Arsenal left the Amex Stadium counting their lucky stars that there were points on the board as a lacklustre performance against Brighton finished as a draw.
Seeing the Seagulls’ teamsheet missing their key man in midfield, Yves Bissouma, and Arsenal’s boasting a team that only a tiny majority of supporters will have been dissatisfied with (if there were any at all) meant confidence was high ahead of kick-off.
Having put Tottenham to the sword with a blistering performance, Bukayo Saka’s mazy run in the first minute looked like continuing that trend.
That move was not a glimpse into the future, however, and more of a dangling carrot as try as they did to replicate more moments like that, Arsenal came up short.
Brighton 0-0 Arsenal: Thomas Partey & Martin Odegaard central link breaks 0-0 draw as the pair fail to spark in the Premier League
Much of their struggles came in an area where Arsenal weren’t expected to be found lacking. After impressive performances from Martin Odegaard and Thomas Partey in the North London Derby, the pair could not bring centrality and progression to the south coast.
Albert Sambi Lokonga doesn’t escape without a mention, as he looked slow and lethargic in the first half, especially when asked to fill in at left-back a la Granit Xhaka. Not showing for the ball enough, he didn’t get involved in the build-up. What he did do, though, was grow in confidence and composure and finished the match much stronger.
Yet, for the aforementioned duo it was sluggish throughout.
Brighton’s high intensity pressing and man-marking system had Partey struggling for creation, unable to feed passes through the lines and despite showing plenty of endeavour, every question he asked had and answer thrown straight back at him by the Seagulls. The combination of the Ghanaian to Odegaard is one that has produced some exciting and dynamic Premier League displays. This was not one of them.
The Norwegian seemingly left his touch back in north London. Whenever found he couldn’t control the ball. For someone so young and capable of producing what was seen last time out against Spurs, displays such as that the Amex can be expected as something of an anomaly. All the aspects of his game that are worth cherishing – weight of pass, delicate first touch and tight control – escaped him. The weather conditions are not an excuse.
Arsenal attack with greater tempo and threat when one of Odegaard or Partey are on song, so given that neither had good evenings it’s no surprise that Arsenal created little of note bar a few slick moves. Of course, credit has to go to the hosts who ensured that area of the pitch was compact: they were quick into duels, doubled up and forced errors.
A more vibrant team when the ball isn’t only fed wide, a combination of off-days for the pair and nullification by the opposition resulted in a performance where you have to be pleased to earn a draw.
Partey and Odegaard’s central link broke on Saturday. It will be easily fixed.