Arsenal limps into 2024 after 'worst performance of the season.' Tottenham closes in on top four

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Arsenal's Bukayo Saka loses his balance after he was challenged by Fulham's Joao Palhinha, on ground, during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Fulham at Craven Cottage stadium in London, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON – Arsenal is limping into 2024 after a damaging stretch that culminated in what coach Mikel Arteta called “the worst performance of the season” on the final day of the year.

A toothless Arsenal side lost 2-1 at Fulham on Sunday despite taking the lead in the fifth minute, a second straight defeat that means the team stayed in fourth place in the Premier League — when a victory would have lifted it into first.

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“It’s a really sad day because today we didn’t deserve to win the game,” Arteta said. “That was the worst performance of the season.”

It continued a worrying run that has seen Arsenal end 2023 with just one win in its last five league games, including its first home loss of the season to West Ham on Thursday.

Arsenal would have provisionally climbed above Liverpool atop the table with a win, but could find itself five points off the lead if Jurgen Klopp's team beats Newcastle on Monday. Arsenal stayed in fourth — having been top of the table at Christmas — and is now just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham after its north London rival beat Bournemouth 3-1 at home.

This latest setback came despite Bukayo Saka putting Arsenal ahead after just five minutes as he turned in the rebound from a shot by Gabriel Martinelli, who had made a marauding run from inside his own area.

There was little in the way of attacking threat from the visitors after that, though, and bad defending helped Raul Jimenez equalize in the first half and Bobby De Cordova-Reid poke in the winner after a corner in the 59th.

“Not good enough from us again today,” Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice said. “The game against West Ham we had 30 shots, so many touches in the box but couldn’t put it away. Today when (we) go one up we have to have more control. We need to demand more from each other. We had to push on again and go for more. In this league there is no room to mess up. It is a tough one to take.”

Fulham had lost its last three league games by a combined score of 8-0 but was boosted by the return of Jimenez from a suspension. The striker has now scored four goals in his last four league games — equaling his tally from his previous 50.


Don't count Tottenham out of the title race just yet.

Ange Postecoglou's team is three points behind Liverpool after bouncing back from a 4-2 defeat at Brighton on Thursday with a convincing win against Bournemouth.

Tottenham was boosted by the early return of Rodrigo Bentancur from an injury at a time when Postecoglou is without a handful of starters. But the win was marred by Senegal international Pape Sarr leaving the field in tears with an injury in the first half — just two weeks before the start of the African Cup of Nations — after he had scored the opening goal in the ninth minute.

Tottenham had to wait until the 71st minute for another goal, but Son Heung-min and Richarlison scored late to make the game safe before Alex Scott pulled one back for Bournemouth.

After a great start to the season under Postecoglou, Tottenham fell out of the top four after a five-game winless run but could soon be back in the Champions League places.

“We’re still in there and fighting,” Postecoglou said. “We’re three points off the top so if that is the difference between having a great season and where we are I’ll take it."


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