Arsenal Vs Brighton: Highlights and analysis – Predictably pathetic

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks dejected during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks dejected during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to the Amex on Sunday in desperate need of a confidence-inspiring win. They didn’t get one. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 2-1 loss.

Well, that was predictably rubbish. Arsenal travelled to the South Coast to face Brighton and Hove Albion low on confidence and a crisis of sorts threatening to engulf Arsene Wenger and the club. What they didn’t need was to concede an early goal. So, they decided to concede two instead. The response, while ultimately unsuccessful, was better than in recent weeks, but defensive deficiencies had already played their part. This just isn’t a very good team anymore.

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The first half was, in all honesty, not that surprising. Arsenal started sharply. They played their football in Brighton’s half and impressed themselves on the hosts. But it took just eight minutes for all that to crumble.

Brighton, on their first counter-attack of the match, fed the ball out to Ezequiel Schelotto at right back, who marauded up and down the right flank throughout the first 45 minutes. The Italian drove at Granit Xhaka, who was scared to commit to a challenge, backing his way into his own penalty area, skipped past him and whipped a low cross into the six-yard box that deflected out for a corner. From the resultant corner, Petr Cech failed to claim the aerial ball with Shane Duffy challenging. The loose punch diverted back into the penalty area that Lewis Dunk turned home with an instinctive finish.

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Arsenal then slumped into a state of panic from this point. Laurent Koscielny looked lost, which I will get to it later, while Granit Xhaka, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi all lost possession cheaply, on some occasions leading to good Brighton chances. Cech was forced into saves from Pascal Gross more than once, while both Duffy and Dunk squandered good chances from corners, their aerial prowess causing the Gunners all sorts of issues.

It then got worse. Glenn Murray continued his excellent run of form, but make no mistake about it, this was an Arsenal-wrapped gift. First, Laurent Koscielny passed the ball away. Then, Sead Kolasinac charged in to try and recover possession, vacating his position at left-back. Koscielny was then forced to charge down the cross Pascal Gross, which he did not want to do, failing to get close enough to enforce any pressure on him. Shkodran Mustafi, meanwhile, had no clue where Murray was, who had slipped in behind the defender. Finally, Petr Cech allowed the header, which was from close-range and contacted with pace and conviction, to squirm under his body. Shocking. Truly shocking.

At this point, the picture was a bleak one. But there was a brief glimmer offered just before the break. As the loose ball fell to Granit Xhaka in the penalty area, his cross-come-shot was thrashed towards the far post and inventively flicked past Matt Ryan by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker had looked lost for much of the game, with confidence clearly low. This was an important breakthrough.

In the final few minutes of the half, the momentum change was evident. Brighton began to look nervous; Arsenal took heart. They hit the post from a deflected Henrikh Mkhitaryan cross and they, like the start of the half, began to play their football very much in Brighton’s half. But the damage had already been done and the work was still to come. Arsenal needed an excellent second half.

They did show fight after the break. Jack Wilshere was especially feisty in midfield after a passive first half, and although there were still vulnerabilities in the defensive third, they created a few opportunities in attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s speed released him into the channel between centre-half and full-back, only to round the goalkeeper and find his angle too acute, while Mesut Ozil struck a powerful, swerving shot from distance that forced Matt Ryan into a good, palmed save.

The momentum, though, was building. Until Sead Kolasinac clambered his way into the face of Ezequiel Schelotto forcing a lengthy delay as he was treated to with a nasty head injury. It was a challenge that was perhaps deserving of a yellow card, and with Kolasinac already having been cautioned earlier in the match, there shouts from the fans for a greater punishment.

As the half progressed and Arsenal grew more and more desperate in their search for an equaliser, Brighton enjoyed greater space on the break. Glenn Murray, had he had even an ounce of the pace that his 30-year-old self had, would have been in on the goal with only Petr Cech to beat, while Jose Izquierdo threatened with his pace and direct running down the left flank.

Wenger threw on the likes of Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and young Eddie Nketiah in an attempt to inspire some attacking spark from his side, but while they huffed and puffed, the lack of quality in their final delivery was painfully evident. Arsenal did show a far greater commitment in this game than in recent losses to Manchester City and FK Ostersunds, but, ultimately, Brighton were able to repel their best advances.

Nketiah did flick a header towards the goal, though it lacked the requisite power and precision to ever trouble Matt Ryan, Jack Wilshere volleyed wide from distance after a corner snook through the legs ans worked its way to his thigh, and Aubameyang shot straight at Ryan on the spin when he perhaps should have done better with the snap-effort.

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But clear-cut chances were difficult to create, and it was hard to make a fair argument for Arsenal deserving the victory. They didn’t. This is now four consecutive losses for the Gunners. Hardly the type of form that they want to take to Milan in the Europa League on Thursday. There were signs of improvement in regards to attitude and character, but the quality was lacking. Arsene Wenger’s job is becoming increasingly frail.