The 2020-2021 season begins looking eerily similar to the end of last season without the presence of supporters in the stadiums. However, that fact hasn’t dampened the spirits of the Arsenal faithful as the Gunners kick off their season away to Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Normally a tie resplendent with a cruise up the Thames by Arsenal supporters, the Gooners will have to be satisfied with watching the season kick off from the comfort of their own homes or various watch places.
Arsenal square off against newly promoted yo-yo club, Fulham. Fulham secured promotion through a dramatic playoff win and are looking to establish a foothold in the Premier League. Having Arsenal to play on opening day may not have been what they had in mind to get that idea started.
Much as they finished
The Arsenal squad that takes the pitch on Saturday may not be too dissimilar to the one that closed out last season a few short weeks ago. Sure, transfer business has been done, the most notable being the capture of Brazillian center back, Gabriel and the return of Dani Ceballos on a season long loan.
What hasn’t occurred is outgoings. All of last year’s faces are back with even outcasts getting a chance to re-establish themselves. Sure, by the time the window closes in October, that won’t be the case but Gooners shouldn’t be surprised when the team that takes the pitch on Saturday isn’t that much different from last season.
That could also mean a return to three at the back. Though the lynchpin for that formation, David Luiz is facing a fitness test that should he fail would see him sidelined for quite possibly 4 weeks.
With Mustafi and Mari injured, joined possibly with Luiz, surely, we’re likely to see either Saliba or Gabriel make their season/team debut alongside either Rob Holding or Sokratis. It’s also quite possible that Areta with the injury situation and the “newness” of Gabriel and Saliba, reverts to four at the back with Holding and Sokratis along holding down the back line.
Building off of the FA Cup win
What we’re all interested in seeing is if the FA Cup and even the Community Shield wins can be a catalyst for an Arsenal resurgence.
In 2014 after the dramatic FA Cup win, many hoped it would signal that Arsenal would build on that and challenge for titles. The season came and went and nothing. Same in 2015 and 2017.
Mikel Arteta has stressed the need to continue to build on this momentum from last season and use it to get back into the top 4 and competing for honors. It’s a tall order for Arsenal considering their trajectory of the last few seasons. But Mikel Arteta not only has his players believing in his vision, the fan base is on board as well.
Still, belief is one thing, it’s the actual doing it that matters. Belief can help. Football is after all, as they say, 90% mental. If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t.
Arteta has done wonders for changing the mindset of the club – in all areas – in such a short time that he could very well turn this club around this season. Still, it does seem the fan base is going to give him a wide berth and that’s a good thing.
This turnaround is going to take time. It took Liverpool 5 years to get where they are now. We are half a year into fixing ourselves.
The squad under Arteta has taken some big steps forward and they need to continue to do so. They need to take the belief that came from winning the FA Cup and use it in a way that neither of the recent FA Cup winning teams did.
The good thing is they seem to have the right man at the helm to help them get there.
Improving Away Form
One of the key metrics we’ll be using to see how this team has improved, is how the team does away from the Emirates. Under Emery for 18 months and under Wenger for the last season of his tenure the away form of this team was atrocious.
The improvements were modest since Arteta took over but they were there.
If Arsenal are going to mount any serious challenge than they have to be be more effective, especially against “lesser” teams on the road.
In the 2019-2020 season Arsenal managed a paltry 1.05 goals scored per game while conceding an average of 1.26 goal per game while playing away form the Emirates. The Gunners could only score 2 goals 5 times last season and managed 3 goals only once, also away from home.
Meanwhile, they conceded 2 goals 6 times away from home and 3 goals twice.
The away form of this team must improve dramatically if they are going to really push for the top four and beyond.
That has to start with this trip to Fulham where they can lay a marker for what kind of team they expect to be this season.
How the Match Should Play Out
Call it bias, call it eternal optimism but I do think Arsenal are going to come out firing and with a point to prove. They are likely more prepared to play than Fulham who haven’t played nothing but friendlies. Arsenal for their part had the rigors of the Community Shield and Liverpool to deal with.
Arsenal should come into this match ready to play and Scott Parker’s charges if they play opened up will be put to the sword early as Arsenal are going to look to establish possession and get the game going from the kick off.
Look for the Gunners to buck last season’s away woes and stats and score 3 in this match as they take all 3 points and a clean sheet.
Fulham 0 – 3 Arsenal
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)
20W 5D 3L
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: Kevin Friend
VAR: David Coote
Assistant VAR: Stephen Child.
Match Facts (courtesy bbc.co.uk)
- Arsenal are aiming to win their opening match in consecutive seasons for the first time in 11 years.
- The Gunners are undefeated in all four of their previous opening Premier League matches versus newly-promoted opposition (W3, D1). Their last opening day league defeat against a promoted side was a 1-0 loss at Highbury to Bristol City in 1976.
- They have not lost any of their last 24 matches in the month of September in all competitions (W19, D5) since a 3-2 home defeat by Olympiakos in the Champions League in 2015.
- Arsenal have already won two trophies in their 29 matches under Mikel Arteta: the FA Cup and Community Shield.
- They scored 56 Premier League goals last season, their lowest total since 1995-96.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 54 goals in 85 Premier League appearances since his debut in February 2018, a joint-league high during that period with Mo Salah.
- Fulham have lost their past five Premier League matches against Arsenal.
- They conceded nine goals in the two meetings during their most recent top-flight campaign in 2018-19.
- Arsenal’s only defeat in the past 13 Premier League meetings was 2-1 at Craven Cottage in January 2012.
- The two sides have met once before on the opening day of a top-flight season, with the Gunners coming from behind to win 2-1 in 2007.