On Tuesday night, the Premier League host’s 16th place was 15th.
At this point in the season, it’s not shocking to see Brighton close to the relegation zone. For all their patience and elegance on the ball, little is punctuated by a real goal threat. When they belatedly concede through a moment of poor judgment, as they did at West Ham after leading twice in the game, it’s hardly surprising.
Arsenal’s form, however, has been surprising and shocking. The race throughout November and December had fans tearing their hair out, with a few chosen ones who will go unnamed swearing and effing and jeffing with all the cohesion of a cow trying to explain to a commuter when the next. train in a station is due to arrive, while shouting “ARTETA OUT”.
But on Tuesday night, a few other pre-game storylines were offered. A strange rivalry has emerged between Brighton and Arsenal, giving a tasty advantage to an already hugely important game for the prospects of both sides.
The Seagulls had taken 11 points in their six Premier League appearances against the Gunners heading into the midweek clash, securing a brace against the North Londoners last season. Neal Maupay scored in both matches and was the pantomime villain at Amex in June, hitting Bernd Leno and forcing the goalkeeper to go out before scoring the winner in the 95th minute.
The former Brentford star also wrapped Matteo Guendouzi to the point where the pair came to blows after the game. Guendouzi no longer played for Arsenal in the finals of the 2019/20 season and was loaned to Hertha BSC in October.
On paper, 16th against 15th is never to be watched. Maybe at the end of today’s game if you haven’t fallen asleep yet.
But with Arsenal’s poor form – somewhat corrected by their 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day – and Brighton’s strangely excellent record against them, Tuesday night was not a game to be missed. Or at least that was the initial thought before the game.
The teams unsurprisingly reeked of the rotation of the festive period – Brighton lining up without a recognized striker with a Premier League debut of the season handed over to Bernardo, Alexis Mac Allister and Davy Propper, and Arsenal offering young talents like Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka the opportunity to give the adjustment again to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with chances in advance.
Despite the changes made by Graham Potter, it was the Seagulls who progressed first, keeping possession going and giving chances to Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Dan Burn. The Gunners, alternately, sat down and looked to counter with the pace offered by Martinelli, Saka and Aubameyang at the break.
The opening streaks of the first half were fulfilled by the two teams feeling each other’s feelings, although Aubameyang’s presence in a central role made the Gunners more threatening, although they often failed to succeed. to choose the promising leads that he and his fellow attackers were. manufacturing.
We know Arsenal are in a rut, and it’s certainly a lot nicer to see the youth trio behind Aubameyang rather than Willian or Nicolas Pepe, but the threat wasn’t there. They were beaten eight to one in the first half, and if any luck had been opposed to them they would have headed down the tunnel one goal down.
Yves Bissouma was the only peerless player in this opening period, constantly looking confident on the ball and sucking in anything loose.
A change of approach saw Arsenal receive more of the ball in the second half, and their quick and dynamic play paid off when Saka left Dan Burn for dead and fed substitute Alexandre Lacazette, who curled up in the first post for his fifth Premier League. goal of the season.
As Arsenal asserted themselves more, Brighton slipped into their shell. Playing scorer for over an hour was always going to dull their offense, and dropping a goal meant Maupay was presented for the final 25 minutes.
Unfortunately for the hosts, whose offensive threat was largely limited due to a lack of forward movement, he couldn’t tell the difference.
It’s a strange rivalry, especially for one who was born in an era where there are no fans to witness the Sparks, but it was a quieter affair than the shock of June. Arsenal kept the lead after a bad opening period to come back stronger and win thanks to Lacazette’s strike.
Work done for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, who move to 13th place. Brighton, however, is stuck in 17th place after Burnley’s victory over Sheffield United, and without a win since November and without a regular scorer, relegation seems a worrying prospect.
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