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Fulham boss Ranieri acknowledges fan unrest amid relegation fight

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Claudio Ranieri is losing the battle against relegation at the helm of Fulham, but that’s not all he’s losing. The fans are turning on him as well.

Fulham fans jeered Ranieri’s substitutions during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, and he recognized their unrest in his post-match media availability.

“I know the fans were not happy but I had two players with flu in the week, including Andre Schurrle,” Ranieri said. “I can understand the fans always want their players to play but it’s not always possible. We will work to try and win our next two games. We’re always positive.”

While Fulham fans have taken to Schurrle – winner of January’s Premier League Goal of the Month award for his stunner against Burnley – that’s not all they’re upset about. Fan favorites Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon were both unused substitutes against Manchester United, even with the team playing from behind early on.

Ranieri has said publicly he wishes to play far more direct than his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic, who became well-liked for his free-flowing, possession-based style of play, to which Cairney and Sessegnon were vastly important. Now, with Ranieri’s style far from that which saw Fulham win promotion to the Premier League under Jokanovic, he has left Cairney and Sessegnon on the bench for multiple matches, causing Fulham fans to question the Italian’s decision-making.

While those two are ball-playing midfielders who are less useful in a more direct setup, they are vital players to the club for the last three seasons, leaving fans wondering whether the manager should adapt more to the squad’s best players. Fans also have become attached to Jokanovic’s style of play, and many opposed the decision to let him go in November, fairly or unfairly giving Ranieri an even shorter lead, and coupled with just one win and five defeats in the last six matches under the new style of play, fans are beginning to lose patience quickly.

What’s more, the club’s porous defense – the worst in the top five European leagues by goals conceded – has capitulated early in matches, conceding inside the opening half-hour in four of their last five matches, including a 14th-minute goal by Paul Pogba that began the Old Trafford defeat on Saturday, with Anthony Martial scoring nine minutes later to double the lead. Cairney and Sessegnon both came off the bench in that game, but not until the final 13 minutes.

Gunners school Fulham on New Year’s Day

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  • Xhaka strikes first, 25′
  • Lacazette caps team goal
  • Kamara pulls one back
  • Ramsey puts it to bed

Arsenal responded to its weekend drubbing by turning the lopsided score line on Fulham with a 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all scored for the Gunners, who move two points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

Aboubakar Kamara scored for Fulham, who remain 19th with 14 points.

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Arsenal was on the front foot from Moment No. 1, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was closely-marked by American defender Tim Ream as he popped an Alex Iwobi pass over the goal from close range.

The visitors nearly surprised when Tom Cairney opened up Ryan Sessegnon on the counter attack, but the youngster missed the far post after beating Bernd Leno.

If Sessegnon could’ve scored the first, he should’ve scored the next: Andre Schurrle swept a gorgeous effort around the Arsenal back line but the winger totally missed the ball.

And how often do you see it? The underdogs miss a chance to go ahead, snapping the favorites into life. Xhaka was the man in the middle to push an Iwobi pass beyond the reach of Rico.

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Lacazette made it 2-0 on the business end of a terrific team goal off a throw-in. Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac were the last two to play the ball en route to the Frenchman for his 56th minute finish.

Jean-Michael Seri cued up Mitrovic for a 69th minute chance, but the Serbian nodded right to Leno.

This time, Fulham responded to the danger by scoring. Kamara got on the end of a Sessegnon cross after Seri stole the ball and set the wheels in motion.

Ramsey restored order with a calm finish into the side netting when a loose ball came his way in the 79th minute.

Rico stayed big to block a 1v1 Aubameyang chip in the 82nd, but was defied when the same striker’s deflected shot hit the back of the net in the 83rd.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. Fulham

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Andre Schurrle and Fulham hope to get their 2019 started with an upset of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Arsenal’s Unai Emery goes with three at the back and both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top.

Fulham has American defender Tim Ream in its back line, while weekend hero Aleksandar Mitrovic starts with Schurrle and Ryan Sessegnon in attack.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Leno, Koscielny, Mustafi, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Ramsey, Torreira, Sika, Nketiah.

Fulham: Rico, Christie, Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan, Cisse, Cairney, Schurrle, Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs: Bettinelli, Fosu-Mensah, Johansen, Seri, Ayite, Vietto, Kamara.

Fulham hit Huddersfield with stoppage-time winner

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  • Mitrovic wins it in stoppage time
  • Fulham climb to 18th, one point from safety
  • Huddersfield stuck in 20th, five points adrift

Huddersfield Town don’t appear particularly long for the Premier League, as David Wagner‘s side sits bottom of the table heading into 2019 following a stoppage-time defeat to fellow relegation battlers Fulham.

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Fulham entered Saturday’s 19th-versus-20th showdown at Craven Cottage without a win in their last six PL games — same as Huddersfield — and were mere minutes from making it seven games without a trio of points. Then, Aleksandar Mitrovic became the hero.

In a game that saw few chances of real quality from open play, Huddersfield went close when Philip Billing unleashed a long-range effort with his left foot. The ball skipped off the ground halfway to goal and crossed up goalkeeper Sergio Rico who couldn’t keep hold of the ball and spilled it to no one in particular.

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Fulham were awarded a penalty in the 81st minute, but even those don’t always go according to plan when you’re stuck in the relegation zone and desperate for a bit of luck.

Aboubakar Kamara played the ball off the outstretched arm of Chris Lowe, but that was only the beginning of the drama. Kamara and Mitrovic argued over who would step up to the spot and take the penalty kick, and Kamara eventually won the debate. He then proceeded to hit a soft, knee-high penalty at Jonas Lossl for a comfortable save.

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Huddersfield appeared content with the scoreless draw and slowly retreated deeper and deeper. The one time they pushed numbers forward — for a set piece in the 91st minute — would be their undoing. Ryan Sessegnon spearheaded a quick counter-attack the culminated with his through ball to send Mitrovic into the box one on one with Lossl. The big Serb made no mistake with the chance he was given.

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Fulham held by Wolves

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  • Wolves equalize late on
  • Fulham took the lead through Sessegnon
  • No win in six PL games for Fulham

Fulham and Wolves drew 1-1 at Craven Cottage on Boxing Day, as the home side almost held on for a precious win.

Ryan Sessegnon gave them the lead in the second half, but a late equalizer from Romain Saiss denied the Cottagers all three points. Aleksandar Mitrovic went close to scoring on multiple occasions, but Fulham’s main man couldn’t cap his superb display with a goal.

With the draw Fulham momentarily moved off the bottom of the Premier League table, while Wolves edged up to ninth.

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Fulham started well as Mitrovic had a powerful effort blocked and nodded just wide soon after.

Wolves looked dangerous on the counter and could have had a penalty kick as Denis Odoi appeared to clearly handle the ball from a corner but nothing was given.

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Soon after Raul Jimenez almost scored a fantastic goal as he controlled a high ball in the box, swivelled and smashed just over. Before half time Fulham, and Mitrovic, came close twice as he first headed an effort on goal and then somehow couldn’t get on the end of Cyrus Christie‘s driven cross to the back post.

Mitrovic then got past two Wolves defenders in the box and had a clean sight on goal, but Rui Patricio rushed out to deny the Serbian striker.

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In the second half Wolves started to edge their way back into the game but were mostly limited to long-range efforts as Fulham’s defense stood firm.

And then the key moment arrived via a substitute.

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A long ball into the box caused mayhem and Patricio could punch clear. Sessegnon drilled a low effort in on goal which Wolves couldn’t clear as the ball crossed the line and put Fulham ahead.

But Wolves struck back with less than five minutes on the clock as Ivan Cavaleiro crossed to the back post and Saiss arrived to tap home after Helder Costa put Joe Bryan under pressure. 1-1.

Late on Wolves looked more likely to find a winner, but Mitrovic almost squeezed home a winner but Conor Coady cleared his shot off the line with Patricio beaten.