Arsenal does not lose flight, which ended a week with defensive doubts with a resounding victory (0-3) at Craven Cottage, Fulham’s sacrosanct fortress. “It’s going to be hard,” Mikel Arteta foreshadowed in his brief television appearance already in the bowels of one of London’s football cathedrals. But his people ended up singing his song, the one that says that the coach from Gipuzkoa knows “exactly” what the team needs. And there he had pointed out a point of improvement: after conceding two goals in European competition on his visit to Portuguese Sporting and conceding the same goals to Bournemouth to force a heroic comeback, Arsenal set themselves the challenge of winning the game from behind. In only two of his last eight previous games in the Premier had he gone without conceding a goal. Against Fulham he once again made goalkeeper Ramsdale impregnable. The rest was a matter of aim. Three goals before the break settled the game on the banks of the Thames and Arteta reached his 100th victory in 167 official games in charge of Arsenal.
Leno, Tete, Tim Ream, Adarabioyo, Sasa Lukic, Manor Soloman (Daniel James, min. 75), Bobby Reid, Reed, Andreas Pereira (Harry Wilson, min. 75) and Mitrovic
Aaron Ramsdale, William Saliba, Ben White (Takehiro Tomiyasu, min. 80), Zinchenko (Tierney, min. 72), Gabriel, Thomas, Odegaard, Xhaka, Trossard (Gabriel Jesus, min. 77), Martinelli (Fabio Daniel Vieira, min. 77) and Bukayo Saka (Reiss Nelson, min. 71)
goals 0-1 min. 21: Gabriel. 0-2 min. 26: Martinelli. 0-3 min. 46: Odegard.
Referee David Coote
Yellow cards Odegaard (min. 74)
Center-back Gabriel Magalhaes opened the scoring after 20 minutes of the game. A corner kick from Trossard, one of the great winners of the game, emerged from the crowd to head. The Belgian, who arrived last January from Brighton, has established himself in the eleven and on this day he signed a record never seen since the Premier League existed, that of contributing three goal passes before the break. The first came shortly after a Robinson own goal that frustrated the VAR as soon as he threw lines. But Arsenal by then was already a cyclone. He showed it with the second goal, a beauty who started from the defensive right corner to chain combinations against Fulham’s high pressure. Trossard and Martinelli reappeared in the epilogue. The third goal, signed by Odegaard, in the last action of the first part gave continuity to so much poetry.
Fulham rose to show the credentials of the revelation team that it is, immersed as it is in the battle for a place in European competition. He finished off the crossbar, but did not control the game, always in the hands of Arsenal, who ended up dosing efforts and activating pieces like Gabriel Jesus, their starting striker. The Brazilian had not played since he was injured in a match against Cameroon in the last World Cup and was close to a goal that was denied by Leno in a one-on-one.
Arsenal maintains a five-point advantage over Manchester City, winner the previous afternoon in their visit to Crystal Palace, precisely the rival that will reply to the gunners next Sunday at the Emirates. A victory for the leader will leave them eight points above City because the current Premier League champions will be busy next weekend in their cup match against Burnley. Then the first break of the year will come for the matches of the national teams. With eleven games to play, Arsenal’s horizon shows three home games (Crystal Palace, Leeds and Southampton) and two trips (Liverpool and West Ham) before meeting their rival for the title on April 26 at the Etihad. For its part, City postponed its duel against West Ham and will return from the break with a game against Liverpool and will face Southampton and Brighton at home and Leicester at home before hosting Arsenal. After that nuclear appointment there will be five days to go and discover if the Premier returns to north London after 19 years of abstinence.
Manchester United no longer arrives at that battle, which, 16 points behind the lead, will have enough to deal with saving fourth place. This Sunday they tied (0-0) at Old Trafford against bottom club Southampton in a game marked by the expulsion of Casemiro just after half an hour of play. The Brazilian midfielder shed tears after understanding that the red card was indisputable for a treacherous tackle on Argentine Alcaraz. Last week he had reappeared after three days of sanction for another expulsion and he will have to purge, at least, the same punishment again.
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