Seeking to bounce back from midweek defeats, London rivals Fulham and Arsenal do battle at Craven Cottage in their final Premier League match of 2023 on New Year’s Eve.

The two teams meet for the first time since August when Joao Palhinha netted an 87th-minute equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw against the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.

Aside from their penalty-shootout triumph at Everton in the EFL Cup quarter-finals, Fulham have had little to cheer about during the festive period and suffered their third successive Premier League defeat without scoring at the hands of Bournemouth, losing 3-0 at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

The Cottagers held their own for the majority of the first half until Justin Kluivert opened the scoring for the Cherries on the stroke of half time, before Dominic Solanke and Luis Sinisterra netted after the break to condemn Marco Silva’s men to their 10th league loss of the campaign.

Only Luton Town (11), Burnley (14) and Sheffield United (14), who all sit in the relegation zone, have lost more games at this stage of the Premier League season than Fulham, who remain 13th in the table and are placed six points clear of the bottom three having played a game more than 18th-placed Luton.

Fulham will welcome a return to Craven Cottage where they have accumulated 15 of their 21 Premier League points this term. Silva’s side won three successive home games by an aggregate score of 13-2 before suffering a surprise 2-0 defeat to Burnley in their most recent home match last weekend.

The Cottagers have failed to win any of their last 11 meetings with Arsenal and have also lost each of their last seven top-flight home matches against fellow London-based opposition, but a positive result on Sunday should not be ruled out considering that they have won their final league game in five of the previous eight calendar years.

Fulham notably breezed to a comprehensive 5-0 home victory over West Ham United earlier this month, the same team that stunned Arsenal with a 2-0 win at the Emirates on Thursday evening, ending the Gunners 10-game unbeaten home run in the process.

Goals either side of half time from Tomas Soucek and former Arsenal defender Konstantinos Mavropanos helped David Moyes claim his first-ever managerial win away against the Gunners at the 23rd time of asking, and David Raya was to thank for avoiding a heavier beating after he saved a stoppage-time penalty from Said Benrahma.

Since 2008-09, no Premier League team has had more touches in the penalty area in a single match without scoring than Mikel Arteta’s side (77) against West Ham, and at the halfway point in the campaign, Arsenal have accumulated 10 fewer points than at this stage of last season – the joint-biggest drop-off in the Premier League along with Sunday’s opponents Fulham (also -10) over the last 12 months.

The Gunners missed the chance to climb back to the summit and instead remain in second place, two points behind leaders Liverpool, who face Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, as well as one and three points clear of third-placed Aston Villa and fourth-placed Manchester City respectively – the latter of whom have a game in hand, though.

Having dropped points in three of their last four top-flight games, Arsenal will hope to enter 2024 on a high and should be confident of ending their recent wobble on Sunday as they have won their last five visits to Craven Cottage, scoring at least three goals in each of their last four, while they have also won their final league game in 12 of the last 16 calendar years.

Fulham winger Willian – formerly of Arsenal – remains doubtful with a thigh injury, while Adama Traore and Tim Ream both remain sidelined with respective thigh and calf problems.

However, Raul Jimenez has served his three-match suspension and is expected to replace Rodrigo Muniz up front, joining Bobby De-Cordova Reid and Alex Iwobi – another ex-Gunner – in attack.

Silva is unlikely to make too many other changes to his starting lineup, although Harrison Reed could be recalled at the expense of Tom Cairney to start alongside in-demand midfielder Palhinha.

As for Arsenal, Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf), Thomas Partey (thigh), Fabio Vieira (groin), Jurrien Timber (knee) all remain sidelined as they continue to recover from injury.

However, Kai Havertz is available to return after serving a one-game suspension in midweek and the German will be pushing to start in midfield alongside Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard.

The potential inclusion of Havertz could see either Leandro Trossard or Gabriel Martinelli drop down to the substitutes’ bench, and the other handed a start on the left side of attack alongside Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka, the latter of whom scored against Fulham in the reverse fixture.

Arsenal will be motivated by the prospect of securing at least a top-two finish heading into the New Year with a victory on Sunday, but success is not guaranteed at Craven Cottage considering their recent dip in form, even against an out-of-sorts Fulham outfit who frustrated the Gunners in their previous meeting.

Arteta’s title hopefuls will be regarded as favourites to come out on top, though, and will be fired up to put things right at a stadium where they have had plenty of success in recent years

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