Result: Brighton 0-0 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 2 October 2021
Venue: AMEX Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Lokonga, Smith Rowe, Odegaard, Saka, Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Cedric, Holding, Tavares, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Arsenal claimed a point at the AMEX as we shared a goalless draw with a dominant Brighton.
The home side played the better football and had the best chances on a night when Mikel Arteta’s side failed to produce the fluent attacking play that was on show in last weekend’s north London derby.
While another clean sheet, our third in four league games, was welcome, it came about more through luck than judgment.
In the absence of Granit Xhaka – out for the rest of the year with a knee injury picked up against Sp*rs – Mikel Arteta had a decision to make in central midfield. In the end, Sambi Lokonga got the nod to partner Thomas Partey with Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe retaining their places just behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. As was the case last weekend, Alex Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe provided attacking strength in depth from the bench.
In the pouring rain and with the wind swirling, the Gunners were quick out of the blocks from kick off. Bukayo Saka burst down the right flank, bundled through a couple of challenges and fired low at Sanchez in the Brighton goal. Anybody hoping that was a sign of things to come quickly realised the home side weren’t going to roll over that easily. Quite the opposite.
The Gunners spent much of the first half on the back foot and the hosts did everything but score. Cucurella, Brighton’s adventurous left wing-back, gave Tomiyasu a torrid time, Lokonga and Partey struggled to get control of the midfield and when we did win the ball back, we constantly gave it back to the Seagulls.
The first real sign of danger came on 20 minutes when a deep Brighton corner ended up at the feet of Maupay. The Frenchman played a dangerous cross into the six-yard box and under his crossbar, albeit under pressure, Ramsdale spilt the ball into the path of Duffy who blazed over. It was a real let off.
While Aubameyang did hit the outside of the post with a tame header after Saka, by far our best player, dug out a cross, the rest of the time, we were penned back defending our box.
Trossard had an effort closed down, White cleared a dangerous Lallana cross, Burn headed over, Maupay tried an overhead kick that flew wide and Duffy found the side-netting with his thigh. It was a veritable blitz and somehow we came out of it unscathed.
If anything summed up our first half performance, it was Partey lining up a free-kick from 35-yards and finding row Z. The Ghanaian did come closer with a second effort following a Smith Rowe cutback but his effort whipped past the post.
All in all, we were lucky to get to the break without conceding.
While Brighton had the first effort of the second half – a Moder effort that went over – the Gunners did look a bit more assured. Lokonga embarked on a run that ended with an ambitious long-range effort before Partey played in Aubameyang who rounded Sanchez before being denied by an incredible Duffy tackle with the goal gaping. A late flag spared the captain’s blushes.
Partey’s desperate attempts to break his Arsenal duck continued as he found row Z at the other end of the ground. Someone really needs to take him aside and explain physics or something.
By the hour-mark, Arteta decided he needed to switch things up and sent on Nicolas Pepe for Odegaard. Given the Norwegian’s struggles in possession, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Smith Rowe moved from the left to accommodate the Ivorian but it didn’t really alter proceedings.
Another Maupay overhead kick was Brighton’s eleventh of the evening. Luckily for the Gunners, none of them had hit the target.
Arsenal’s real struggle was working the ball out from defence. Wary of Brighton’s high press we more often than not started lobbing long balls forward. Given the size of the home side’s backline that inevitably meant we surrendered possession.
Smith Rowe did go close with 15 minutes remaining as he fashioned an angle after Partey played him through on goal. Sanchez did well to block down low at his near post.
At the other end, Brighton started to find their range. Trossard, Cucurella and substitute March all tested Ramsdale’s handling. The keeper then stopped a March header reaching Maupay with a decisive strong hand. In the aftermath, another shot was blocked for a corner.
Smith Rowe, almost single-handedly, carried the charge in the final third and thought he’d won a penalty when Duffy seemed to clip his ankles from behind. Referee Jon Moss waved away the Arsenal claims. Brighton had claims of their own turned down by VAR as Gabriel grappled with some massive lump in our box.
In between, we lost Saka to injury and Partey picked up a booking. On a night when we really struggled, the referee’s whistle was very welcome. All in all, it’s not been a bad month’s work. That said, while we’ve come a long way, tonight proved we’ve still much to improve upon.