Fulham 0 Arsenal 3: Gabriel Jesus plays first game since November as Gunners maintain Premier League title push
GABRIEL JESUS made his long-awaited return after knee surgery – but knows he has a major fight to get into this team.
Because on the day Arsenal took another small step towards winning the title, Leandro Trossard delivered his best performance for the club.
APGabriel Jesus returned from injury to play his first game since November[/caption]
Martin Odegaard scored on his return to the sideRichard Pelham / The Sun
Leandro Trossard produced a hat-trick of assistsAP
GettyGabriel continued his fine goalscoring form against Fulham[/caption]
And if Trossard keeps delivering scintillating performances like this as a false nine, Jesus will be happy to bide his time until he is 100 per cent match fit.
Although the former Manchester City striker replaced Trossard in the 77th minute, much to the delight of the travelling fans, Arsenal had this game sorted after a brutal first-half demolition of Fulham.
The Belgian delivered assists for all three of the goals and the only thing missing was one for himself.
Defender Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard scored in a surprisingly-easy win for Arsenal.
And when Trossard started the season with a 2-1 win at Manchester United for Brighton, the Belgian could not have possibly hoped he would end up landing a big move before helping his new club on this potentially epic journey at the top.
Trossard looks increasingly at home in this team and his clever, razor-sharp link-up play with Martinelli and Odegaard was superb to watch.
Unusually, one of Arteta’s other attackers, Bukayo Saka, did not have one of his better games but it did not really matter.
Fulham knew they were going to miss key man Joao Palhinha in central midfield although the gap he left was bigger than any of us could have expected.
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His replacement, Sasa Lukic, struggled through although his nightmare was nothing compared to the shocker suffered by home defender Antonee Robinson.
An early own goal was ruled out by VAR but he was still guilty of some woeful defending which saw him play a part in the second and third goals.
The worst was certainly the second when he actually DUCKED for Martinelli to be handed an easy header for his 12th goal of an outstanding season.
Yet you have to give enormous credit to Arsenal who showed some real guts to bounce back from the 3-1 home loss to Manchester City which was their third Premier League game without a win.
But here was a fifth successive top-flight win and their easiest by some distance.
An uneventful, almost boring match finally livened up when Arsenal thought they had scored only for a VAR decision to end those celebrations.
And no-one was more relieved than Robinson who watched with horror as Leno saved a shot from Martinelli only for the ball to rebound off him and into the net.
Martinelli was offside but the decision seemed to give Arsenal an extra bit of fire and they moved ahead thanks to Gabriel in their third corner in the space of a minute.
Fulham defender Adarabioyo made it easy for the Arsenal defender who was able to meet Trossard’s corner unchallenged.
But in terms of bad defending it was nothing compared to the second.
The build-up play from Arsenal was excellent but even so, Fulham pressed the self-destruct button.
Granit Xhaka had a laughable amount of time and space to jog forward, Trossard overcame a weak challenge from Kenny Tete to deliver a cross and Martinelli had a ludicrously easy header because Robinson – inexplicably – decided not to challenge.
Aaron Ramsdale had an easy first half although got away with one just before the break when he passed the ball to Pereira but he then made a mess of the opportunity.
Martinelli should have made it 3-0 but his half-hit volley was clawed away by Leno but even so, Arsenal still went in at the break leading by three.
Fulham lost possession from Tete’s throw and Odegaard was given plenty of time to control Trossard’s cross before picking his spot with neither Robinson or Lukic covering themselves in glory.
Here was a case of Fulham delivering the type of performance we expected for all of the season. So it is to Marco Silva’s credit that this was incredibly rare and his team still have a chance of scraping a European place and what a tremendous story that would be.
Fulham showed some fight at the start of the second half but it was far too late
Ramsdale made decent saves to keep efforts from Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Adarabioyo while Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was starved of service, sent a header smashing against the bar.
With the game over long before the final whistle, Arteta would have been grateful for the chance to make early changes with a firm eye on the Europa League clash with Sporting on Thursday.
This will be followed by a home clash with Crystal Palace and on current form, Arsenal will surely continue to move another step towards getting their hands on a trophy which for so long, has been beyond them.