Fulham begin life back in the Premier League with a home clash against Arsenal at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Scott Parker’s side won promotion via the Championship play-off final and go head to head with FA Cup and FA Community Shield winners Arsenal first up.
A double from Joe Bryan in extra-time of the Championship play-off final fired Fulham back into the Premier League a year after being relegated. Having ended 0-0 at the end of normal time, the Cottagers won 2-1 against Brentford at Wembley. The run to promotion saw Fulham lose just one of their last 10 games. In preparation for life back in the top flight, Fulham’s only friendly ended in a 2-2 draw with MK Dons. The remaining warm-up fixtures have featured Fulham’s under-23 side. Scott Parker has been busy in the transfer market, signing winger Anthony Knockaert from Brighton, midfielder Harrison Reed from Southampton and full-backs Antonee Robinson from Wigan and Ziyad Larkeche on a free from Paris Saint-Germain. Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola has also joined on loan from PSG, while midfielder Mario Lemina has agreed a season-long loan from Southampton. Alfie Mawson and Steven Sessegnon have been allowed to join Bristol City on loan for the season.
Arsenal finished 8th in the Premier League last season after a largely positive upturn fortunes following the appointment as Mikel Arteta in charge at the Emirates. The Gunners went on to win the FA Cup Final with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Wembley, and returned back there to lift the FA Community Shield on penalties after holding Premier League champions Liverpool to a 1-1 draw.
Arsenal have also played two pre-season friendlies ahead of this opening game of the Premier League season. They beat MK Dons 4-1 and QPR 4-3. Arteta continues to put his stamp on this Arsenal side, bringing in Willian on a free transfer from Chelsea, Lille defender Gabriel and signing defenders Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares permanently after both joined the Gunners last season on a loan and on a short-term deal. Dani Ceballos has also returned to the Emirates for a second season on loan from Real Madrid, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan the only major departure after his contract was cancelled. Arsenal have a number of absentees for the opener with Calum Chambers, Mari, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all out and David Luiz a doubt.
Arsenal have won the last five matches against Fulham, and are unbeaten in the last six. In the 2018/19 Premier League season when the sides last met, the Gunners won 5-1 at Craven Cottage and 4-1 at the Emirates. Arsenal are 1.53 favourites to make a winning start to the season. Fulham are 6.00 to mark their return to the Premier League with a win. A draw is 4.33. Arsenal’s away form was a key reason behind their eighth place finish last season. They won just four times away from home in the Premier League last season. Buoyed by their cup successes, they can get things off to a much better start on the road this campaign.
PREDICTION : ARSENAL 0-2 WIN
ACCUMULATOR TIP : ARSENAL WIN EITHER HALF