Arsenal missed the big chance to top the Premier League at New Year with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Fulham.
Bukayo Saka put the Gunners ahead inside five minutes but Raul Jimenez equalised on his return from suspension, before Bobby Decordova-Reid scrambled home the winner on the hour.
The loss left Arsenal fourth and two points behind leaders Liverpool, who host Newcastle on New Year’s Day.
Fulham are 13th after ending a run of three straight defeats.
Arsenal made the perfect start with a fifth-minute opener following a quick break. Gabriel Martinelli’s curling shot from the left was palmed out by former Gunners keeper Bernd Leno, and Saka stuck out his right leg to loop the ball into the net from six yards.
But Fulham reacted well and equalised in the 29th minute when Willian, another ex-Arsenal player in the home ranks, fed captain Tom Cairney down the left and his dangerous low cross was swept in by Jimenez.
Marco Silva’s men claimed a deserved winner from a corner when Decordova-Reid stabbed a finish past David Raya following pinball in the box – condemning Arsenal to consecutive losses following the 2-0 home defeat by West Ham on Thursday.
Saka’s goal made him the club’s top scorer in the league with six.
Starting this game just six points above the drop zone, Fulham were very grateful to welcome back Jimenez, and also Willian from a hamstring injury.
Brazilian Willian – whose three-year contract at Arsenal was ended in 2021 after a difficult year – had missed the previous three league games, all of which Fulham lost without scoring. Jimenez was sent off for a high tackle in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle. Both clearly add extra class to Fulham’s attack.
The victory ensured the club did not suffer four consecutive league defeats without scoring for the first time since 1971, and showed where their strengths lie as they bid to climb the table.
Fulham are still seven points worse off than they were after 20 games last season – but with Jimenez back and firing, Silva’s worries will be somewhat alleviated.
They could have won by a more comprehensive margin had Raya not made a flying save to deny Cairney in the second half, while Andreas Pereira struck the bar with a late free-kick.