Troussard’s hat-trick of assists saw Arsenal overcome Fulham

LONDON – Arsenal re-established their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

Manchester City overcame the deficit with a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace at the weekend, but the Gunners showed no signs of feeling the pressure as they led 3-0 at half-time with goals from Gabriel, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Martinelli. Martin Odegaard.

Fulham made some progress after the break with Bobby de Cordova-Reid forcing Aaron Ramsdale to make a smart save in the 69th minute before Aleksandar Mitrovic hit the crossbar from the resulting corner.

Gabriel Jesus returned from knee surgery to make his first appearance for Arsenal since November 6 and missed a chance late on after being played in by fellow substitute Fabio Vieira. But by then the visitors had secured Mikel Arteta’s 100th win (including a penalty shootout win) in his 168th game as Arsenal manager, taking them one step closer to a first league title in 19 years.

Fast response

1. Arsenal perfect response as City keep title chase

The Gunners arrive in west London facing a swift turnaround from Thursday’s 2-2 draw at Sporting CP. In the end, preparation was probably the hardest part of this fixture. The Gunners changed their travel plans, originally intended to train in Lisbon on Friday before a bug hit multiple players and Arsenal opted instead to fly back from Portugal on Thursday evening.

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There was no sign of any ill effects, however, as Arsenal effectively killed it as a contest in the opening 45 minutes. Fulham beat Chelsea, drew with Liverpool and only lost to Manchester United in stoppage-time this season. So, on paper, it represents another tough test of Arsenal’s title credentials, made tougher by City’s two-point proximity in the table. Yet they handled it with ease, managing the second half to the extent that they were able to give minutes to several players in the squad and give Bukayo Saka 18 minutes of rest.

It’s too early to know if that will make a difference, of course, but Arsenal have once again moved away from City’s goal difference, now just five behind the champions at plus-37.

2. Trossard and Martinelli reduce stress on Jesus’ return

Prematch excitement among Arsenal fans centered around the return of Gabriel Jesus, named on the bench for the first time since the World Cup following knee surgery. The Brazilian has only recently returned to training, and Arteta has stressed the importance of avoiding Jesus’ return from injury. Leandro Trossard and Martinelli filling in the gaps like this will make it easier to resist that temptation.

Trossard, who recovered from a groin injury sooner than expected, started in the middle here, and Fulham couldn’t cope when he drifted down the left to overload defender Kenny Tate on that flank. Troussard was not Arsenal’s first choice when they looked to bolster their attacking options in January, but after losing out to Chelsea in the race to sign Mykhailo Mudric, the Gunners moved quickly to acquire an alternative.

These are still formative days in Trossard’s Arsenal career, but the £27million signing from Brighton & Hove Albion looks increasingly motivated. He now has one goal and five assists in nine Premier League appearances, including three against Fulham. Martinelli, meanwhile, seems to have taken a midseason dip with another all-action display behind him.

Jesus got 13 minutes when the game ended as a contest; A gentle reintroduction with more challenges ahead.

3. It’s too early to be on the beach in Fulham

Despite being mid-March, the match had a distinct “end-of-season, summer holiday look” from the home side. Fulham were curiously flat from kick-off, and although Arsenal were devastating in transition and clinical in attack, the hosts’ passivity allowed them to find their feet early.

The absence of key midfielder Joao Palhinha through suspension was the reason for the reduction here. His midfield bite was missing in Monday’s 3-2 defeat at Brentford and arguably more so here given how fluid Arsenal were in possession. Former Arsenal winger Willian has enjoyed a superb season in London but has been sidelined of late with a back problem, making De Cordova-Reid a disappointing deputy.

Fulham have exceeded all expectations this campaign, defying predictions they would be locked in a relegation battle rather than competing for European qualification. But it was a second defeat in a row and a particularly poor showing that Marco Silva must quickly go down in history if Fulham are not to plateau in their remaining matches. At least the next game — the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United (Stream live March 19 on ESPN+ in the US) — the mind must be sharpened.

Best and worst performers

the best

Leandro Troussard, Arsenal: The first player in Premier League history to register three assists in the first half of an away game.

Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal: His mixture of pace and purpose regularly caused alarm in Fulham’s backline.

Martin Odegaard, Arsenal: Another dominant midfield display capped off a goal that took him into double figures in league goals for the first time in his career.

the worst

Kenny Tate, Fulham: Overwhelmed by Arsenal’s overload as the Gunners ran riot in the first half and were a non-existent threat up front.

Bobby De Cordova-Reid, Fulham: Struggled to create anything like the same impact as Willian and was all but on the periphery apart from a well-saved second-half strike by Ramsdell.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham: In fairness, there was not much service to feed off, but more than half lost his double.

Highlights and notable moments

Things are going pretty well for Arsenal fans at the moment, but the sight of Gabriel Jesus arriving at Craven Cottage as part of a team for the first time since the World Cup will give them a pre-match boost.

Those good vibes continued on the pitch thanks to Trossard’s hat trick with an assist in the first half, the third to set up Odegaard’s pick of the goals.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Michael Arteta on the return of Gabriel Jesus: “[It is a] big boost [to have him back]. Today is the first step. We didn’t know if today’s game was right. A few days ago he told me, ‘I’m still missing something.’ Yesterday I looked into his eyes and he said ‘I’m ready’. I said ‘OK!’

“So then we got the chance to throw him on. That’s the first step to give him a big boost. He looks free, he looks ready and straight away he’s created those two big chances. It’s great to have him back. [But] He has to earn his place like any other team.

Arteta on his attacking options: “We have options who can play in different positions and we have different goals as well as the chemistry of the players and what we ask them to do. It’s a big problem to have, believe me.

“We try to adapt to the quality of the players, put them in their strengths and positions where we want them as much as possible. Leo has a very different quality to Gabi, Martin. [Odegaard] Complements him really well in terms of space and understanding with him. It’s great to have that versatility.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Data Research)

Gabriel scored his third goal of the season, his first coming in the reverse fixture against Fulham in August. Odegaard also scored in that 2-1 win.

Gabriel Martinelli’s 23 Premier League goals for Arsenal equal Nicolas Anelka’s total of league goals for the club (1997-99) aged 21 or under. Only team-mate Bukayo Saka (27) has scored more goals in the age category for the Gunners.

Leandro Trossard became the first player in Premier League history to register a hat-trick of assists in the first half of an away game.

Trossard’s three-assist first half was not his first in the Premier League this season; It was in August when Roberto Firmino did it in Liverpool’s 9-0 win over Bournemouth.

Arsenal have not failed to win a Premier League game in which they led by multiple goals since a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in October 2019.

coming next

Fulham: The Cottagers are a game away from Wembley — if they can pull off a famous win at Manchester United in next Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final (Stream live on ESPN+ in the US at 12:30 pm ET) would then see them reach their first semi-final in the competition since 2002.

Armory: The Gunners host Sporting CP in the second leg of their Europa League round-of-16 tie on Thursday, drawing the first leg 2-2 in Portugal, before they welcome Crystal Palace — managed by former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira — to the Emirates in the Premier League on Sunday.

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