Arsenal 4 Fulham 1: Aubameyang scores as Gunners return to winning ways

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moved clear of Mohamed Salah in the scoring charts as Arsenal eased past Fulham on New Year's Day.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finds the net against Fulham.   -  Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal seems to have put behind it the hammering at Liverpool as it started 2019 with a morale-boosting 4-1 triumph over struggling Fulham at Emirates Stadium.

A visit from the Premier League's 19th-placed side offered welcome respite for the Gunners after their 5-1 reverse at Anfield, though they did not have it all their own way before Granit Xhaka's 25th-minute opener. The recalled Alexandre Lacazette doubled the lead early in the second half before Fulham hit back with a tap-in from substitute Aboubakar Kamara after 69 minutes.

However, it was another replacement who finished off Fulham's hopes of picking up a point. Aaron Ramsey converted a rebound after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a post, though the latter did go on to score his 14th league goal of the campaign.

The final scoreline flattered Arsenal, which papered over the cracks in its defence by scoring two late goals.

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Ryan Sessegnon twice wasted opportunities to put Fulham in front, missing the target with a curling left-footed shot and failing to make any contact at the back post when picked out by Andre Schurrle's inviting cross.

The let-offs allowed Arsenal to open the scoring instead, Xhaka's run from deep saw him control Alex Iwobi's cross on his knee and steer a left-footed volley beyond Sergio Rico. Fulham's Spanish goalkeeper denied Lacazette late in the first half but could do little to prevent the French striker from capping off excellent work by Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac ten minutes after the break.

Sessegnon's low cross allowed Kamara to make amends for his penalty miss last time out against Huddersfield Town when the forward defied team orders to take the kick in a 1-0 win, but Arsenal overcame the wobble to ease over the line.

Ramsey restored the two-goal cushion and Aubameyang added another four minutes later and goes one clear of Mohamed Salah in the scoring charts.

Granit Xhaka scored Arsenal's opening goal against Fulham.   -  AFP

 


What does it mean? Defensive frailties continue to undermine both teams

Arsenal conceded 14 league goals during December – its most in a calendar month since April 1979 – and its defensive issues were once again exposed. Not even a half-time switch to four at the back helped steady the ship, albeit it was aided by relegation-threatened Fulham being just as bad, if not worse, in the same department.

"I need a clean sheet like I need pasta," Claudio Ranieri stated before the festive fixtures. His appetite was sated with recent shut-outs against Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town, but his side was too easily cut open on Tuesday.

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Auba back in the thick of it

After having just 13 touches during his 71 minutes on the pitch against Liverpool – and six of those were kick-offs – Aubameyang was far more involved on home turf. The striker wasted two excellent opportunities in the first half but had a hand in Arsenal's second and third goals before eventually grabbing one himself.

Sessegnon fails to take his chances

Fulham may need to consider sending the England Under-21 international to a finishing school. His pace caused Arsenal problems throughout and while he did lay Kamara's goal on a plate in the second half, those two key misses before the break let a nervy home team off the hook.

What's next?

The Premier League takes a break as it is FA Cup duty next for the top-flight clubs. Arsenal heads to the north-west coast to take on League One Blackpool on Saturday, while Fulham hosts third-tier Oldham the following day at Craven Cottage.

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