Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four
'Today was a really difficult day to swallow,' said Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta was not happy with his side’s display against Fulham. Picture: Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge suffered another blow in a 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Sunday, as Tottenham beat Bournemouth 3-1 to close in on their north London rivals.
The Gunners’ high hopes of a first league title in 20 years have been rocked by two damaging defeats in four days.
Mikel Arteta was looking for a response after losing 2-0 at home to West Ham on Thursday but was left angered by what he described as his side’s “worst performance of the season”.
Arsenal remain in fourth, two points behind leaders Liverpool and level on 40 points with Manchester City, but having played a game more than both their title rivals.
“If we play like today we will be nowhere near. Today was a really difficult day to swallow,” said Arteta on his side’s title aspirations.
“It’s a really sad day today because we didn’t deserve to win the game.”
Arsenal had started brightly at Craven Cottage as Bukayo Saka pounced to tap home his first goal in six games after Bernd Leno parried Gabriel Martinelli’s initial effort.
But the visitors failed to build on their early advantage and Fulham hit back to snap a three-game losing run in the Premier League without even scoring a goal.
Raul Jimenez was badly missed during his three-game ban for a red card at Newcastle and the Mexican kickstarted the Fulham fightback with his fourth goal in as many games.
Former Arsenal winger Willian sent Tom Cairney free down the left and his dangerous low cross was swept home by Jimenez at the back post.
Fulham were the better side in the second half and they got their reward just before the hour mark.
Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball broke kindly for Bobby De Cordova-Reid to smash home from close range.
Only a fine save from David Raya to deny Cairney and the crossbar from Andreas Pereira’s free-kick prevented Arsenal from suffering further punishment in the pouring rain in west London.
But enough damage may have been done to their title chances over the past week.
– Son’s parting gift –
Arteta’s men could even be outside the top four by the time they are next in league action in three weeks’ time as Tottenham closed to within a point of the Champions League places.
Ange Postecoglou’s men shrugged off a mounting injury crisis to inflict Bournemouth’s first defeat in eight games.
Fifth-placed Spurs are just three points off the top with the table tantalisingly poised heading into 2024.
“We’re three points off the top so if that is the difference between having a great season and where we are, I’ll take it,” said Postecoglou.
“When you’re trying to build something you will undoubtedly come up against some challenges. I am seeing progress.”
Pape Sarr’s precise finish into the bottom corner opened the scoring after just nine minutes.
But the Senegalese midfielder left the field in tears midway through the first half with an injury that puts his participation in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in doubt.
Bournemouth will feel they should have been level before the break as the in-form Dominic Solanke hit the bar amid a flurry of chances.
Instead, the visitors were picked off in the second half.
Son Heung-min is also set to depart for a few weeks to lead South Korea at the Asian Cup.
The Spurs captain signed off in style with a thumping finish from a narrow angle before Richarlison made it 3-0.
Alex Scott pulled a goal back six minutes from time, but it was too little, too late for the Cherries, who remain in 12th.