Fulham vs Arsenal
Saturday 12th September 2020, 12.30pm
by Mark Rowntree
Buoyed as a result of recent success, namely a record breaking 14th FA Cup Final win, the expectation level around the Emirates Stadium continues to rise. However, history dictates that the Gunners are often slow starters in the Premier League and face a potentially tough away trip to newly-promoted Fulham.
It’s fair to acknowledge that Arsenal haven’t always had the rub of the green fixtures wise on the opening day of the season, having faced tough opposition in the shape of Man City (2018-19), Leicester (2017-18) and Liverpool (2016-17 & 2010-11). However, for a club of Arsenal’s stature an opening day win ratio of 30% (since 2010-11) simply isn’t good enough. Fans will no doubt be keen to forget home defeats to West Ham (2015-16) and Aston Villa (2013-14)during the latter years of Arsene Wenger era.
Under the guidance of Scott Parker, the Cottagers finished off the Championship season strongly thwarting the forward motion of Brentford’s ‘BMW’ in the Play-Off Final at Wembley. Throughout the duration of last season Fulham were heavily reliant on the goals of the controversial Aleksander Mitrovic (26) with others to contribute on that front including Tom Cairney (8), Bobby Decordova-Reid (6) and the ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Ivan Cavaleiro (6).
Fulham were beaten at home (by Crystal Palace) on the opening day in 2018-19, in what turned out to be a disastrous first few months for their Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic.
A recently retired Scott Parker was on the coaching staff back then so will understand the importance of a positive start to the Premier League season, and he has elected to strengthentheir playing squad
Loanee Anthony Knockaert has joined from Brighton (£10m) on a three-year deal, while Harrison Reed has made permanent his stay at the Cottage, signing up from Southampton (£6m) until the summer of 2024.
Furthermore, for only a minimal outlay Antonee Robinson (Wigan, £2m) and Mario Lemina (Southampton, loan) are also usefuladditions.
Arsenal’s primary focus has been to seek to tie down their talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to new contract, and we patiently await further developments there.
However, both Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney should be stronger in theirsecond seasons at the club, with the latter in particular expected to make a significant contribution on the left-side granted an injury free season.
Meanwhile new signings Gabriel Magalhaes (Lille £23.1m) and Pablo Mari (Flamengo, £7.2m) promise to help shore up what can only be described as an often ‘leaky defence’.
The return of Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid coupled with the arrival of Willian from Chelsea serve to boost the Gunners options going forward, while exciting youngster Bukayo Saka will be hopeful of more game time in a hectic season ahead.
In terms of the opening game, Arsenal will need to adopt a patient approach against a Fulham side who will no doubt be turbo-charged with enthusiasm back in the top-flight. However, without the presence of the vociferous home support by the River Thames, expect the Gunners to possess the greater nous and determination to dig out a narrow victory which will see them top the Premier League table for a few hours at the very least.
Draw/Arsenal 10/3 (Betfair)
Correct Score (90 mins):
Arsenal 2-1; 13-2 (Betfair)
Premier League: 33-1
Top 2 Finish: 19-1
Top 4 Finish: 11-4
Top 6 Finish: 8-15
Betting without Manchester City & Liverpool: 9-1
Handicap Betting (+24pts): 14-1
(Man City Scratch)
FA Cup Winners: 10-1
English Football League Cup Winners: 12-1
Next Premier League Manager to Leave Post: Mikel Arteta: 25-1
Golden Boot: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 9-2
Top Southern Club: 16-5
(includes Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Fulham, Brighton, Southampton and Crystal Palace)