Arsenal outclass Fulham after Leandro Trossard masterclass performance
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.
Bukayo Saka dominates as Arsenal take eight-point lead in title race
Bukayo Saka scored twice and provided an assist in a brilliant performance to help Mikel Arteta’s side extend their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
The Gunners were clinical in the final third, with Gabriel Martinelli firing them in front before Bukayo Saka found space in the box to stroke in a second before half-time. Palace hit the post through Wilfried Zaha and threatened on the break, but their miserable run continued, with the decision to sack Patrick Vieira not paying immediate dividends.
Granit Xhaka made it 3-0 with a scruffy finish from Leandro Trossard’s incisive through ball to put Arsenal in complete control. Palace midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp did at least score their first Premier League goal for a month by smashing in a loose ball from a corner, but Saka lashed in Kieran Tierney’s cutback to make it 4-1 soon after.
Palace are just three points above the relegation zone despite being in 12th place. By contrast, Mikel Arteta’s side have now notched up 69 points to reach their same points tally as last season in 10 games fewer. Here are the talking points from the match at the Emirates Stadium.
Martinelli has become a figurehead for Arsenal in recent weeks. With Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah both sidelined, the Brazilian has stepped up to the plate to provide goals with regularity.
Still only 21 years old, Martinelli is now established as a top-class Premier League striker, with his goal here taking him onto 13 for the season – only Erling Haaland (28), Harry Kane (21), Ivan Toney (16) and Marcus Rashford (14) have more.
Despite the huge burden of starting week-in, week-out, Martinelli still looks razor sharp inside the box. His finish showed just how dangerous he can be, with a good first touch, a quick change of direction and a devastating finish undoing Palace.
Like Martinelli, Saka is still only 21 years old, but his talent – and importance to Arsenal – belies his youth. He was absolutely electric against Palace, providing the cross for Martinelli’s goal, making it 2-0 with an assured finish from Ben White ’s cute pass and adding gloss with a second goal from Tierney’s pass.
Saka’s consistency is such that he now has 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season and has reached double figures for both statistics for the first time in the same season. The achievement is underlined by the fact that he’s the first Arsenal player to do so in a Premier League season since Alexis Sánchez in 2016/17.
Only Haaland (33) and Kane (23) have more Premier League goal involvements than Saka (22) in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, only Lionel Messi (13), Kevin de Bruyne (12), Neymar (11) and Randal Kolo Muani (10) have more league assists in Europe’s top five leagues. His 12 league goals means he has overtaken his tally for last season, despite playing 10 games fewer, directly matching his team’s upward curve.
William Saliba had played every minute of Arsenal’s Premier League season before Sunday. The Frenchman’s injury in the Europa League defeat by Sporting on Thursday came as a major blow to the Gunners.
Rob Holding came on for Saliba earlier in the week and he took his place against Palace, lining up alongside Gabriel Magalhaes to form a fresh centre-back partnership. The unfamiliar sight made some Arsenal fans uneasy – and there were some worrying signs early on.
Holding was guilty of diving in unsuccessfully to try and win the ball early on, with Zaha then hitting the post after cutting inside White. The 27-year-old was afforded a lot of time on ball by Palace and looked assured with it.
As Palace’s threat faded, Holding became more comfortable and passed his audition as Saliba’s stand-in. Jakub Kiwior was brought on to make his Premier League table and make an immediate impression with a strong challenge when left one-on-one with Zaha, so there is pressure on Holding’s place.
Palace are in the worst form of any side in the Premier League. Their position of 12th in the league table does not nearly tell the whole story: they are in danger of being relegated this season.
Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters
Erling Haaland equalled a Champions League record with a five-goal haul to ease Manchester City into the quarter-finals at RB Leipzig’s expense as a 7-0 win for the English champions secured an 8-1 aggregate victory on Tuesday.
Haaland also set a new club record for goals in a season of 39 in the process as Pep Guardiola’s men reached the last eight for the sixth consecutive season.
City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before.
At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition.
The weather was more akin to Haaland’s homeland on a snowy night in Manchester, but City did not freeze under the pressure and kept their Champions League dreams alive.
The tie was delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany three weeks ago, but a Leipzig side depleted by injury never looked like a match for their star-studded opponents.
Guardiola had kept Kevin De Bruyne in reserve for City’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the weekend and on his return to the starting line-up, the Belgian was back to his best.
Ilkay Gundogan should have opened the scoring after just three minutes from De Bruyne’s inviting cross.
Haaland’s searing pace then created a chance out of nothing from Nathan Ake’s long ball, but Janis Blaswich raced out from his goal to block.
Leipzig did have cause for complaint over two controversial calls that had a massive impact on the game before half-time.
Firstly, VAR spotted a handball against Benjamin Henrichs that led to a penalty that neither the City players nor the crowd even noticed.
Denied record chance –
Haaland fired low to Blaswich’s left to maintain his perfect record from the spot for City with his sixth penalty of the season.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Haaland teed up De Bruyne, who smashed a shot against the bar, and then showed his speed and strength to power home a header from the rebound.
Leipzig could have been gifted a route back into the tie when Ederson sprinted from his goal to wipe out Konrad Laimer.
But rather than send the Brazilian goalkeeper off, Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic did not even award a free-kick.
Any doubt over the outcome was ended with the final action of the first half.
Ruben Dias rose highest to head Jack Grealish’s corner onto the post and Amadou Haidara’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Haaland into the net.
Gundogan’s classy finish into the far corner four minutes into the second half rubbed more salt into Leipzig’s wounds before Haaland started rewriting the record books.
Firstly, he hammered home at the second attempt after Blaswich parried his initial header to match Tommy Johnson’s record of 38 goals for City in the 1928-29 season.
Haaland set a new mark with still three months of the campaign to go when he snaffled up another rebound after Blaswich saved from Manuel Akanji.
In the process, he moved level with Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record of scoring five goals in a Champions League game.
But Guardiola denied his star striker the chance of another record as he replaced him with Julian Alvarez with 25 minutes remaining.
Instead, it was left to De Bruyne to have the final say as he curled a superb strike into the top corner in stoppage time.
ROUTED: Liverpool obliterate shambolic Man Utd 7-0
Liverpool reminded Manchester United they can still be a match for any Premier League team on their day, putting Erik ten Hag’s side to the sword with Cody Gakpo playing a starring role in a sensational 7-0 win.
Gakpo put the Reds in front moments before half-time, cutting in from the left and curling into the far corner of David de Gea’s net. United needed a response at the start of the second period, but instead it was the hosts who struck quickly as Darwin Nunez scored a scrappy second.
Just as the visitors prepared to mount a comeback, it was three as Gakpo’s deft finish rounded off a fluid counter-attack. It was already a hammering, but further goals from Mohamed Salah – twice – and Nunez put the cherry on top of the cake before Roberto Firmino added a seventh.
It is Liverpool’s biggest ever win against United, breaking a record which had stood for more than a century. Liverpool beat United 7-1 on October 12, 1895, but now there is a new high point.
After the two teams looked to suss each other out in the early stages, Antony drew the first save of the game from compatriot Alisson. Bruno Fernandes also went close for the visitors with a diving header, while the home side got forward well in the opening half-hour without creating too many clear-cut chances.
United had the ball in the net shortly before half-time, but Casemiro had strayed offside as he headed home a free-kick. Moments later it was David de Gea picking the ball out of his net, and this time the goal from Gakpo would stand.
Liverpool entered the game with three wins from their last four league games, and two goals early in the second period ensured it would be four from five long before Salah added gloss to the scoreline. There was still time for Nunez to head home Liverpool’s fifth, matching the margin of victory in last season’s trip to Old Trafford.
The result all but ends United’s slim title hopes, while keeping Liverpool well in the mix for a return to the top four come May. Here are Mirror Football’s talking points from a statement-making win for Jurgen Klopp and his team.
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