Arsenal blew Fulham away with an electric first-half display to claim a priceless 3-0 victory in the title race.
After an even start to proceedings, VAR intervened in the 17th minute after the unfortunate Antonee Robinson knocked a rebound into his own net following sterling work from Gabriel Martinelli. But there was no dispute just a few minutes later as Gabriel Magalhaes towered above everybody else in the six-yard box to break the deadlock from a pinpoint Leandro Trossard corner.
It was two just five minutes later: Martinelli was on the spot to nod home Trossard’s looped cross, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb. And the versatile Belgian forward was pulling the strings again just before the break; he found the space to pick out Martin Odegaard on the far side of the box and the Gunners captain did the rest with a composed finish.
While it’s probably fair to say that Trossard wasn’t exactly at the top of Arsenal’s New Year shopping list a couple of months ago, the versatile forward has more than proved his worth since his bargain £27million switch from Brighton.
After impressing in recent weeks, Trossard was once again deployed as a false nine and produced a record-breaking display to put Fulham to the sword in their own backyard.
After floating in the cross that led to Arsenal’s opener, Trossard ghosted into space to tee up Martinelli, who put the finishing touch to a slick passing move that started all the way back in the Gunners’ own half. And he stayed sharp right up until the half-time break when he showed great composure to pick out Odegaard, who sealed the points with an equally classy finish.
Odegaard’s finish means that Trossard has become the first player in Premier League history to register a hat-trick of assists in a single half of an away game. Overall, the ex-Seagulls star now has five assists in his last four games. He looks undroppable on current form.
If last weekend’s dramatic fightback against Bournemouth proved Arsenal have the grit required to end a 19-year title drought, then this performance underlined they have the class of champions, too.
After an even start to proceedings, Arsenal moved through the gears to leave Fulham trailing in their wake at Craven Cottage.
Arsenal have turned doubters into believers in recent months and the contrasting manner in which they’ve secured back-to-back league wins over the past week is further evidence, if it was needed, that they are going nowhere in the title race.
Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park to cut the gap to two points, but Arsenal’s classy first-half clinic has re-established their five point cushion at the summit. Over to you, Pep.
Set-pieces proved to be Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel on Thursday night, but the Gunners opening goal at Craven Cottage came from the same medium.
Gabriel managed to propel himself above a swarm of bodies inside a crowded six-yard box to power a header beyond his former teammate Bernd Leno just minutes after VAR had intervened to wipe out an own goal from Robinson.
Crucially, Arsenal were just as good at defending set-pieces as they were attacking them to thwart a Fulham team that boasts a number of aerial threats.
Arteta will be enthused, rather than relieved, after he slammed the Gunners’ defensive frailties in midweek. The onus is now on his side to prove this wasn’t a one-off.
Arsenal’s impressive first-half blitz capped a miserable week for Fulham, who succumbed to another derby defeat against Brentford on Monday.
The Whites sorely missed the steel that Joao Palhinha has provided this term and were cut open time and time before David Coote mercifully drew proceedings to a halt after Arsenal’s third strike.
Fulham have exceeded all expectations after winning the Championship title and are still in with a chance of capping a memorable season under Marco Silva with an unlikely European place. But they couldn’t live with Arsenal, who underlined their title credentials with a classy display.
The return of Gabriel Jesus to the Arsenal bench is a welcome boost to their title hopes – but the Gunners didn’t require his services at Craven Cottage.
Osimhen, Oshoala make final three-man list for CAF Player of the Year
Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen and Super Falcons striker, Asisat Oshola have been named in the CAF Player of the Year final three-man list for the men and women categories, respectively.
Osimhen was instrumental to Napoli’s success last season, as the club won Serie A for the first time in 33 years. Osimhen also won the Golden Boot, scoring 26 goals and becoming the highest-scoring African in the league. He was also named the best striker in the league.
Oshoala, who is the reigning Africa women’s player of the year, scored 21 goals in just 28 games to lead FC Barcelona to the 2022/23 Spanish League title and was the Spanish club’s top scorer with 27 goals in all competitions. The 28-year-old was instrumental as Barcelona retained their domestic title and won the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
At the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, 5-time record African Player of the Year award winner Oshoala made history as the first Nigerian and first female African player to score at three different editions of the FIFA World Cup. She has now scored 31 goals and won the Women’s African Cup of Nations three times with the Super Falcons.
The award ceremony will take place on on 11 December 2023 in Marrakech, Morocco.
Declan Rice rescues Arsenal after David Raya errors at Luton
Declan Rice headed in a late winner as Arsenal went five points clear at the top of the Premier League table, despite two blunders from David Raya.
The Gunners twice surrendered a lead by conceding from corners, with Raya feeling the pressure in goal as Aaron Ramsdale watched on from the bench once again. The win will feel incredible for Mikel Arteta, who has held off the chasing pack of Liverpool and Manchester City ahead of their games on Wednesday.
Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring when he found the bottom corner from Bukayo Saka’s pass, but Luton levelled minutes later through Gabriel Osho’s header from a corner. Thomas Kaminski kept out efforts from Saka and Martinelli, but Arsenal still went in 2-1 ahead at the break thanks to Gabriel Jesus’ simple header from Ben White’s cross.
Once again they couldn’t hold onto their lead for long, with Raya at fault as Elijah Adebayo rose highest to head in another corner in the 49th minute. A nightmare spell for Raya continued when Ross Barkley fired underneath his body to give Luton a 3-2 lead. Jesus found Kai Havertz to equalise three minutes later following some hesitant defending from the hosts.
David Raya mistake labelled “horrible” as Arsenal fans demand Aaron Ramdale return
Arsenal turned the screw late, but Kaminski tipped over a Havertz header and Rob Edwards’ side appeared to have held on before Rice headed in Martin Odegaard’s cross in the 96th minute. Here are the talking points from a hugely entertaining game.
After a slow start to the game, it burst to life in bizarre circumstances. An overhit back-pass was put out for a throw-in by Kaminski, but it bounced back off the hoarding straight into the arms of Gabriel Jesus, who took a quick throw to allow Saka to pick out Martinelli to scuff in the opener.
It was the first shot in the match and Luton repeated the trick, scoring with their first effort on target five minutes later. Having scored the opener, Martinelli was at fault for the equaliser, putting in a half-hearted effort when marking Osho, who planted his free header into the corner of the net. Martinelli was guilty of shirking his responsibility as one of the man-markers in Arsenal’s normally very effective hybrid system, in the hope one of his team-mates would head clear. They didn’t and it proved costly.
Jesus’ work-rate and all-round contribution to Arsenal ’s play has never really been in doubt. But his goalscoring definitely has. Coming into this game the Brazilian striker had scored just 16 times in 47 matches since his £45million move from Manchester City and had just one goal in the Premier League this season – and that came in early September.
“We need goals from him, that’s for sure,” Arteta said before the game. “He has scored a lot of goals for us and he can still improve in that aspect, like he can improve in other aspects. He knows that and he is trying to do that, but there is so much that he gives that it is difficult to put a number on. But I am really happy with his overall performances.”
When White got to the byline and stood up a cross to the back post, Jesus was arriving at the perfect time to nod in. Arsenal could really do with some consistency in front of goal from their main man over the coming weeks.
Arteta must have known what he was letting himself in for when he said at the start of the season that Arsenal would not have such a thing as a first-choice goalkeeper this season. Despite his insistence, Raya has been just that, keeping Aaron Ramsdale on the bench. And this was a bad evening for the on-loan keeper.
Raya was not at fault for the first goal, but he was almost solely to blame for the second. He allowed himself to be put off by Andros Townsend’s mere presence and then failed to beat Adebayo to the ball, despite having the advantage of being able to use both his hands.
He still looked rattled by the mistake when Barkley worked a bit of space against White and fired a low shot at him. Raya didn’t get down quick enough and allowed the shot to squirm underneath him. Arteta will have questions to answer about his goalkeeper once again.
As soft as Luton’s third goal was from an Arsenal perspective, it was also indicative of Luton’s adventure and quality, with two experienced Premier League campaigners at its heart. Barkley picked up the ball in the centre circle, skipped past Gabriel Magalhaes and Martin Odegaard and fed Townsend before getting the ball back.
Barkley drifted past White and fired low and was rewarded with his first Premier League goal since the last day of the 2021/22 season, when he netted for Chelsea against Watford. Barkley was celebrating his 30th birthday and it was heartening to see the former Everton man showing glimpses of the player he used to be. With Odegaard off the boil, he was the best performer in the middle of the pitch on either side.
Arsenal beat Wolves to move four points clear at top of table
Arsenal on Saturday moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League table with victory over Wolves at the Emirates Stadium.
Coming from their 6-0 winners over Lens in midweek, the Gunners took an early lead when Bukayo Saka got the better of Craig Dawson in the penalty area before firing low into the bottom corner.
It was 2-0 not long afterwards, Martin Odegaard finishing a magnificent team move involving Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to double the hosts’ advantage.
Gabriel Martinelli struck the outside of the post with a low shot, while Leandro Trossard and Jesus both went close as Arsenal pressed for a third goal that would have put the result beyond doubt.
Wolves improved in the second half and Matheus Cunha tested David Raya’s reflexes with a powerful effort at the near post, before curling a superb drive into the top corner to give the visitors hope with five minutes remaining.
Gary O’Neil’s side were unable to complete the fightback, however, and Eddie Nketiah fired against the frame of the goal for Arsenal not long after Cunha’s strike.
Gunners get job done
Arsenal currently boast the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League, but they are now beginning to exhibit more of the free-flowing attacking football that fuelled last season’s title challenge.
The Gunners’ second goal was a thing of beauty, Zinchenko playing a neat one-two with Jesus before cutting the ball back to Odegaard for a first-time finish beyond Jose Sa, who was injured while trying to save the Norwegian’s effort.
They could – and maybe should – have been further ahead at the break after Trossard was denied by Sa from close range and Jesus blazed over the bar at the far post.
Martinelli was also denied by the woodwork at the end of another mesmerising Arsenal counter-attack.
The second half, as it was against Lens on Wednesday, was more low-key. Rice dragged a low shot off target and Trossard shoot straight at Wolves’ substitute goalkeeper Dan Bentley from a good position, before Cunha halved the deficit late on.
It was a nervier finish than Arteta would have wanted, but the 41-year-old cut a very happy figure at full time as his side stretched their winning run in all competitions to five matches.
Too little, too late from Wolves
Wolves were on the wrong end of another contentious VAR call in Monday’s defeat by Fulham, but O’Neil’s frustration will be directed at his own defence at Emirates Stadium after they conceded twice inside the opening quarter of an hour.
Dawson was beaten far too easily by Saka for the opener, while Zinchenko and Odegaard were both given too much space in the build-up to the Norwegian’s low finish.
Max Kilman almost gifted Arsenal a third late in the first half, but Bentley got down to his left to deny Gabriel Jesus.
Cunha and Hwang Hee-chan both tested Raya as Wolves gradually started to carry more of an attacking threat after half-time, and Cunha’s fabulous, curling strike gave them hope of claiming an unlikely point.
But it was too little, too late from the visitors, who are winless in their last 13 Premier League away games in London.
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