It turned out to be a tense 4th round FA Cup game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal. Arsenal came on all guns blazing and by the half time whistle the majority of us thought the game was over.
Brighton & Hove Albion, aka the Seagulls, currently languishing towards the bottom in the Championship League couldn’t seem to break through Arsenal’s defence and stood by idly while Theo Walcott (89 seconds) and Mesut Özil (24th minute) scored their respective goals. Nothing had changed when the teams returned to the pitch after the half time break until Arsenal’s sloppy defending in the 51st minute let the home side score and suddenly Brighton & Hove Albion came alive. Tomáš Rosický’s 59th minute goal temporarily quenched the Seagulls fire. However, when Sam Baldock clipped the ball straight over Wojciech Szczesny’s head into the back of the net in the 76th minute it left Arsenal clearly shaken. Both team rallied and it was only the referee’s decision not to allow what would have been an undeserved penalty for a handball against Calum Chambers (the ball was kicked directly onto Chambers’ arm at close range) that stopped Brighton & Hove Albion from having their best chance of equalising.
1. Monreal may never play as a centre back again
For the second time in as many matches we saw that Arsenal are definitely a team to be reckoned with. Their passion in both this game, and their match against Manchester City, was clear for all to see. It’s a passion that all too often has been missing this season. It would seem, however, that although we still have half a bench full of injured players Arsenal’s season has finally started to heat up. We certainly don’t seem to be short of world-class strikers; best of all they’re currently scoring goals. Our defence on the other hand is what has, and potentially could, let us down. In my opinion, Nacho Monreal is currently our weakest link in defence. Whilst he has been consistently good at left back, playing Monreal in a centre back position against the Seagulls left him looking like a fish out of water for much of the second half when Brighton & Hove Albion were at their fiercest. Admittedly, he does have the odd flash of excellence, but those times are few and far between. Whilst I understand Walcott and Özil being substituted, Wenger would’ve been much better substituting Monreal for Mertesacker thereby adding to our defensive capability rather than striking. Who needs to worry about scoring too many goals if you’re not actually letting any in? If Gabriel Paulista’s medical is successful, if we sign him and (third and final if) we’re able to furnish him with the requisite visa we’ll have filled another much-needed centre back position. When Mathieu Debuchy returns we’ll have our full quota of defence back on the field. In addition, with confirmed new signing Krystian Bielik capable of playing in a CB position as well as defensive midfield I’m wondering how much more of Monreal we will see at CB. Press the page numbers below to see the other learning points from Arsenal’s win against Brighton.