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It is now three Premier League games without a win for Arsenal and this defeat to Fulham will have alarm bells ringing.

Mikel Arteta’s side were outplayed by the hosts and it has to go down as arguably their worst performance of the season.

Even after scoring an early goal, Arsenal were flat and sloppy. The fact that they played just three days ago could partly explain that, but even so this was way below the standards expected of them.

A win would have meant Arsenal finished 2023 on top of the Premier League, but instead they are fourth and two points off leaders Liverpool – who have a game in hand too.

Perhaps most ominously for Arsenal, they are now below Manchester City in third and Pep Guardiola’s side can open up a three-point lead over them if they win their game in hand.

Arsenal’s season has been all about heroic comebacks and late goals, however you never got the sense that was going to happen here.

After the Gunners went ahead inside five minutes through Bukayo Saka, they failed to kick on. Instead, it was Fulham who took control and they were deservedly level by half-time as Raul Jimenez made it four goals in as many games.

Half-time felt like the ideal moment for Arteta to fire a rocket up his team and get them going, but instead the pattern of the game continued.

Even throwing on Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back, back in the squad after four weeks out with a calf injury, could not help Arsenal wrestle control.

Fulham’s winner, when it came, summed up Arsenal’s sloppy and disjointed performance. A corner came into the box and the Gunners didn’t deal with it, allowing Bobby De Cordova-Reid to eventually fire home.

It was the fourth goal Arsenal have conceded from corners across their last six league matches, having conceded just once in that manner in their first 14 games this season.

It is a statistic that sums up how the Gunners have dropped off at the busiest time of the year.

At the full-time whistle, as the rain poured down, Declan Rice headed to the away fans and applauded them, shaking his head as he did.

The midfielder knows that he and his team-mates must find answers fast or else the title will start to slip away.

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