Result: Arsenal 1-3 Brighton
Competition: Carabao Cup
Date: 9 November 2022
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Hein, Cedric, Saliba, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Lokonga, Vieira, Marquinhos, Nelson, Nketiah
Subs: Turner, White, Zinchenko, Gabriel, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Jesus
Brighton came from behind to secure a deserved 3-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta’s rotated team fell at the first hurdle in the Carabao Cup.
The Gunners took the lead against the run of play in the 20th minute when Eddie Nketiah curled home beautifully after a driving run through midfield by Reiss Nelson.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side had looked much the sharper side before that and twice came close with efforts flashed over the bar of debutant keeper Karl Hein.
The Estonia international, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Reading, looked nervy in the opening stages, particularly with the ball at his feet, and went on to make a horrible error in the 27th minute, first slipping as he weighed up whether to sweep up a through ball before taking out Danny Welbeck with a badly timed dive at the striker’s feet.
The ex-Gunner stepped up from 12-yards and sent the keeper the wrong way to equalise. He’s now scored at the Emirates for four clubs, including Watford, Manchester United and us.
Arsenal huffed and puffed in the period up to half time, struggling for fluidity on the ball with Fabio Vieira and Sambi Lokonga too often caught dawdling or taking heavy touches. The Portuguese and winger Marquinhos weren’t helped by a series of late tackles that seemed to further sap their confidence.
While William Saliba was his usual imperious self and Kieran Tierney and Nelson were bright, Arteta couldn’t hide his frustration on the touchline, regularly face-palming in between the usual barking of instructions.
You sensed the players were given a rocket at the break because we looked much sharper for 10 minutes. Nketiah had a low drive deflected onto the post by keeper Jason Steele, Nelson tested the Brighton stopper with a header that was clawed away and Lokonga scuffed a couple of efforts wide.
However, just as we were picking up steam, Brighton produced a slick move that was finished by substitute Kaoru Mitoma. As was the case at PSV Eindhoven, questions have to be asked of Rob Holding who was too easily dragged out of position leaving us exposed when the decisive pass was made.
Just as Arteta readied replacements Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, Brighton killed the game. Tariq Lamptey burst into the box from the left flank and finished low under Hein.
Arsenal did dominate possession in the closing 20 minutes but Brighton continued to look more threatening, often counterattacking as we committed men forward. Niggly fouls and plenty of time-wasting were enough to spark a mass exodus from the capacity crowd; few expected a late miracle that might have taken the match to penalties.
After a stellar run at the Emirates so far this season, defeat in the final home game of the pre-World Cup schedule is a bitter pill to swallow. That said, when you look at what we have to play for after Christmas, the Carabao Cup would have been an unwelcome distraction.