Arsenal hurtle through Fulham fueling up on a perfect day for the title boost

Early and easy for Arsenal rather than demanding everything on death. That 3-0 away win over Fulham may not have evoked the emotions of recent games, but most importantly it had exactly the same effect in raising hopes of the title. It might have been even more important as it allowed the leaders to conserve energy and perhaps had a potentially influential moment in the title race in the return of Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian was still enjoying what was almost a training exercise, the only disappointment being that he didn’t score a late chance. As it was, Mikel Arteta’s side enjoyed an easy Sunday afternoon away at a Fulham side who appear to be balancing themselves, the leaders this time well ahead and not far behind at half-time. It’s perhaps just as well that it didn’t come to the emotional highs of Aston Villa or Bournemouth.

The real benefit of such a win is that it allows for a very welcome moment of composure – especially when it comes to Martin Odegaard’s touches – in the midst of what is set to become increasingly intense. Fulham, meanwhile, look like they’ve used up all their energy. It put big gaps in their team which made the whole game so much more forgiving for Arsenal.

That was also a reason why the second goal might not go down in history quite as much as it could have otherwise. Every Arsenal outfielder touched the ball in a beautifully fluid motion that ended with Gabriel Martinelli heading into Andreas Trossard’s cross – but that was partly because not a single Fulham player got close. Even more annoying, the moment Martinelli went up for the header, Antonee Robinson looked like he was about to duck.

The third goal was even worse. Odegaard was given the space just yards from goal to kill the ball with a luscious touch and was then simply allowed to turn and circle the ball around Bernd Leno.

Marco Silva could only sit and not see exactly the version of Fulham that had made this such a good season for the club.

The first big moment was almost a harbinger of what was to come, although luckily for the home side it didn’t get much worse.

Martinelli had charged into the box to drill the ball over the goal for Leno to save and there was little Robinson could do as the ball bounced off him and in. It was the start of a miserable afternoon for the defender and his team, even if he did have a reprieve here. Martinelli was millimeters from the offside line after a fine back pass from Granit Xhaka.

The latter was also the reason why it was only a matter of time before Leno got the ball out of the net again. Arsenal’s midfield, particularly Xhaka, came out on top. There was so much space.

For their part, Fulham really lacked the impact of Paulinha. It just emphasized how important he was to the team’s dynamic and how much he fills in gaps.

Gabriel celebrates Arsenal’s opening goal


It still doesn’t excuse the nature of the first goal though, as Arsenal scored so easily from a set piece.

Gabriel towered over the static Fulham defense and headed in a Trossard corner. It was part of a record for the former Brighton player, even if it was one of those records that requires a bit of convolution. Trossard became the first player in the Premier League to provide three assists in the first half of an away game. Much more relevant, however, was how this meant what constitutes a serious additional option for the Belgians. It’s even more valuable when Jesus is back. From a situation where Arteta inevitably had to start this game with a wrong nine, he now has so many options.

Fulham were better in the second half when they stopped conceding and actually started creating proper chances. Silva had made his feelings clear at half-time and it probably prevented that from being a full thrashing. Aaron Ramsdale was even forced into some strong saves.

The problem was that the game as a competition was long over.

However, Arsenal’s title challenge had the benefit of a small charge. They too have their star back.

This could end up being one of those games that has an understated importance precisely because it didn’t require overexertion. Arsenal hurtle through Fulham fueling up on a perfect day for the title boost

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