Arteta and Arsenal must learn fast from Brighton woes as Palace await

As Arsenal travelled down to the American Express Community Stadium (the Amex), the mood amongst staff, players and fans couldn’t have been better. The side had won three games on the bounce, after losing the previous three, including the 3-1 North London derby win. The blistering first-half performance from Arteta’s young guns against their fiercest rivals had fans wondering whether this was a sign of things to come. The following game on the South Coast would be the perfect test for this template, albeit without the influential Granit Xhaka.

 

Unfortunately, the attacking flair and edge of the seat counter-attacking football from the previous game appeared to vanish before our eyes.

Brighton dominated proceedings whilst Arteta’s men looked laboured in possession and were fortunate that, despite the lacklustre performance, they scraped a draw. Martin Ødegaard had one of his most disappointing performances in an Arsenal shirt and struggled to make any semblance of an impact on the game before being displaced by Nicolas Pepe.

The captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was as uninspiring as possible as he trudged around the pitch and eventually was taken off after 72 minutes. This was not a good look for the Gabonese international and taking off your star striker when searching for a late goal speaks volumes about his performance.

Bukayo Saka also struggled to forge anything successfully, looking tired when getting on the ball. However, Emile Smith-Rowe was a positive from the game. He constantly searched to try and find openings and his drives with the ball were a highlight from the game. However, despite his good performance he was still wasteful with Arsenal’s best chance of the game. Smith-Rowe drove in on goal and a pass to Saka looked like the correct option. Emile instead drove forward and backed himself in front of goal, but his strike lacked conviction and led to an easy save for Robert Sanchez in the Brighton net.

This game was a tale of two very different sides. Brighton looked well drilled, confident in possession and manipulated the ball well to create opportunities, with Cucurella looking particular threatening at left wing-back for Brighton. Graham Potter’s side also looked resolute in defence and it appeared that none of their attacking exploits impacted their solidity at the back. Brighton clearly had an identity that their players conform to and enjoy playing and this showed throughout the game.

Adam Lallana rolled back the years with his tricks and flicks, Dan Burn was as annoying as ever filling in the gaps when Cucurella went forward and Lewis Dunk marshalled his troops expertly. These are tricky games that both Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal squad need to learn from when moving forward and they can learn from the way Brighton operate.

Looking ahead to the game against Crystal Palace, Brighton’s M23 derby rivals, Arsenal will be looking to bounce back with a win. The defence will hope to replicate their resolute performance from against Brighton. Tomiyasu, who struggled at times against the left flank of Brighton, will face Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha. He will have to be at his very best to thwart the man who terrorised Spurs’ Emerson, another new addition to the league at right-back, and will be looking to keep him out of the game in a way he couldn’t with Cucurella.

In midfield Arsenal will know that they need to be more progressive and entrust Ødegaard and Smith-Rowe with the ball in difficult areas to make things happen. Aubameyang will be up against another physical, powerful defence as new pairing Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen will look to take notes from Messrs Dunk, Duffy and Burn and completely silence the Arsenal man.

It’s also an important game for Mikel Arteta, although the same can be said for every manager under intense scrutiny, and only a win will help him keep his doubters at bay. He is up against fellow former Arsenal captain, Patrick Vieira, in what could be seen as an audition for his potential future job as Arsenal manager. A convincing win, with goals galore and another clean sheet is exactly what the doctor ordered, and hopefully whichever Arsenal side gets put out on Monday can deliver the goods.

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