Result: Arsenal 1 – 2 Brighton
Competition: Premier League
Date: 9 April 2022
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Cedric, White, Gabriel, Xhaka, Lokonga, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Holding, Tavares, Ogungbo, Swanson, Elneny, Hutchinson, Pepe, Nketiah
Arteta’s tactical reshuffle backfired as the team succumbed to a 1-2 loss to Brighton at home. The team looked disjointed in attack and were punished by excellent goals from Trossard and Mwepu either side of half time.
Arsenal had goal disallowed by VAR just before half time but managed a consolation wonder goal by Odegaard just before the end of the game.
Arsenal’s attempt to bounce back from the 0-3 defeat to Crystal was further complicated with injuries to key players in Tierney and Partey.
Arteta’s solution in the home game against Brighton was to move Granit Xhaka to left back with the young trio of Sambi, Smith Rowe and Odegaard controlling the centre of the park.
Martinelli and Saka flanked Lacazette up front while the rest of the defence remained unchanged from the previous match.
With Arsenal recovering from the shock of their recent loss while also trying to accommodate players in unfamiliar positions, it was no surprise that the start of the game felt disjointed.
Players were not in the best position to receive the ball (Xhaka often floated into central zones), movement was static and passes often went back to the centre backs.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute when Arsenal got their first attempt on goal. Martinelli’s dribble down the left provided a cut back into the box only for Smith Rowe and Saka to get in each other’s way. Saka eventually got space to strike but the ball was easily blocked by the defence.
It was 5 minutes later when Brighton took their first attempt but unfortunately, they executed their play much better than the home side to open the scoring. Arsenal were exposed by a long diagonal from deep towards the left side of defence. Xhaka was caught out and the ball found Mwepu who pulled the ball back into the penalty box.
It evaded every one except Trossard who side footed the ball into the top corner. 0-1 to Brighton
It just looked like it was never going to be Arsenal’s day. A poor performance was coupled with some poor refereeing decisions too. Cucurella had gone unbooked for multiple fouls but Odegaard was given a yellow for his first tackle.
The officials were again in focus as the first half came to a close. Martinelli bundled home an equaliser from point blank range with what seemed to be the final kick of the half. However, VAR ruled it out, taking 5 minutes to assess the infringement which looked almost impossible to call.
Despite the disappointment of the decision, the home side’s performances was the bigger issue in the game.
With Xhaka constantly floating into midfield in the first half, Arteta switched the formation to have the Swiss move infield to partner Sambi with Martinelli moving into a left wing back position.
The ball moved with more zip and energy. Sambi made progressive dribbles, Xhaka passed upfield and the urgency returned. Despite all the hustle, Arsenal didn’t have an outlet upfront who could make all that possession count.
All that possession was in vain as Brighton punished Arsenal on 67 minutes. A few clever exchanges on Arsenal’s right side and soft defending allowed Brighton to loft in a chip towards Mwepu just outside the penalty box. Mwepu struck the ball sweetly with his side foot. The ball evaded the defence and nestled itself into the bottom corner. 0-2 Brighton
The substitution of Martinelli and Smith Rowe for Pepe and Nketiah seemed to have killed the momentum of the team. We reverted to sideways and backwards passing and ironically, less attacking threat.
Arsenal went close multiple times with a Sambi long range shot and an Odegaard free kick which hit the bar. Nketiah’s rebound effort unluckily hit the same spot too and it just didn’t look like Arsenal’s day.
The Gunners were given a lifeline on 88 minutes when Odegaard’s speculative shot from long range deflected off Welbeck and looped into the far corner. The home crowd were reinvigorated with the score at 1-2.