By Michael Hincks
Arsenal 4-1 Fulham: Hosts start New Year with victory to close gap on top four
Highlights and report as Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang score for Arsenal
Last Updated: 01/01/19 11:49pm
Arsenal returned to winning ways in emphatic style with a 4-1 victory over Fulham on New Year's Day.
Looking to bounce back from a 5-1 drubbing at Liverpool, Arsenal punished Fulham for two missed Ryan Sessegnon chances when Granit Xhaka broke the deadlock (25) at the Emirates.
Alexandre Lacazette then scored Arsenal's second (55) after the break following a fine team move, and though substitute Aboubakar Kamara gave the visitors hope (69), it was only short-lived.
Aaron Ramsey (79) restored the two-goal advantage before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (83) added a somewhat flattering fourth. Arsenal move two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, while Fulham remain 19th in the Premier League table.
Arsenal: Leno (6), Sokratis (6), Koscielny (6), Mustafi (6), Maitland-Niles (7), Guendouzi (7), Xhaka (7), Kolasinac (8), Iwobi (8), Lacazette (7), Aubameyang (7)
Subs: Torreira (6), Ramsey (7), Saka (6)
Fulham: Rico (7), Christie (6), Odoi (6), Ream (6), Le Marchand (6), Sessegnon (6), Bryan (6), Cairney (6), Schurrle (5), Cisse (5), Mitrovic (6)
Subs: Fosu-Mensah (6), Kamara (7), Seri (6)
Man of the match: Alex Iwobi
It was a tale of three chances in the opening 25 minutes, with Sessegnon firing wide of the far post when one-on-one with Bernd Leno before the 18-year-old then missed a cross completely six yards out.
Xhaka duly punished Sessegnon for those missed opportunities, with the Swiss midfielder controlling Alex Iwobi's cross before stabbing an attempt beyond Sergio Rico for his first Premier League goal from inside the box.
Arsenal could have extended their lead further before the break, but a valiant block from Tim Ream denied Xhaka, while Rico kept out Lacazette's low drive after Aubameyang headed wide.
Laurent Koscielny, Matteo Guendouzi and Alexandre Lacazette returned to Arsenal’s XI as Unai Emery reverted to three at the back. Mesut Ozil (knee) remained out.
Four Fulham changes saw Andre Schurrle, Maxime Le Marchand, Ibrahima Cisse and Ryan Sessegnon start, with Aboubakar Kamara dropped to the bench after ‘disrespecting’ the club when taking a penalty instead of Aleksandar Mitrovic in the previous match.
Lacazette doubled Arsenal's lead 10 minutes into the second half, adding the finishing touch to a quality move which saw Iwobi, Sead Kolasinac and Aubameyang link-up brilliantly down the left.
Fulham got back into it thanks to Kamara - who had been dropped to the bench after his penalty antics against Huddersfield - with the forward coming off the bench to tap in Sessegnon's cross.
Ramsey then came on for Lacazette, and though the tactical switch brought about jeers from the home fans, it was the Wales midfielder who added Arsenal's third from inside the area before Aubameyang saw his heavily-deflected effort sail past Rico to seal the three points.
- Arsenal have scored 10 Premier League goals this season courtesy of substitutes, more than any other team.
- Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri has never won a Premier League match against Arsenal in 11 attempts (D4 L7) and has a worse points-per-game ratio against the Gunners (0.36) than he does versus any other opponent in the competition.
- Arsenal have kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 Premier League games.
- Granit Xhaka has scored three Premier League goals in 20 appearances for Arsenal in 2018-19 - as many as in his previous two seasons combined (3 in 70 games).
Unai Emery: "We worked well. We wanted to win like this. It's a good result, we need to take confidence here with a match like today. We struggled in some moments, but the team continued to push and create chances. We can be happy today.
"It's normal at 2-1, there can be some doubt, but we continued to show confidence. The team continued to work and kept to their plan.
"We can score with different players - it's good. We can continue creating our identity with different players and different systems."
Claudio Ranieri: "If you analyse you think, okay, the first half-an-hour before their first goal, we created two great chances. The Arsenal crowd was, 'Oh! What happened?' and started to boo their players.
"But they scored with their first chance because we made mistakes in the middle of the box. In the second half, other little mistakes.
"After we reopened the match and had two chances to draw. But when you make mistakes against a big team, and then also we were a little tired, we don't have the quality of Arsenal. Four goals, but I do not think our performance was bad. We could have drawn."
Man of the match - Alex Iwobi
No goals for Iwobi, but he was a constant menace along with Kolasinac down the left, which is where Arsenal found most of their openings against Fulham.
The Nigeria international assisted the first for Xhaka and was key in the build-up to Arsenal's second. He does not always receive the plaudits with Aubameyang and Lacazette for company up front, but Iwobi deserves recognition for his telling New Year's Day contribution.
Arsenal are in FA Cup action at Blackpool on Saturday before heading to West Ham the following weekend, live on Sky Sports on January 12. Fulham host Oldham in the FA Cup on Sunday before heading to Burnley next Saturday.