Result: Arsenal 1 – 1 Brighton
Competition: Premier League
Date: 5 May 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Nketiah
A top 4 finish is virtually out of reach for Arsenal as they could only muster a draw at home against a spirited Brighton team.
It was all about the penalties as Monreal was fouled early in the first half to earn the team a penalty from which Aubameyang scored from. However, Xhaka was judged to have fouled March in the box in the second half, giving Brighton a penalty to equalize from.
It seems almost impossible to overtake Spurs for fourth place due to an inferior goal difference and the Gunners have to focus on winning the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League.
Fresh from the Europa League win against Valencia, Arsenal had to refocus their attentions to a top 4 race which had little room for error. Lichtsteiner and Monreal who flanked Mustafi and Sokratis with Emery resting team captain, Koscielny. Arsenal’s Player of the Season, Lacazette, led the team up top with Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang supplying the ammunition.
With Chelsea winning against Watford earlier in the day, Arsenal had to go for a win to keep their hopes of finishing in the top 4 live – and they played like it. The players pushed high up the field and their pressure on Brighton almost bore fruit within the first minute. Ozil and Lacazette kept the ball ticking around the penalty box amidst huge pressure from the Brighton defenders. The ball eventually found its way to the feet of Mkhitaryan who striked from the edge of the box only for it to bounce off the post.
The pace of the game remained frantic and Brighton could not keep up with the Gunners as Monreal was fouled by Jahanbakhsh just within the penalty box. Aubameyang made no mistake from the spot. Bottom corner, 1-0 Arsenal.
Sokratis is notorious for the dark arts but not many would have figured that it involved a little tumble and a dive. He was brandished a yellow on the 14th minute has he was adjudged by the ref to have gone down a little too easily during a rare foray up-field.
It could have been 1-1 when Leno made an uncharacteristically poor clearance right into the feet of a Brighton attacker. Arsenal struggled to clear the ball as Bissouma expertly kept the ball alive in the box, even when he was tugged by Lichtsteiner. Brighton finally managed to cross for Murray who headed the ball into Leno’s arms.
Brighton kept their shape and defended well and Arsenal’s next decent attempt on goal had to come from a set-piece in the 34th minute. Xhaka floated corner onto the head of Mustafi who did well to guide the ball goalwards but was well saved by Ryan.
Arsenal continued cranking on the pressure with Aubameyang striking from close range on the 38th minute only for Ryan to keep the Seagulls in the game with a save. Torreira found an opportunity outside the box just a minute later but his long range drive went just wide.
The Gunners finished the first half strong as Mkhitaryan’s lovely long range shot was saved again by Matt Ryan. Lacazette picked up the rebound and attempted a toe poke but Dunk was there to head the shot away.
Save for a 10 minute spell, Arsenal were the better team in the first half but looked like they need a second goal to put the game to bed.
The second half started the same way it ended, with Arsenal on the front foot. Mustafi floated in a delicious pass from deep in the Arsenal half to Aubameyang who was playing on the shoulder of the last defender. He was only inches from making contact on the ball which would have seen him go one-on-one with the keeper.
It seemed to have put some urgency into Brighton as they hit back with a series of corners and a Solly March attempt that Leno had to save at the near post. It was Arsenal’s turn to crumble under pressure as Xhaka conceded a penalty as he was deemed to have impeded March with the slightest of touches with his hands. Murray dispatched his penalty well to make it all square. 1-1 Brighton.
Funny how the commentators were debating whether Monreal dived for the earlier penalty but never questioned March’s poor attempt at a dive.
Brighton almost got another when Monreal nonchalantly cleared the ball into the path of Brighton’s forwards only to clear desperately immediately after.
The next 15 minutes were almost like an attack-defense training session where the Gunners played the game in Brighton’s half. It wasn’t easy to break down a tightly packed defence and they came really close on 73 minutes when Aubameyang found space 8 yards from goal but somehow, his scissor kick effort went wide.
Emery rolled the dice in the 76th minute, bringing on Kolasinac, Guendouzi and Iwobi for Lichtsteiner, Mkhitaryan and Xhaka – the latter of whom had a poor day in the office. The subs failed to spark an upturn in performance and instead, saw indiscipline by Guendouzi and Mustafi penalized with yellow cards.
How Brighton did not get a goal around the 85th minute was beyond me as they somehow missed a couple of open chances in the air. Arsenal continued to pile on the pressure but the Brighton defence stood firm until the final whistle.
The match ended with a barrage of boos in the Emirates as the Arsenal team contemplated finishing out of the top 4 for the third year running. A poor way to end the league season.