Needing to rebound from a disappointing, unlucky outing against West Ham, Arsenal instead turned in arguably their worst performance of the season away to Fulham, losing 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a sloppy, lethargic, and uninspiring performance that sees Mikel Arteta’s side remain 4th in the Premier League table after climbing to the top spot earlier in the month. It’s really deflating.
That’s five points dropped from winning positions this season against Fulham, a side that likely won’t finish in the top half of the table. That’s simply not good enough for Arsenal’s aspirations. It feels like the Gunners will need to put together an impressive run in the second half of the season to challenge for the Premier League title. On napkin math, I’d say they need 14 to 16 wins from the last 18, and they must beat Manchester City away and Liverpool at the Emirates.
On current form, that isn’t going to happen. The good news is that Arsenal don’t play again in the Premier League until January 20th, which gives them plenty of time to rest, heal up, and get right.
There isn’t all that much worth breaking down about Arsenal’s performance today. It was poor all over the pitch. Bukayo Saka had one of his worst games of the season, as did Declan Rice. Martin Ødegaard didn’t do much of anything. Ben White was anonymous. Jakub Kiwior was so bad he was subbed off at halftime.
Gabriel Martinelli was the only player providing any threat. It was his work in space on the break and curling shot that created the first goal, set up by David Raya’s quick distribution and Kai Havertz’s early, progressive pass. But Mikel Arteta took Martinelli off in favor of Reiss Nelson, who did absolutely nothing. Eddie Nketiah, who rotated in for Gabriel Jesus presumably for rest / fitness reasons, was also poor and uninvolved. That pair are perfectly fine players. They sometimes have good games. But they don’t consistently provide the level of quality Arsenal need.
Neither Leandro Trossard nor Gabriel Jesus, who both came on as subs, made much of an impact. That’s a few poor performances on the bounce from Trossard, who struggles when asked to play as a touchline winger. He’s more effective operating from the inside left channel or from a central position, like he did when Gabriel Jesus was out following his injury at the World Cup.
You have to question why Emile Smith Rowe isn’t getting more time. It’s not as if he’s done much of anything over the past however long it’s been since he was fit and regularly contributing, but surely he can provide more than what Arsenal are getting from the guys Mikel Arteta keeps trotting out there. At least it can’t be worse, right?
With that, Arsenal stumble into 2024. Today’s dreadful showing aside, Arsenal played pretty good football in the month of December and were unfortunate that he results didn’t match. The performance against Fulham was awful. The Gunners head into the new year taking four points from five matches. Mikel Arteta and the lads need to turn it around quickly.