Fulham comeback stuns Arsenal who miss out on top spot again

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Arsenal’s difficult end to 2023 continued as Fulham came from behind to beat the Gunners 2-1 to inflict a second straight defeat on Mikel Arteta’s side and deny them top spot in the Premier League.

The visitors made the perfect start in response to their midweek defeat to West Ham as Bernd Leno could only parry Gabriel Martinelli’s shot into the path of Bukayo Saka, who tapped home from close range to give the Gunners the lead in the fifth minute.

However, Fulham took the game to Arsenal and responded, ending a run of three Premier League games without a goal as Raul Jimenez converted Tom Cairney’s cross to bring the hosts level.

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Gary Cotterill and Oliver Yew review Arsenal’s second consecutive defeat as they were beaten by Fulham at Craven Cottage in the Premier League.

It was another extremely difficult afternoon for Arsenal, who failed to muster a shot on target in the second half. It was described as their “worst of the season” by Arteta and they could do nothing to halt Fulham’s momentum as Bobby De Cordova-Reid fired home the winner in the 59th minute to make it a happy end of year for Marco Silva’s side.

The win sees Fulham, who end a run of three straight defeats without scoring a goal, move up to 13th in the table.

Meanwhile, Arteta’s men, who were top of the table on Christmas Day, have just one win in their last five games in the league. The defeat caps a miserable few days as they finish the year fourth and miss out on a second chance to go top of the Premier League, leaving Liverpool with an opportunity to go three points clear when they face Newcastle on New Year’s Day, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 8pm).

Monday 1st January 6:30pm

Kick off 8:00pm

Fulham finish 2023 on a high as Arsenal stumble again…

Fulham’s Raul Jimenez celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal

Arsenal made the perfect response to the midweek humbling at the hands of West Ham as Saka stayed onside before poking home the rebound after Leno had parried Martinelli’s shot in the fifth minute.

Craven Cottage was quiet but it soon came alive again after a swift Fulham move saw Antonee Robinson pick out Jimenez, but the striker’s side-footed shot from inside the penalty area was too close to David Raya.

Player ratings

Fulham: Leno (7), Castagne (7), Tosin (7), Bassey (8), Robinson (7), Palhinha (8), Cairney (8), De Cordova-Reid (7), Iwobi (8), Willian (6), Jimenez (8).

Subs: Pereira (6), Wilson (n/a), Diop (n/a), Reed (n/a).

Arsenal: Raya (6), White (5), Saliba (6), Gabriel (6), Kiwior (5), Rice (6), Havertz (6), Odegaard (6), Saka (6), Martinelli (6), Nketiah (5).

Subs: Tomiyasu (6), Trossard (6), Jesus (6), Nelson (n/a).

Player of the match: Tom Cairney.

The momentum was with the hosts now as Willian’s whipped shot flashed wide of the far post before appeals were waved away for a penalty after a coming together between De Cordova-Reid and William Saliba inside the penalty area.

Fulham’s dominance eventually told, however, as the home side capitalised on an excellent tackle from Calvin Bassey to dispossess Saka and launch a devastating break. Willian fed Tom Cairney, whose cross into the area was an inviting one, and Jiminez made no mistake on this occasion to bring the home side level with his fifth goal in seven Premier League appearances.

Arsenal looked shocked and void of any ideas in attack as Fulham looked comfortable. That was until just before the break when Declan Rice fired the ball into Martin Odegaard inside the Fulham box. The Arsenal skipper laid it off to Martinelli, who could only steer the ball wide of the upright.

There was almost a fortunate moment for Arsenal and an unfortunate incident for referee Josh Smith, who accidentally blocked off Alex Iwobi. It meant Declan Rice could pick out Martinelli with ease but the Brazilian failed to make the advantage count as his shot flew wide of the far post.

Team news

Fulham: Fulham welcomed back Raul Jimenez from his three-game suspension, with the striker going straight back into the XI as they looked to end a run of three Premier League games without a goal. Willian, another key attacker, was also back from injury. Rodrigo Muniz and Andreas Pereira made way, while Timothy Castagne came in for Kenny Tete at right-back.
Arsenal: Mikel Arteta made three changes to the Arsenal side that lost 2-0 to West Ham at the Emirates on Thursday. Oleksandr Zinchenko dropped out of the squad with a calf issue and he was replaced by Jakub Kiwior at left-back. In midfield, Kai Havertz returned after suspension and came into the starting XI in place of Leandro Trossard. Also, Eddie Nketiah started in attack for the Gunners, replacing Gabriel Jesus, who dropped to the bench. Finally, there was a return from injury for Takehiro Tomiyasu, who is named on the bench.

Fulham’s turnaround was complete just before the hour mark. Arsenal failed to clear their lines from a corner after Joao Palhinha made first contact ahead of Rice. A scramble in the area ensued and De Cordova-Reid latched onto the loose ball, rifling it into the net from close range to leave Raya with no chance.

Just like against West Ham, an Arsenal response never came as their frustrations in front of goal continued. Saka skied a decent chance at the back post following a mix up between Bassey and Robinson, but after that the Gunners rarely threatened.

Palhinha was forced into a last-ditch block to deny Saka but it was Fulham looked more likely to add a third as Andreas Perreira’s free-kick crashed against the crossbar, but In the end, they didn’t need it as Silva’s side got over the line to seal a stunning win to finish 2023 on a high note.

Arteta: Our worst performance of season

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta claims the 2-1 defeat to Fulham in the Premier League is their worst performance of the season and suggested that there will be no January signings at the club

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta:

“Really tough day. A sad day. Three days ago [2-0 defeat by West Ham] we played a game we lost that we completely meant to win it, today was our worst game of the season. The pace, the purpose we have in attack, defensively we were second best, we could not dominate and had issues because of that.

“We didn’t do enough with that [possession] – not enough purpose, speed or threat. We were sloppy with the ball. It wasn’t good enough. We didn’t deserve to win. When you have opportunities to go top of league on December 31 and now end up with a really bad feeling, that is football. The lines are really thin.

“If we play like we played in the other 19 games we will be up there [in the league at the end of the season]. If we play like today we will be nowhere near. Today was a really difficult day to swallow.”

Redknapp: The reality check Arsenal need

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Jamie Redknapp takes a closer look at the manner of Arsenal’s defeat at Fulham and believes it will ask a lot of questions about their title credentials going forward

Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp:

“[Saka’s opener] should have been the catalyst for Arsenal to go on and win this game so comfortably. They’ve got the players to do it. But they didn’t have that spark today.

“We talk about whether they’re getting enough goals but I look at the full-backs and what are they bringing at the moment. He tried the change at half-time. Tomiyasu comes into midfield and all he did was make a nuisance of himself for his own team. He was never given any width. He looked lost in there.

“Midfield they weren’t quite right, they weren’t creating enough so they weren’t going to score goals. So much possession without the purpose you need. When you feel like the forwards aren’t producing, that puts the pressure on the defence. You’re trying to force things at times and leave yourself a little bit exposed.

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Arsenal’s Declan Rice admitted that his side weren’t good enough in the 2-1 defeat to Fulham in the Premier League, but suggests that the result is just a blip

“It’s symptomatic of what Arsenal are right now. They’re a bit lost, they’ve got to find their confidence. They have Manchester City breathing down their necks. There are other sides. People thought Arsenal would go on and this might be a bit of a procession for them.

“This might be the reality check they need. Because they’re right off it at the moment.

“They’re talking about getting a centre forward in – Ivan Toney is what Arsenal fans want but are Brentford going to sell with the injuries they’ve got? And it’s getting precarious for Brentford, they need to keep him. It’s an area they need to strengthen but they might need to be creative. They might have to get a loan. It’s not going to be easy to get that centre forward and all of a sudden everything is going to click and it’s going to be magic.”

Silva: Over the 95 minutes we deserved victory

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Fulham boss Marco Silva claims that beating Arsenal 2-1 at Craven Cottage is the perfect way to end 2023 and suggests the result is a statement to the rest of the Premier League

Fulham manager Marco Silva:

“Really the best way to finish 2023, definitely. Our ambition was to finish on a high and react from the last two games. I really believe we deserve it. Over the 95 minutes we deserved it more.

“It was very good reaction after the first goal. The way we beat their pressure and began to play our way. We even had more chances to score a third goal.

“We want to improve in this aspect [consistency] of our journey but it is the most difficult as well. The reaction was brilliant.”

FPL stats: Fulham vs Arsenal

Jimenez, De Cordova-Reid | Saka

Cairney | Martinelli

Bonus points
De Cordova-Reid (3), Cairney (2), Jimenez (2)

Opta stats: Fulham end 11-game winless run against Arsenal

Bobby De Cordova-Reid (left) celebrates after giving Fulham the lead

This was the first time that Arsenal lost a Premier League game in which they scored the game’s opening goal since New Year’s Day 2022 against Manchester City (Saka put them 1-0 up both then and against Fulham). It ended the Gunners’ run of 48 league games unbeaten when going 1-0 ahead (W42 D6).Having only lost two of their opening 18 Premier League games this season (W12 D4), Arsenal have since lost both of their last two, just the second time since the start of last season that the Gunners have suffered back-to-back league defeats (also in May).Fulham won a Premier League game in which they had fallen behind at any stage for the first time since October 2022 against Leeds, ending their 26-game winless run when falling behind in the league (D4 L22).The home side ended their 11-game winless run against Arsenal in the Premier League (D3 L8), with this their first league win over the Gunners since January 2012 (2-1).

Cairney: We wanted to make a statement

Fulham captain Tom Cairney to Sky Sports::

“We have been great at home, not so good away.

“We were very disappointed with the Boxing Day performance [3-0 loss at Bournemouth] and wanted to make a statement today. We were on top form.

“To react the way we did to going a goal behind was very good.”

What’s next?Fulham welcome Rotherham to Craven Cottage in the FA Cup third round on Friday January 6; kick-off 7.30pm.

Arsenal host Liverpool in the FA Cup third round on Sunday January 7; kick-off 4.30pm.


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