Arsenal chucked away a valuable three points as Brighton came from a goal down to beat them 2-1 with the Gunners slipping further off the Champions League places. It was a ‘new normal’ at the Amex Stadium but the same old Arsenal.
Following the heavy defeat to Manchester City in midweek, where they failed to muster a shot on target in 90 minutes, Mikel Arteta lined up without the banned David Luiz after his woeful performance. That display was blamed solely on the Brazilian – who came out and apologised – but there were no excuses here.
Arsenal flew out the blocks early on as they tried to set the tone for their second match back following the resumption of the Premier League. Bukayo Saka – who was brilliant throughout – came the closest for the Gunners in the opening stages, hitting the cross bar after only eight minutes before Alexandre Lacazette had his shot inside the box blocked by the sliding Lewis Dunk.
Lacazette had the Gunners’ other two best chances of the first-half, firstly forcing a save from Mat Ryan with a diving header before he misjudged a Saka cross and failed to connect with the ball in the area. Lacazette was afforded a start by Arteta after failing to start any of the Gunners’ last three Premier League matches.
For the most part, Arsenal looked the most likely to score but it took a wonderful second-half effort from Nicolas Pepe to break the deadlock. The Ivorian picked up the ball just inside the area, manipulated the ball onto his left foot before lofting a lovely curled effort over Mat Ryan and into the net. ‘Why not Pepe?’ asked Will Ford in midweek after their defeat at City. Despite the fabulous goal, Pepe’s other contributions were still lacking and his place in the team could still be under threat.
Gary Neville was “stunned” midweek by the Gunners’ decision to fly up to Manchester only hours before their match against the Citizens. And their coach trip over to Brighton looked like it could pay dividends with Arteta’s side looking slick going forward and playing at a good tempo for the majority of the match. But just as you think they have a produced a solid away display, you remember: Arsenal can’t defend. Rob Holding’s attempted clearance during a scramble in the area resulted in the ball bouncing off Lewis Dunk as Brighton equalised. Then just before the end, disaster struck.
To be fair to Neal Maupay and Arsenal, Brighton’s winner was a lovely bit of build-up play, finished off with a lovely flick over the goalkeeper by the Frenchman. Maupay certainly failed to endear himself to the Arsenal players, especially Matteo Guendouzi, as there were scuffles at full time with the Gunners clearly unhappy about his challenge on Bernd Leno, who was stretchered off midway through the first half. After the match, Maupay stoked the flames further, he said: “The Arsenal players need to learn humility and they got what they deserved.”
His challenge on Leno certainly seemed innocuous enough but the Arsenal players will no doubt be upset another one of their team-mates looks set to spend some time in the treatment room after losing Pablo Mari and Granit Xhaka to injury on Wednesday. Rather than start trying to fight opposition players maybe the Gunners should look to blame each other for their latest two losses, which only serve to add to doubts they will qualify for Europe this season.
Fellow European chasers such as Sheffield United and Wolves would’ve held on to those points, but not Arsenal. The result leaves them eight points off fourth with eight games remaining, while even fifth place looks very tricky as they sit six points behind Manchester United.
Arsenal have a new manager in place but the same old problems exist as their soft underbelly is once again exposed. It could take longer than expected for Arteta to turn this ship around.
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