Arsenal’s pursuit of reclaiming the Premier League throne suffered a significant setback during the defeat at Fulham, marking a dismal end to the 2023 campaign.
Struggling to find their stride in the latter half of the year, the Gunners managed only one victory in their last five fixtures, deepening concerns about their championship aspirations. Despite an impressive flurry of 77 touches in the opposing penalty area during Thursday’s loss to West Ham, Arsenal failed to convert chances into goals.
The latest 2-1 defeat against Fulham, however, revealed deeper deficiencies within Mikel Arteta’s squad. It was an outing marred by a lackluster performance, arguably one of the worst under Arteta’s leadership. Now level on points with Manchester City, Arsenal’s grip on the title race grows increasingly tenuous, particularly if Liverpool triumph over Newcastle United on New Year’s day.
The match against Fulham exposed individual shortcomings, notably Eddie Nketiah’s underwhelming display. The English forward, entrusted to lead the attack, failed to seize the opportunity to assert his claim within Arteta’s plans. Despite a hat-trick earlier in the season against Sheffield United, Nketiah’s performance faltered, typified by his year-long drought without an away goal at the top-flight level.
While acknowledging Nketiah’s proficiency as a finisher, his limitations against defensive setups were evident. His minimal impact during the game—only 24 touches on the ball and a mere eight accurate passes—highlighted his struggle to influence play beyond goal-scoring opportunities.
Critics have pointed out Arsenal’s pressing need for an offensive upgrade, emphasising the necessity for a more prolific striker than Gabriel Jesus. Reports suggest the club’s interest in Ivan Toney, a move seen as crucial to bolster their attacking prowess. However, the speculated £100 million price tag for Toney presents a significant hurdle for the Gunners in the January transfer window.