Arsenal and Fulham will face off at the Emirates Stadium in what should be a tantalizing London derby on Saturday.
The Gunners have had a flawless start to the season, winning all three matches. They top the Premier League table and will head into the weekend game full of confidence. Mikel Arteta’s men have just won a fine victory over Bournemouth and on paper are the big favorites.
Fulham, meanwhile, secured an impressive 3-2 win over London rivals Brentford last weekend. Like Arsenal, they are unbeaten in the league and will look to continue their good form.
On that note, let’s look at three key player battles which could influence the outcome of the match.
Gabriel Jesus vs. Tosin Adarabioyo
Gabriel Jesus has been sensational for Arsenal since leaving Manchester City in the summer. He made an instant impact at the club, bringing goals, energy and leadership skills while effectively replacing Alexandre Lacazette up front.
With two goals in three games, Jesus is a fit man and will hope to increase his goalscoring tally when Fulham visit Arsenal. The Brazilian forward is likely to face the centre-back duo of Tosin Adarabioyo and Tim Ream.
Fulham boss Marco Silva will want Adarabioyo to silence Jesus. The 24-year-old’s pace and aerial ability could be key in his battle against the Arsenal marksman.
Aleksandar Mitrovic vs. William Saliba
While Jesus has been excellent for Arsenal, Aleksandr Mitrovic has defied his early detractors by starting the season in impressive fashion for Fulham. The tall Serb has scored three goals in as many games, including goals against Liverpool and Brentford.
The 27-year-old’s stoppage-time goal earned the Cottagers a thrilling 3-2 win over Brentford last weekend. Brimming with confidence, Mitrovic will be looking to give Arsenal’s centre-back duo of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes a scorching moment.
Saliba has adapted to the demands of Premier League football like a duck to water after returning from an impressive loan spell with Marseille last season. The young Frenchman was rock solid at the back and hard to get past, and his wonderful strike against Bournemouth last weekend was a testament to the confidence and self-belief he plays with.
On Saturday, Saliba will have his work cut out against an intimidating striker in Mitrovic. It will be interesting to see how this battle unfolds.
Martin Odegaard vs. João Palhinha
New Arsenal skipper Martin Odegaard has set an example for his team on the pitch. His brace helped the Gunners to a comfortable 3-0 win over Bournemouth last weekend.
Odegaard is Arsenal’s creative spark, and his clever tactical movement and spatial awareness help him evade Fulham centre-backs and get a good number of chances to test Bernd Leno. That’s when Joao Palhinha’s task in Fulham’s midfield becomes even more crucial.
Palhinha was the anchor for the Cottagers, sitting deep in midfield and breaking up play while controlling the pace of the game. The Portuguese will often have to face Odegaard to prevent him from influencing the hosts’ attacking play, and his ability to block and intercept will be put to the test.
It will be an interesting battle to see if Palhinha can neutralize Odegaard’s powers, but if the Arsenal star can find spaces behind the Fulham backline he could get a goal or an assist.