Arsenal have regained their five-point cushion at the top of the Premier League table after comprehensively picking apart Fulham 3-0, with Leandro Trossard grabbing a hat-trick of assists.
Manchester City put the pressure back on their title rivals on Saturday evening after edging Crystal Palace 1-0 in south London, but Mikel Arteta’s men have responded in emphatic fashion, running rampant at Craven Cottage.
The Gunners thought they broke the deadlock through an Antonee Robinson own goal after a fine run by Gabriel Martinelli, but the Brazilian had just strayed offside, with the opener ultimately chalked off by VAR after the customary lines were drawn.
However, the visitors would not have to wait long before the away section was celebrating again, with Gabriel Magalhaes rising highest to convert a Trossard corner just five minutes later. It was a towering header by the Brazilian centre-back after a wicked delivery by Trossard.
And the former Brighton playmaker would be the arch-creator five minutes later again, with Martinelli scoring a collector’s item header of his own. As Trossard collected the ball wide, he skinned Kenny Tete before lofting a ball over with his weaker foot, which Martinelli duly capitalised on.
Arsenal continued to press forward, almost as though they were chasing a last-minute equaliser. Arteta urged his players to keep pushing in that first half, and they responded to his fervour, eventually breaking Fulham’s resolve once again just before the break.
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Thomas Partey worked wonders to intercept a Fulham throwing, before Arsenal’s attack strode forward in a concerted and menacing press, with the ball eventually finding its way to Trossard on the left, who once again looped a left-footed ball over to Martin Odegaard, and it was curtains from there.
Trossard may not have been on the scoresheet himself, but that opening 45 minutes was the finest distillation of playmaker purity you are ever likely to see in football. He tore hither and thither when he drifted left, popped up menacingly in the half space, and pumped balls into the box with a surgeon’s precision.
In fact, by setting up his team-mates on three occasions during that opening period, the Belgian became the first player in Premier League history to make a hat-trick of assists in the first half of an away game. It was not only a showing of playmaker brilliance, but also a trail-blazing exhibition.
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Incredibly, this is not the first time Trossard has made Premier League history this season. Back in October, he also became the first player in the competition’s history to score a manager’s first five goals in charge of a club, doing so for Roberto De Zerbi at Brighton.
After such an electric start by Arteta’s men in that opening 45 minutes, the visitors were allowed to take the foot off the pedal slightly in the second half, as they comfortably saw the game out.
Arsenal are back in the box seat now, but perhaps more encouragingly, they are showing no discernible signs of complacency or fatigue. Crystal Palace await next weekend.