How Fulham’s defence crumbled against Arsenal in major warning sign for European bid

How Fulham’s defence crumbled against Arsenal in major warning sign for European bid

When Muse’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ was played on the loudspeaker at half-time against Arsenal, it was an appropriate description of Fulham’s defence.

By the time referee David Coote blew for the break, Fulham were 3-0 down and already well beaten. While Arsenal had attacked with sheer class, their hosts had also been masters of their own downfall.

This has been a season Fulham fans will not forget in a hurry. They are eighth in the table, pushing for Europe and face Manchester United in an FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday.

But this was a dark day for Marco Silva and his players, and one that will leave United licking their lips.

Fulham’s back four were always in for a tough afternoon against Arsenal’s fluid trio of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard, yet they gifted them space, time, and goals.

After 16 minutes, Kenny Tete was horribly caught out when Granit Xhaka played Martinelli in behind. Tete was left for dead and soon Antonee Robinson turned the ball home for an own goal. VAR ruled an offside in the build-up, and Robinson and Fulham had a let-off.

That reprieve was short-lived though, with Arsenal taking the lead just five minutes later when Gabriel headed Trossard’s cross home. He had been tepidly challenged by four Fulham players for the header, but they got in each other’s way and Gabriel cashed in.

What followed was even worse. Tete allowed Trossard to cross again and all Robinson did in his efforts to put Martinelli off was crouch down. That did nothing to distract the Brazilian, who nodded in the second.

And Fulham were at it again in first-half stoppage time, gift-wrapping Arsenal’s third goal from their own throw-in. Trossard turned provider for the third time. Robinson, to cap off a dreadful individual display, should have headed the cross clear but leapt too early. Suddenly the ball was at Martin Odegaard’s feet. Touch, touch, goal... and game over.

On another occasion, Odegaard shot just wide with seven Fulham players simply stood there spectating.

Fulham were embarrassed and their disorderly defending will be a concern for Marco Silva, who must tighten up a leaky backline in their bid to qualify for Europe.