Chants of “We’re gonna win the league” boomed out of Arsenal’s gleeful away contingent of fans at one end of Craven Cottage as their team piled up the goals against Fulham.
It’s getting increasingly hard to argue against it.
Indeed, judging by their latest stylish victory, Arsenal’s players showed they might even be embracing the pressure of capturing a first Premier League title since 2004.
They cut through Fulham time and again in a 3-0 win on Sunday to re-establish a five-point lead over second-place Manchester City, the reigning champion which isn’t giving up the trophy easily.
Eleven games remain for both clubs in what is surely now a two-team race for the title.
That’s because third-place Manchester United dropped 16 points off the pace with a 0-0 draw at home to last-place Southampton, which failed to fully capitalize on a first-half red card to United midfielder Casemiro.
It was the Brazil midfielder’s second sending-off in his last three league games and will earn him a four-match ban – three of them to be served in the league. Given his importance, United could be vulnerable to the teams just below them.
Newcastle is one of them. The northeast club ignited its ambitions for Champions League qualification by beating Wolverhampton 2-1, ending a five-match winless run in the league.
Newcastle moved six points behind Man United in fifth place and has a game in hand. The two teams meet at St. James’ Park this month, too.
Three goals in a 26-minute burst in the first half saw Arsenal overwhelm Fulham, a week after the leaders needed a dramatic strike in the seventh minute of stoppage time to beat lowly Bournemouth at home.
Gabriel Magalhães, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard were the scorers in Arsenal’s fifth straight win, which was made much more comfortable by the absence of Fulham’s suspended midfielder Joao Palhinha.
Leandro Trossard – a January signing who has quickly fitted in – benefitted most from the extra space that Palhinha’s absence allowed, providing the assist for all three goals.
City had applied pressure on Mikel Arteta’s team by winning 1-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday, briefly reducing the gap to two points.
There was further good news for Arsenal, with Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus coming off the bench in the 77th for his first appearance since undergoing surgery on Dec. 6 on a medial collateral ligament injury sustained during the World Cup.
“A perfect win,” was how Trossard described it.
ANGRY TEN HAG
Man United manager Erik ten Hag could find himself in trouble after his criticism of referee Anthony Taylor following the draw with Southampton
“This game was influenced by the referee,” Ten Hag said after seeing Casemiro get another red card, this time for a studs-up challenge on Carlos Alcaraz that initially earned him a yellow card.
Taylor changed it to a red after the VAR advised him to look at the incident again on the pitchside monitor.
“When you freeze it, it looks bad,” Ten Hag said, “but everyone who knows something about football … they know what is bad and what isn’t bad, what is fair.
“I tell you Casemiro is a really fair player.”
Southampton hit the goal frame through James Ward-Prowse – off a trademark curling free kick – and Kyle Walker-Peters, while United midfielder Bruno Fernandes had a long-range shot tipped onto the post by Southampton goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.
United moved two points clear of fourth-place Tottenham and has a game in hand.
Southampton stayed in last place. The bottom nine teams in the league are separated by just five points.
Miguel Almiron scored Newcastle’s winner against Wolves in the 79th minute as his team moved above Liverpool.
Wolves substitute Hwang Hee-chan had canceled out the opener by Alexander Isak.
In the day’s other match, West Ham drew 1-1 with Aston Villa to climb out of the relegation zone. Said Benrahma’s penalty canceled out the opener by Ollie Watkins.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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