Arsenal fell to a second straight loss with a 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Sunday, missing out on a chance to end the year atop the Premier League table.
Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the lead after just five minutes, but the visitors were toothless after that as Raul Jimenez equalized in the first half and Bobby De Cordova-Reid poked in the winner in the 59th.
Arsenal topped the standings at Christmas but enters 2024 in fourth place after this defeat followed its first home loss of the season against West Ham on Thursday. A win at Fulham would have lifted Mikel Arteta’s team provisionally above leader Liverpool in a tightly packed top four.
But the Gunners have won just one of their last five league games and this was perhaps the most listless performance in that stretch. Arteta will have to ponder whether to look for attacking reinforcements in the January transfer window after his team struggled to create any quality chances after its early goal – even after switching to a back three with two strikers up front for the last 20 minutes. And it came against a team that had lost its last three league games by a combined score of 8-0.
“That was the worst performance of the season,” Arteta said.
Gabriel Martinelli did the hard work for the opener, running with the ball from within his own half before cutting into the area and curling a low show toward the far post that Bernd Leno could only divert into the path of Saka, who just had to stick his foot out to turn in the rebound.
Fulham had not won in the last 26 Premier League matches in which it trailed dating to October 2022 (22 losses, four draws), but responded well to going behind. The hosts had already missed two decent chances to score by the time Jimenez met a low cross from Tom Cairney and beat David Raya with a first-time effort in the 29th. Jimenez marked his return from a suspension with a fourth goal in his last four league games — equaling his tally from the previous 50.
Fulham continued to look dangerous when going forward De Cordova-Reid put the hosts ahead after Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to the winger to poke home from close range.
Saka had a chance to equalize in the 63rd when the ball fell to him in the area but he volleyed well high. In fact, Arsenal didn’t have an effort on target in the second half until a scuffed cross from Saka in injury time that fell harmlessly to Leno. And that was despite striker Gabriel Jesus coming off the bench in the 67th to partner Eddie Nketiah up front as Arteta opted to play with just three defenders.
Instead, Fulham came closer to a third as Raya had to be at full stretch to stop a shot from Cairney in the 71st and Andreas Pereira smashed a free kick against the crossbar in the 87th.
Source website: www.thehindu.com