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Arsenal exorcise Anfield horror show

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Arsenal players in celebratory mood against Fulham

ARSENAL STARTED the new year better than they end the last with a 4-1 victory over relegation-threatened Fulham on January 1.

The Gunners were looking to bounce back after a torrid end to 2018 having been beaten 5-1 at Anfield by rampant champions-elect Liverpool on Saturday evening.

Fulham, buoyed by a last gasp win over Huddersfield in their final fixture of last year, are bang in trouble at the foot of the table after this loss.

The defeat against Liverpool confirmed that Unai Emery’s men are not yet ready to challenge for the Premier League crown but there is a top four spot to aim for and today’s three points were most welcome.

And as long as they improve their defending and can call upon the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette, they have a chance to have a relatively successful campaign. Both strikers notched goals against their west London neighbours.

It would appear to be a bleak winter ahead for Claudio Ranieri’s troops. They are wholly reliant on the guile and goals of Aleksandar Mitrovic and that may not be enough to retain their top-flight status.

Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri was in amongst his players as they warmed up for the match, clearly attempting to make sure that final preparations were at their best.

At the outset, the away support was noisy to say the least; testimony to a good new year’s eve which tends to conjure optimism.

That optimism was nearly silenced when Aubameyang failed to connect with an Alex Iwobi cross which should should have made it 1-0 to the home side early on.

Those aforementioned voices nearly had a goal of their own to celebrate when somehow Ryan Sessegnon fired wide with only Bernd Leno to beat after a quick fire Fulham raid on the Arsenal goal.

Despite their lowly position in the table, Fulham exposed the Gunners’ on a number of occasions thereafter without taking their chances.

They were made to pay for their wastefulness in the 25th minute when Granit Xhaka slotted home after more good work by the influential Iwobi.

Arsenal should have put themselves out of sight after taking the lead with Xhaka, Lacazette and Aubameyang all spurning good opportunities.

Lacazette finally put paid to Fulham hopes with a right foot shot from close range in the 56th minute after a team move that was pleasing on the eye.

Fulham sub Aboubakar Kamara had Arsenal nerves jangling when he netted in the 69th minute to confirm the hosts’ inability to keep clean sheets.

Those nerves were settled ten minutes later when sub Aaron Ramsey made it 3-1 after Aubameyang hit the woodwork.

Gabon-born Aubameyang was to get his deserved goal, via a Tim Ream deflection, in the 83rd minute.

The nightmare of Anfield just days earlier had been exorcised.

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