Arsenal restored their five-point advantage at the top of the Premier League in outstanding fashion with a ruthless victory at Fulham.
Mikel Arteta’s side responded to Manchester City’s narrow victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday night by wrapping up this win by half-time as they opened up a 3-0 lead with a devastating attacking display.
Gabriel Martinelli had already had a goal narrowly ruled out for offside by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), before defender Gabriel headed in Leandro Trossard’s corner after 21 minutes – the first of a trio of assists for the Belgian.
Trossard then crossed for Martinelli to beat the static Antonee Robinson to head home at the far post five minutes later, before providing the delivery for captain Martin Odegaard’s cool finish in first-half stoppage time.
Fulham mounted a belated threat after the break as visiting keeper Aaron Ramsdale denied Bobby de Cordova-Reid, while Tosin Adarabioyo headed against the woodwork.
Arsenal, however, were always in control and Arteta was able to re-introduce influential striker Gabriel Jesus for the first time since he required knee surgery after being injured playing for Brazil against Cameroon at the World Cup for a 13-minute cameo.
Trossard stands out as Gunners pass another test
This had all the hallmarks of a hazardous fixture for Arsenal given Fulham’s impressive campaign and the pressure on after Manchester City reduced their lead to two points.
But, once again, the steel, character and skill that has characterised their season was on show.
The £21m capture of Trossard from Brighton in January looks increasingly shrewd by the week and he ran riot down Fulham’s right flank, taking on the role of creator-in-chief before being substituted to a standing ovation in the closing stages.
Arsenal have been presented with examinations of different types on a regular basis in this impressive attempt to win a first title since 2004 – and they passed this one with flying colours.
The Gunners dug deep to come from two goals down to beat Bournemouth in the 97th minute in last weekend’s game at Emirates Stadium, while here they stamped their authority all over a lacklustre Fulham from the first whistle.
Manchester City had asked the question by winning at Selhurst Park. Arsenal provided the answer at Craven Cottage with their fifth successive Premier League win.
Fulham in danger of fading
Marco Silva’s Fulham have been an outstanding addition to the top flight this season – a surprise package given they were rated as relegation favourites by many.
Here, however, they were well short of the standards they have set and this comprehensive defeat capped a disappointing week after losing the west London derby at Brentford on Monday.
There were mitigating circumstances with two of their most influential performers missing, Willian ruled out with a back muscle injury and Joao Palhinha suspended. The goals have also dried up for main marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has 11 this season, but last scored in January.
After a below-par display, Fulham only came to life after the break when the game was effectively over.
Currently in eighth place, they have done so well to put themselves in contention for European football next season.
Silva’s main task now is to ensure the conclusion to this campaign does not drift away into anti-climax.