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Mikel Arteta laments ‘painful’ defeat as Arsenal title challenge suffers blow

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reacts following the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London. Picture date: Sunday December 31, 2023.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reacts following the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London. Picture date: Sunday December 31, 2023.

Mikel Arteta lamented a “painful and sad” day as Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge suffered another setback with defeat at Fulham.

The Gunners now sit fourth in the table after a 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage only added to a home defeat to West Ham on Thursday.

Bukayo Saka had given the visitors the lead in west London, only for Raul Jimenez and Bobby Decordova-Reid to turn the game around for the Cottagers.

Five games ago, Arsenal were six points clear of champions Manchester City but are now level, having played one more game with Pep Guardiola’s side in World Club Cup action before Christmas.

Asked for his view on the game, Arteta said: “Painful and a sad day. That’s how I would sum it up.

“We had the chance to be top of the table after 20 games with the consistency that we’ve shown. We haven’t managed well enough to earn the right to win the game.

“Three days ago we lost a game that we deserved to win, today was a very different story.”

Arsenal had 30 attempts on goal as they slipped to a 2-0 loss to West Ham – but it was a different story here as Arteta’s side toiled to create chances on a wet and windy afternoon by the Thames.

“For sure,” the Spaniard replied when asked if the Fulham performance was more concerning than that against the Hammers.

“The other one, we didn’t put the ball in the net and they scored the way they did. It’s OK. Today the overall performance was more worrying.

“We weren’t good enough. We weren’t good enough in ball possession, we gave too many balls away. we didn’t have enough rhythm, enough threat.

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta bemoaned Arsenal’s sloppiness (Steven Paston/PA)

“Defensively we were second best. We could not control the direct play. It was so easy for them to win that first and second ball and have the opportunity to run.

“Then we conceded two goals like we did against West Ham and when you do that in this league it’s going to be very difficult to win.”

Fulham v Arsenal – Premier League – Craven Cottage
Marco Silva was happy with Fulham’s 2023 (Steven Paston/PA)

Fulham head coach Marco Silva was left raising a glass to a good 2023 as his side returned to winning ways after a three-game losing streak in the league.

This was also the first time in over a year Fulham have come from behind to win in the Premier League and Silva was pleased with what he saw from his team.

“It really the best way to finish 2023, definitely,” he said.

“Our ambition was to finish on a high and react from the last two games. I really believe we deserve it. Over the 95 minutes we deserved it more.

“It was very good reaction after the first goal. The way we beat their pressure and began to play our way. We even had more chances to score a third goal.”