Arsenal 4 Fulham 1
Xhaka 26, Lacazette 55, Ramsey 79, Aubameyang 83, Kamara 69

Arsenal bounced back from their loss at Liverpool with a 4-1 thrashing of Fulham at the Emirates. Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were on target as the Gunners ran out for a comfortable win. There was a scare for the Gunners when Fulham saw Ryan Sessegnon squander two good chances to get the Cottagers off the mark. They did finally register when substitute Aboubakar Kamara tapped in to make it 2-1. But Arsenal just stepped up through the gears to finish strong with two further goals. Only some fine saves from Sergio Rico kept the Gunners scoring below four. Talented 17 year old Bukayo Saka came off the bench to make his Premier League first team debut for the Gunners.

Unai Emery made three changes from the side which saw off 2018 with a 5-1 loss to Liverpool. Matteo Guendouzi, Alexandre Lacazette and Lauren Koscielny all started, while Lucas Torreira, Aaron Ramsey and Stephan Lichsteiner dropped to the bench.

Arsenal could and should have been in front with less than five minutes on the clock, but under pressure from his marker, Aubameyang skied his effort following some good work from Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi on the left. That attacking thrust would be a recurring theme for the Gunners and one from which they would profit later on. However, Fulham could and perhaps should have taken the lead themselves when a two touch move saw Sessegnon bear down on Bernd Leno’s goal. The German came out to narrow the angle and was relieved to see the Fulham man strike wide of the upright. Sessegnon threatened again from Andre Schurrle’s cross, but missed the ball with his preferred left foot and with only Leno to beat.

With Koscielny, Sokratis and Mustafi starting for the first time, the aerial threat from Aleksandar Mitrovic would always be an issue, and that much was highlighted when the Serbian out jumped the Arsenal trio, but Leno made the save.

Arsenal took the lead on 25 minutes. Lacazette powered through, the ball went out left to Kolasinac and then Iwobi to pinpoint the run of Xhaka for the Switzerland midfielder to place his shot beyond Sergio Rico.

The Gunners doubled their lead ten minutes after the break. This time, Aubameyang was out on the left with Iwobi and Kolasinac. The trio cut past the Fulham defence, for Kolasinac to cut back  for Lacazette to firstly take a touch before firing in for 2-0. The Cottagers didn’t seem in the mood to lay down at that point. With the introduction of Kamara for Schurrle on the hour mark, Mitrovic had a powerful partner, and with 20 minutes left Fulham halved the deficit. Substitute Torreira was  dispossessed deep in his own half. The ball was worked out to the left for Sessegnon to cross, leaving Kamara the simplest of tasks  to tap in.

Arsenal had squandered earlier chances when Lacazette saw Rico spread himself to save and Aubameyang with a header which flew just wide of the target, and that theme returned when Lacazette who had scored moments earlier, hit straight at Rico with the goal at his mercy.

Lacazette was replaced by Ramsey on 75 minutes, a decision which didn’t best please the Emirates faithful. Emery however will have felt vindicated with the switch, as four minutes after his introduction, the former Wales captain scored Arsenal’s third.

Guenndouzi and Kolasinac swapped passes the latter crossed for Aubameyang only to see his strike come back off the post. In the right place at  the right time, Ramsey calmly curled in to make it 3-1. Arsenal were enjoying themselves on the pitch and grabbed a fourth goal to start 2019 in the best way. A short corner routine saw Fulham unable to clear their lines. Sokratis who saw a brilliant first half left winger like move saved was still up, but this time he played the ball out to the right for Aubameyang. The Gabon striker took aim before rifling in past Rico via a deflection to claim his 14th goal of the season.

Emery smiled on, and was happy to have gotten back to winning ways.

“We needed to win today. We spoke before in the dressing room about today being one day where we can be consistent here with our results. We knew that today we could win three points and that the three points would give us security in the table. We are behind the first four teams in the table, but we want to continue to be close and maybe in the future we can be in the top four if we take our opportunities,” he said.

On the substitution of Ramsey for Lacazette which was met by boos from the crowd, Emery reflected that he was merely doing his job.

“I understand the supporters. I need to do my work. Tactically, we are thinking that in this moment we needed to change to get more balance. Above all else, we know Seri very well and we needed to get a player close to him, to not let him play with the ball very easily. When Aaron Ramsey came onto the pitch, he could do that and can also help us in attacking moments and he scored. The reason for the decision was this and I need to do my work. Every supporter can think different things tactically, but for me today, Lacazette worked very well today, scored and he helped us. His reaction was very positive.”

Next up is Arsenal’s FA Cup third round trip to Blackpool on the 5th January, before another London derby in the Premier League with the trip to West Ham seven days later.