark against Crystal Palace, despite failing to get on the score sheet.

The 24-year-old hit the post after a brilliant solo run before attempting an audacious chip over onrushing Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone. But Nketiah was rewarded for his efforts as he earned a penalty in the 67th minute after being brought down by Johnstone in the area, with skipper Martin Odegaard scoring from the spot to give Arsenal three valuable points.

With his confidence high and in front of the Emirates faithful, Nketiah will be raring to get on the score sheet. Following Tim Ream’s harsh second yellow card against Brentford, Issa Diop must take extra responsibility to marshal the troops from the back for Fulham.

Diop had a forgettable outing against Brentford and it was his mistake that allowed the visitors to take the lead through Yoane Wissa. So, how the Frenchman bounces back and keeps Nketiah quiet on Saturday will be interesting to watch.

#Bukayo Saka vs Antonee Robinson

Bukayo Saka has been Arsenal’s best player in the last two years, and his exploits in the final third have been extraordinary. A special talent blessed with pace, trickery, directness and unpredictability, he could be a real threat, particularly with midfielders Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice capable of finding him in promising areas in the final third.

Antonee Robinson is likely to be the tonic for Fulham: an aggressive and pacey left-back himself, he is not easily beaten in 1v1 situations, although he struggled to cope with Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo last week. Regardless, the match-up between Saka and Robinson promises to be an exciting watch.

#Declan Rice vs Joao Palhinha

Who comes out on top in this key midfield battle could go a long way in deciding the outcome of this London derby.

Declan Rice has seamlessly slotted into Mikel Arteta’s system at Arsenal following his big-money summer move from West Ham. In a hard-fought victory over Palace, Rice was integral to his team’s triumph, pulling the strings from midfield and being named man of the match.

One of the key components to Fulham’s successful last season was Joao Palhinha, who registered the most tackles in the division. In his absence, the Cottagers have often struggled in midfield. After missing the season opener at Everton due to injury, he came off the bench in the 3-0 defeat to Brentford.

Usually, Palhinha is extremely difficult to pass, owing to his tackling ability and energy to cover ground quickly. Expected to start in midfield alongside Andreas Pereira and Harrison Reed, if the Portuguese enforcer is able to frustrate Rice by limiting his time and space on the ball, it will nullify a big part of Arsenal’s threat to hurt the opposition from midfield.

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