Arsenal bounced back from their thrashing by Liverpool to beat Fulham and move two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
The Gunners suffered their heaviest defeat of the season on Saturday when they lost 5-1 at Anfield, but goals from Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helped them to only their second win in six games.
After Ryan Sessegnon had missed two good chances for Fulham, Xhaka put the hosts ahead, finishing past Sergio Rico after a good cross from the impressive Alex Iwobi.
Lacazette doubled the lead when he finished off Sead Kolasinac’s pull-back following a fine Arsenal passing move.
Aboubakar Kamara pulled one back from close range for Fulham, but Ramsey converted the Gunners’ third after Aubameyang had hit the post.
Aubameyang’s deflected shot gave Arsenal their fourth and a deserved three points.
Another goal for Aubameyang, but defensive worries continue
It had been a poor festive season for Arsenal as they only managed a 1-1 draw at Brighton on 26 December before their thrashing at Anfield.
The Gunners were again without Mesut Ozil, with the German still sidelined with the knee injury that kept him out of the Liverpool match, while Ramsey, out of contract in the summer and a transfer target for Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Juventus, Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid, was only among the substitutes.
Nevertheless, the hosts took a 25th-minute lead when Xhaka finished from Iwobi’s cross and they ended the first half strongly with chances for Matteo Guendouzi, Xhaka and Aubameyang.
A wonderful passing move down the left wing after 10 minutes of the second half, involving Iwobi, Kolasinac and Lacazette, led to the Gunners’ second as the Frenchman scored his seventh Premier League goal of the campaign.
Fulham pulled one back but Ramsey, who had only been on the pitch for four minutes, scored Arsenal’s third after Aubameyang’s effort had hit the post.
The Gabon striker added a fourth late on after a pass from Sokratis to score his 14th league goal of the season, one more than both Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah, and regain his position as the outright top goalscorer in the Premier League.
Arsenal started the game with three centre-halves – Laurent Koscielny, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi – but were lucky not to fall behind as Ryan Sessegnon twice missed good chances when it was goalless.
The Gunners changed to a back four at half-time but Fulham still created opportunities and Kamara’s goal means the Gunners have not kept a clean sheet in six games in all competitions and have only stopped the opposition from scoring in three of 21 Premier League games in 2018-19.
Kamara back in Ranieri’s good books
Arsenal’s defensive problems do not compare to those of Claudio Ranieri’s side, though. The Cottagers have now conceded 47 goals in 21 games, six more than any other side in the top flight.
Fulham had an early warning as Aubameyang missed a chance in only the second minute before Sessegnon should have given the visitors the lead but shot wide when he only had Bernd Leno to beat and then missed his kick from six yards out from Andre Schurrle’s inviting cross.
Those misses proved costly as Xhaka was given too much space in the penalty area – escaping marker Tim Ream to finish past Sergio Rico and put the hosts in front.
Ranieri’s team still had chances, but were again poor at the back as they were sliced apart with a beautifully-crafted goal from Lacazette after a fine passing move down the left wing.
But for all their defensive problems, Fulham were still creating opportunities and Mitrovic, who had earlier had a header saved on the line by Bernd Leno, was again denied by the German, before substitute Kamara tapped in from Sessegnon’s cross.
In Fulham’s previous match against Huddersfield, the Cottagers were awarded a penalty and Kamara grabbed the ball off normal penalty taker Mitrovic before seeing his effort saved by Terriers’ goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.
Fulham still won that game 1-0, thanks to Mitrovic’s late injury-time winner, but it did not stop manager Ranieri saying he “wanted to kill” the French forward afterwards.
Kamara’s goal made it 2-1 to Arsenal, but any hopes of a Fulham fightback were quickly ended with two more Arsenal goals in a four-minute spell late on.
More to follow.