Fulham Sink Arsenal to Spoil Top of the Table Hopes

Fulham Sink Arsenal to Spoil Top of the Table Hopes

London rivals Fulham claimed a deserved 2-1 victory over an abysmal Arsenal at Craven Cottage, shattering the Gunners’ dreams of ending the year atop the Premier League table.

Mikel Arteta’s men, aiming to redeem themselves after the West Ham disaster, started brightly with Bukayo Saka tapping home within five minutes. However, Marco Silva’s Cottagers dominated the remainder of the game, turning the derby on its head thanks to strikes from Raul Jimenez and Bobby Decordova-Reid.

A reshuffled Arsenal XI saw Kai Havertz, Eddie Nketiah, and Jakub Kiwior handed starting roles, while Fulham welcomed back Willian to face his former club. Arteta’s early gamble paid off initially with Saka’s quick goal, but it did little to mask the Gunners’ underlying anxieties.

Fulham responded positively, with Jimenez forcing David Raya into a save before Willian narrowly missed with a curling effort. The Cottagers’ pressure paid off in the 29th minute as Tom Cairney’s cross found Jimenez, who ghosted past Kiwior and slotted past Raya.

Despite flashes of attacking intent, Arsenal’s play was plagued by misplaced passes and poor deliveries. Nketiah missed a close-range chance before an offside flag spared his blushes. A high-pressing Fulham deservedly held the upper hand during the first half.

The second half saw the return of Takehiro Tomiyasu, but Arsenal’s struggles continued. A comical moment saw referee Josh Smith block Alex Iwobi, gifting Martinelli a chance that sailed wide. The Gunners’ defensive woes resurfaced in the 59th minute when a corner bounced off Tomiyasu and into the path of Decordova-Reid, who emphatically blasted the ball home.

A golden opportunity arrived for Arsenal in the 63rd minute when a deflected cross found Saka unmarked, but the winger’s volley sent shivers down the wrong spine. Arteta reshuffled to a 3-5-2 formation, but Fulham remained in control. Saka threatened again in the 81st minute, only to be denied by a superb Joao Palhinha tackle.

As the clock ticked down, Arsenal mustered no further attempts on target, while Fulham nearly sealed the win through an Andreas Pereira free-kick that rattled the crossbar.

This defeat exposes the deep cracks in Arsenal’s armor. Having squandered a golden opportunity, Arteta’s men face a daunting uphill climb if they want to reclaim their place at the top of the table in the new year.