Arsenal restored their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League after an easy 3-0 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage yesterday.
The Gunners blew away their London rivals in a superb first-half show that saw Gabriel, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard finding the net – with January signing Leandro Trossard supplying the assists for all three.
It could have been an even worse opening 45 minutes for Fulham had Antonee Robinson’s own- goal not been ruled out due to Martinelli being caught offside earlier in the move.
Mikel Arteta’s side were able to take their foot off the accelerator after the break but were given a huge boost when Gabriel Jesus made his first appearance since November 12 after undergoing surgery as a result of a knee injury picked up while on World Cup duty with Brazil.
Manchester City’s narrow victory at Crystal Palace yesterday had cut Arsenal’s advantage at the top back down to two points but it was back up to five after this impressive showing.
“We did really well from the start,” said Arsenal captain Odegaard. “We controlled the game and scored some good goals in the first half. The second half was a bit different but very good.
“He [Trossard] has brought some amazing things to the team. I love playing with him. He’s good to find the right pass. We’re really happy to have him on the team.
“It was a good ball from Leo over the head of a defender. I kept my composure and put my shot in the corner.”
On the return of Jesus, Odegaard added: “It’s a massive boost. He’s been out for a while now. We know what he’ll give to the team. We’re excited to have him back.”
Marco Silva’s side keenly felt the absence of Joao Palhinha as they slumped to a second straight defeat, coinciding with his two-match ban. They remain eighth in the table.
After all the emotions of recent matches, including a last-gasp victory against Bournemouth which led to wild celebrations from the Arsenal players and staff, it was a much more routine triumph for the North London club, who are pushing to win their first league title since 2003-04.
It did not take long for the Gunners to find their stride, and they thought they had taken the lead on 16 minutes when Robinson turned the ball into his own net after Bernd Leno had palmed the ball into the path of the defender.
However, the goal was ruled out following a lengthy VAR review, judging Martinelli offside in the build-up.
Leno had to be alert to make a low save to keep out Granit Xhaka’s drive just moments later as the visitors piled on the pressure.
And they were rewarded in the 21st minute when Gabriel headed home from a Trossard corner.